A B(r)unch of Leftovers… Cheesy Foccacia Bites and a Rotizza

I should have posted this a while ago but I was away travelling and access to the internet was quite iffy… but well, but late than…

So here they are, a 2-in-1 recipe bonanza on… Leftovers!

Yes, apparently leftovers can make really tasty meals. Or so someone once told me many years ago and I yawned and said boo hoo and bah humbug or something to that effect.

I’ve got to come clean though you’ve probably guessed it by now. I’m not big on leftovers. I simply worked on perfecting the small meal mantra till I got it down to a pat. Or I would pray that a friend would call and say they were coming over and then I’d tell them to stay to dinner, which could be construed as deviousness on my part except that the meals were generally good and went down well with my guests 🙂

But what do you do when it comes to something like bread which you’ve baked and couldn’t quite finish and it’s been a couple of days heading into being a week old and it’s still sitting in your fridge with a look that says “You made me and enjoyed me but now that I’m old and not quite finished you’re going to throw me away…” … (gulp!)

Now if you’ve been following this space you’ll know that I baked a Feta and Olive Herb Foccacia  recently, and it was really delicious. So I squirrelled away a bit and hid it away in the fridge thinking that I would eat it the next day and forgot all about it until 3 days had passed and I was foraging around looking for something to whip up real quick for brunch… and then I saw it and voilà my ‘Cheesy Foccacia Bites‘ look shape.

This was a super simple, easy to whip up dish which brought out all the flavour and goodness of the lovely foccacia I had baked earlier and took it up a notch into a realm all its own.

All you need is –

approx 2 cups of cubed leftover foccacia

bulb of one spring onion (minced)

green stalks of 2 small spring onions (minced)

2 small green chillies (de-seeded and chopped fine)

1 tomato (blanched, de-seeded and chopped fine)

6 button mushrooms (sliced fine)

1 tablespoon EVOO

1/4 cup shredded mozarella

squeeze of lime juice (optional)

Start by sautéing the chopped up spring onion bulb, green chillies and tomato in the olive oil till softened (3 – 4 mins). Add the sliced mushrooms and the spring onion greens (reserve some for garnishing) and cook them down till the mushrooms are soft. Add a pinch of salt at this point (you don’t need more than just an itsy-bitsy pinch). Now add the cubed foccacia and toss well.

Finish by adding the shredded mozarella. Cover and turn off the flame. The mozarella should melt into the bread. 

Serve the Cheesy Foccacia Bites hot, garnished with spring onion greens and a squeeze of lime juice (optional). 

P.s. This recipe also works well with any other left over bread (except for fruit or sweet bread varieties). Just add in some zataar, or if you don’t have any zataar some mixed dried herbs with a squeeze of lemon and some freshly pounded cumin should work quite well.

And now to the 2nd part of the double leftover brunch bonanza and the… ‘Rotizza’.

I sometimes find myself stuck with a few leftover rotis/chapatis (Indian flat bread) from an Indian meal made the previous day and try and use them in different ways to freshen them up and excite my palate. Now if you’ve been following this space for a while you’ll probably know that eggs are one of my all time favourite foods and I can eat them at breakfast, lunch (that includes brunch) and dinner… and yeah, as part of dessert as well. So it really didn’t take too much for me to come up with this Egg-Roti recipe… in fact I went to town with it and came up with a pizza of sorts and decided to name it just that… a Rotizza. My version of an Indian style pan fried pizza using leftover or even fresh roti/chapati.

For a single serving you’ll need –

2 rotis

3 eggs

6 – 7″ piece of leek (sliced fine)

1 cup of thinly sliced zucchini

1 large bell pepper (thinly sliced)

salt (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil (1 tablespoon per roti)

2 tomatoes (for grilling)

Sauté half the leek in a tablespoon of olive oil, spreading it out evenly across the pan as it cooks down and softens. Layer half the zucchini over the cooked leeks and top with half the thinly sliced rounds of bell pepper. I only had the green variety (aka capsicum) on hand but a combination of green, yellow and red works even better visually. Sprinkle over a little salt and allow the veggies to cook down a bit.

Meanwhile whisk the eggs, adding a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. You could add a splash of cream if you like into the egg mix (I didn’t) and pour half the egg over the veggies. Let the eggs cook for about 2 minutes on low. Do not cover the eggs… so the top remains a bit runny. Place the roti over the egg and gently press it down with a spatula. Cook for about a minute, then flip the rotizza over and fry it on the other side (roti side down) for a minute.

Remove the rotizza from the pan and repeat the procedure for the second roti. Plate up and serve garnished with grilled tomatoes and bell peppers.

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Basil and Seed Loaf and a BLT

In one of her letters to Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf wrote:

“… does it strike you that one’s friendships are long conversations, perpetually broken off, but always about the same thing with the same person?”

The beauty of friendships is just that. That despite the ebb and flow of life taking it places, crashing it over rocks, battering it against embankments, and sucking it into whirlpools, there’s always that unseen thread, that one stray link that binds friends together, whether it’s a common interest or a pet peeve. And so we banter, we fill our lives with words, with conversation… but as Virginia said, it’s “about the same thing with the same person”.

Which makes me grateful for all my friends and acquaintances, people I’ve had the good fortune to have encountered, who’ve filled my life with their presence, for howsoever short or long a time it may be or have been. People I’ve known for much of my life, and those I’ve only just met or have only encountered in virtual space… I’m grateful for all, for everything… and for Virginia Woolf who made me fall in love with books and reading, and expanded my mind and heart in ways I never thought possible. And who made me realize that it’s okay to be a maverick, and a non-conformist and to cock a snoot at the world, and cook and bake and clay boy make, and paint cartons because I’m falling short of storage, and if I have to keep them around for a little while longer they may as well look pretty.

Speaking of all things nice, I just baked a loaf of bread, a seed loaf, a Basil and Seed Loaf that I’ll be sending across to Susan at YeastSpotting.

Packed full of goodness, this loaf is nutritious and makes fantastic sandwiches, which is great because summer brunch on most days ends up being a sandwich, open or closed, with or without a salad on the side. These sandwich loaves are wonderful sliced thin or thick, or even cut into croutons and toasted to be tossed into a salad or as a garnish for a cold or hot soup. I love the crust on this loaf and that happened because I placed a tray full of water on the lower shelf of the oven and sprayed the inside walls to create steam.

I used a variety of seeds in this loaf, sunflower, melon, black and white sesame and flax seeds, toasting them a bit, and then cooling them completely before adding them to the dough.

Here’s what you’ll need –

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

12gms fresh yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup powdered milk

1/3 cup mixed toasted seeds  

2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoon sun-dried tomato flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil (aka evoo + extra for lining the bowl, coating the bread pan and for brushing the loaf before baking)

All you have to do is activate the yeast with the sugar and water, before adding the flour, powdered milk, evoo and salt. Mix to form a rough dough. Now add the toasted seeds and chopped basil, making sure that it is well distributed throughout the dough. Knead for a good 10 – 12 minutes. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave the dough to prove for 2 hours.

Post first prove

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead after the first proving, then shape and transfer the loaf into an oiled and cornmeal dusted bread pan. I rolled up the loaf, just for fun and left it to prove for 1 ½ hours.

Rolled up… Just like that!

Made a couple of slashes into the loaf when it had risen with a sharp knife, brushed the top with some evoo and placed the loaf into a pre-heated oven into which I had placed a tray on the lower shelf.

I wanted to create a lot of steam for this loaf in order for it to get a lovely crust, so I poured some water into the hot tray, sprayed the inner walls of the oven with water and shut the door. You’ll need to spray the walls of the oven a couple of times during the baking process, but be quick and don’t open the door too much. Bake the loaf for 35 minutes at 190°C.

I turned on the grill element for a bit right at the end (5 minutes or so) to brown the top of the loaf, keeping an eye out to ensure that it got evenly browned.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing into it.

All rolled up…

Look at that!

This loaf is great eaten with loads of butter…

But it also made an excellent Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich… An open-faced BLT I dished up at brunch the next day with a Lettuce, Bocconcini and Cranberry Salad.

Now… If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I always say that everything tastes better with bacon and booze, not necessarily in that order and not necessarily together. This recipe uses just one of my favourites… Bacon, marinaded in Barbeque sauce, Dijon mustard and honey with a couple of twists of the pepper mill and then pan fried…

Bacon!

I then paired my BLT with a light and refreshing salad with a dressing that used some of the same marinade that I coated the bacon with.

I may as well give you all the ingredients at once just to make it a bit easier… have all the ingredients in place… mise-en-place. 

For the Sandwich you’ll need –

2 slices Bread (I used my Basil and Seed Loaf… sliced 1/2″ thick, and toasted with a drizzle of evoo)

3 – 4 rashers back bacon (marinaded and pan-fried or oven roasted)

2 medium tomatoes (blanched, quartered and deseeded – marinaded in 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar + 1 tablespoon evoo with a pinch of black pepper)

2 large chillies – roasted, skinned, deseeded and drizzled with 2 teaspoons of the Salad Marinade

(I used a local variety of fat green chillies called Bhavnagri Chillies which had a fair amount of bite to them, perfect for my sandwich)

a small handful of Rocket leaves

1 – 2 large leaves of Iceberg lettuce (torn up)

For the Salad –

a large handful of Rocket leaves

a large handful of Iceberg lettuce (torn up)

3 – 4 pieces of Bocconcini

a handful of dried cranberries

large pinch of black pepper

1 teaspoon Orange zest

For the Bacon Marinade –

2 tablespoons Barbeque sauce

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

(You’ll need less than half the marinade to coat the bacon. Reserve the rest for the salad dressing)

large pinch of freshly milled black pepper while frying the bacon

For the Salad Dressing –

the rest of the bacon marinade

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 orange

pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon evoo

(Mix the dressing well and chill till required)

To construct the sandwich lets get started with pan frying the bacon, for which I brushed the pan with just a wee bit of oil, then lowered in the slices of marinaded bacon and cooked them on a medium to low flame till the fat melts and the bacon starts to get gorgeously caramelised. I love those little burnt looking bits on top… and I’ve got to admit that I started with 4 rashers and was left with 3 to make my sandwich. The one found its way into my stomach as soon as it was out of the pan and it was delicious 🙂

So once the bacon’s done, keep it aside and get started on the bread, slicing and then pan- toasting the slices with a drizzle of evoo. Let the bread cool down a bit before you start assembling.

First to go onto the gorgeous bread is the lettuce which I tossed in some of the salad marinade. Followed by a layer of tomato, then topped with a layer of green chillies and finally topped with the bacon…

Rocket and Iceberg Lettuce

Plum Tomatoes

Roasted Large Bhavnagri Chillies

Now that’s a BLT!

For the Lettuce, Bocconcini and Cranberry Salad – start by tearing up the lettuce into a bowl, toss in the cranberries and zest the orange. Then tear up the Bocconcini and add it to the salad, spoon over the chilled salad dressing. Toss and serve immediately.

Now drizzle some of that salad dressing (if there’s any left over over your BLT and enjoy…

Mini Quiche… Two for One

My love for quiche is a fairly recent one even though I’ve been eating them over the years. Some have been good, others decent, some sinking like lead and most of them way too eggy. The delicatessen counter at a well known 5 star hotel in Mumbai used to dish out a fairly decent spinach quiche, but a couple of bites and my stomach would feel like it had been through a 5 course meal. Can you imagine heading back to work after one of those and hoping you’d get through the afternoon and evening without …. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ….

And then one day I started baking my own pies and quiche… and seldom ate one that was deli or store bought after that.

I used a simple flaky pie crust recipe for these, tweaking it a bit, and adding in some spice, just for fun.

For the Spiced Flaky Pie Crust you’ll need –

1 1/4 cup AP flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon paprika powder

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 cup cold butter (cubed)

3 – 4 tablespoons ice cold water

Mix the dry ingredients. Add the butter and cut it into the flour. I used a cold fork (refrigerated) to break the butter down, and once that was done, I used chilled fingertips (mine, of course, rubbed with an ice cube till hey were short of numb ;-)) to mix the butter into the flour till it resembled coarse breadcrumbs. Now add the icy water, a tablespoon at a time, and working fast knead to form a dough. Cover the dough with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 – 6 hours or overnight.

So now that you’ve got the dough all ready and sitting and chilling in the fridge you can get down to the business of the filling for your quiche.

I decided to make two different fillings, and follow two different methods. The first one had the filling put into the pastry with the custard poured on top, and the second quiche had the filling folded into the custard and spooned into the pastry lined tray.

Now I don’t recall if I’ve said this before, but I’m not really a big fan of full sized pies or quiche. They intimidate me, even though I’m quite aware that I can cut out just the portion I want. But anyway… what, or seriously where would I be without my little quirks, and mind you, I have quite a few of them. So I used my good old inch deep mini muffin trays to make these obviously mini quiche(s).

Quiche # 1 –

Duo of Mushroom with Babycorn*

Duo of Mushroom with Babycorn Mini Quiche

Ingredients –

4 – 5 ears of babycorn (depending on the size) – sliced

1/4 cup button mushrooms (sliced)

small handful of fresh baby oyster mushrooms

1 spring onion (sliced fine)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon butter

 pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly milled)

4 medium cloves garlic

1 large green chilli (sliced down the centre, deseeded and sliced into semi circles)

Toss the spring onion with the garlic in hot oil, add the babycorn and sauté for a minute, before adding in the mushrooms, the butter, chillies and seasoning. Toss on high for a minute and turn off the heat. Keep aside to cool.

*(The filling is enough for at least 12 mini quiche, but I used just half the quantity as I was only making one 6 muffin tray full.)

For the custard you’ll need –

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk (I used low fat milk, but you can use full cream milk if you like)

2 tablespoons sour cream (omit this if you’re using full cream milk)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder (freshly milled)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/3 cut grated cheddar

1/3 cup Cheddar Cheese for topping (grated)

Whisk the eggs, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and keep beating. Slowly add the milk, and finally the grated Cheddar. Note that I haven’t used salt in the custard since the cheese will have enough salt, so you don’t really need more.

The custard is enough for at least 14 – 15 mini quiche… so served me well for both the quiche recipes.

Thaw the pie crust for 15 minutes or so before rolling it out to roughly a 2 – 3 mm thickness. Cut out circles using a utter or an inverted circular lid.

Grease the muffin trays with some olive oil or melted butter. Place the pie crust into the trays, evening them out (if required) with your fingertips. Using a fork make a pattern with the tines of the fork in the pastry.

And with a short jabbing motion make 3 rows of holes into the bottom of the pastry, spoon in the mushroom and babycorn mixture, and pour over the custard.

Top with extra grated Cheddar and bake the quiche in a pre-heated oven at 210° C for 20 – 25 minutes, or till the quiche have set.

Quiche # 2

Pan-roasted Eggplant and Zucchini

Creamy Pan-roasted Eggplant and Zucchini Mini Quiche

Ingredients –

4 large slices (1 cm thick) eggplant (pan-roasted and chopped)

1/2 small zucchini (sliced, pan-roasted and chopped)

1 – 2 tablespoons oil for drizzling over the eggplant and zucchini before roasting

! large jalapeño chilli (deseeded and sliced)

pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper

1 tablespoon grated Cheddar  (+ extra for topping)

Combine the above ingredients, and fold into the custard (you’ll need about a cup plus of the custard). Spoon the mixture into the prepared pastry lined muffin trays (I did not tine-design these), grate some Cheddar over the top of each quiche and bake them in your pre-heated oven as before.

A glass of wine would be just perfect now wouldn’t it?

Have a great day!


Smoked Chicken Noodle Salad with Lychees and Sesame Seeds

I’m in the mood for nice light lunches… errrr… brunches, especially since it is the weekend.

What else can you do when its blazing hot outside and the rain clouds are nowhere in sight, but to make yourself a pitcher-full of margaritas or pour out a nice cold beer, pop a movie into the DVD and eat something light and tasty.

I was thinking salad… a noodle salad. Now I must say that I prefer my noodle salads cold rather than hot, especially when the temperature outside is hovering dangerously close to the 40° C mark… and when lychees are in season.

Oh yeah… you heard me right. Lychees… yummm

I had contemplated keeping the salad vegetarian, but then a rather delicious breast of smoked chicken called out to me and begged to be added. And I couldn’t refuse. Tossing in a plump but rather spicy green chilli, which I deseeded.

Here’s the list of ingredients for this super-delicious salad –

150gms smoked chicken breast (sliced thin)

2 medium to large tomatoes (remove the seeds and the pulpy insides)

7 – 8 lychees (remove the seeds and tear into halves or quarters depending on the size of the lychees)

1 medium spring onion – sliced fine

1 large chilli (deseeded and sliced)

2 teaspoons white sesame seeds + extra for topping

1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds (for topping)

80 – 100gms noodles (precook the noodles till just done –  i.e. boil, drain and then toss them in a tablespoon of sesame oil and a few spring onion greens)

4 – 5 small cloves of garlic (minced)

For the dressing you’ll need –

1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon chilli soy

 1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

 pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon demerara sugar

pinch of white pepper powder

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and chill for 10 – 15 minutes before using.

Combine all the elements of the salad except for the noodles and the dressing.

Just before plating up, mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dressing into the chicken salad and toss. Plate up the noodles. Spoon over the smoked chicken salad, drizzle over some more of the dressing and sprinkle on 1 – 1 1/12 teaspoons of white and black sesame seeds.

Tuna Melt with Mustard on Homemade Bread

There’s nothing better than breakfast seated at an open window, letting the cool early morning breeze caress you while you watch Parakeets, Bulbuls, Sunbirds, Koels and a couple of Eurasian Golden Orioles, squawk, chirp, screech and coo make the most of it before the merciless summer sun comes blazing down on them forcing them to beat a retreat into denser foliage.

Oh! Who am I kidding!

Okay the part about the birds is true, and so is the part about the early morning breeze coming in through my windows. But I’m not so much a breakfast as I am a brunch person. I’ve tried, honestly I have, but I’ve been this way since I was a kid. The only way I ever did eat breakfast was if my mother was sitting right there at the table with me, watching me down my glassful of milk and shovel down my cereal/porridge and eggs with toast or whatever else was on the breakfast menu for the day. My mum was a firm believer in the adage, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper” and she staunchly follows it till date.

But now that I’m all grown up (or so it says on my driving licence) and no longer live with mum, I get to choose my meal times, which usually consists of coffee, and more coffee with the occasional fruit at breakfast, followed by numerous little meals during the day. Leisurely brunches however remain my favourite and most preferred mealtime, which is where this post is headed. And on the menu today is a favourite, the classic Tuna Melt Sandwich.

Now would you believe it if I told you that I had my first Tuna Melt when I visited Canada on work way back in the early 90’s. Yeah, it was that late, and it was love at first bite. Lusciously creamy, the portion thankfully not all that huge, I definitely went back for seconds.

My first stop on that particular trip started off with Montreal, a city I fell in love with because of its beautiful architecture, not forgetting the delicious escargot I ate at a delightful French restaurant, one of my favourite places on some of those evenings when I had to dine alone, with just a good book for company. It is strange though that I can’t seem to remember the name of the restaurant, though I distinctly recall the face of the sommelier… typical eh?

But before I digress, No… the Tuna Melt wasn’t on the menu at the French restaurant, but was from a deli near my office… packed to go. And it was heavenly!

Here’s my take… spiced up… but of course.

I used a 200gm can of tuna chunks in light olive oil, flaking it with a fork, adding 2 teaspoons of yellow mustard seeds which I lightly pounded, to release their flavour, and about a 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper. To this I added 1 1/2 tablespoon of mayonnaise (try and make your own if possible, but you can also use a good store bought variety), and a heaped tablespoon of butter.

Next chop and add two small spring onions and a green chilli (seeds and all) to the tuna mix, and one medium tomato, from which I removed the inner pithy part including the seeds and chopped it up fine. Season with some salt (according to your taste), 10 – 12 capers roughly chopped, and a good squeeze or two of lime juice. Finishing it off with some chopped flat-leaf parsley… Yum!

Oh those tart and delicious capers!

p.s. Do not over-mix the tuna, as you want the tuna to be flaky and not turn into a pâté.

Another important aspect of a good tuna melt is the bread selection, and I used my Spinach, Sundried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat loaf for this recipe, slicing the bread quite thin and toasting the slices on both sides, on a pan till they turned crusty and brown.

Let the bread cool a little before piling the tuna mix onto it and top it all with any cheese that melts (I used Mozzarella) as generously as you can. I used about 150gms over four slices, sprinkling on some black pepper and snipped up spring onion greens.

Transfer the toasts onto a parchment lined baking tray and bake them in a preheated oven at 210° C, turning on the grill element for a few minutes, but keeping an eye out because you don’t want those luscious snowy blanketed toasts with their pepper and green onion toppings to get browned and/or burnt.

So I finally sat by my window, with my delicious Tuna Melt Open Sandwiches, juice and coffee on the side, and watched the birds who were still frolicking around since the sun hadn’t yet reached its zenith, and took a nice big bite of stringy Mozarella topped mustardy tuna goodness… Then closed my eyes and thanked God for everything I’ve had the good fortune to experience and enjoy.

And yes before I go, I have to thank the beautiful and extremely talented Dolly at http://allaboutlemon.com/ for nominating me not just for another Versatile Blogger Award but also for a Beautiful Blogger Award which I shall be passing on soon. And then as a special treat Dolly also passed on something she and her daughter designed themselves… a beautiful badge that says “You are Loved” which I’ve posted on my page. Do click on it and it will take you over to Dolly’s blog which many of you may have visited. But if you haven’t… You Must!


Window Bird-watching and Spinach Frittatas

I woke up to the happy chirping of birds outside my window this morning, and the lingering smell of paint. My bird-book packed away against the dust (you’ve got to read my previous posts to know what I’m talking about) I can’t identify most of them except for the obvious, the kites, ravens, crows, pigeons, and sparrows, all speaking their own languages, and sharing space, as the Lord intended. The sparrows chirping out their greetings have been scarce this time, who knows why, but the mynahs have been creating a racket, adding to the constant cooing of pigeons which abound, much to my dismay. The odd Asian Koel or two settle down amidst the leaves of the tree, some brave enough to perch on the barren branches of the tree across my window whose only reason for being, its status as favoured bird sunning spot, its long claw like branches soaring heavenward, serving as a perch for its feathered visitors who drop by faithfully every morning, in their myriad sizes and hues.

A curious crow strikes a pose for the camera and a parakeet drops by, just to check on the painters doing their work. Then there’s also a ringed parrot which drops by every alternate day. I think the parakeet and he or she take it in turns to show up. One not wanting to upstage the other I suppose, in some screech or squawk code that I would not be able to decipher.  

“They aren’t in yet. They come in at 10” I yell out to my green visitor, the parakeet, who stopped by this morning, with his red beak and long blue tail, as he squawks and flies off.

The kingfisher usually camera shy, sits on a wire a safe distance away. Today he perches on the tree. An early bird, he’s up before the sun starts its climb up from the horizon, staring into the distance, his vividness dulled by the limitations of a tiny camera, and a sun that hasn’t yet risen.

But the White-browed Wagtails pop by every now and then, hopping about before the fierce sun compels them to seek refuge amidst the larger branches of some densely foliated tree. And then there are the others, the red vented Bulbuls, a friend and I had nicknamed the Elvis birds, and what looks like a Tailor-bird with its long slightly curved beak, and the green Bee-eaters, with their exquisite colouring and long needle like tail extensions, their rudder against the air currents.

Speaking of birds, I’m a bit wary of the larger ones, the kites who soar majestically in the sky, and who I secretly admire, and the ravens, the variety of crows with their wings flapping menacingly close, with talons and beaks that can rip and tear. Whoever said that fear was an irrational emotion needs to have his head shrunk. There’s absolutely nothing irrational about a bunch of ravens swooping down and trying to scalp you one tiny bit at a time. So yeah, I’m wary of large, big-beaked birds, and I hold du Maurier and Alfie responsible. Ol’ Daph if I may take the liberty to refer to her as such, wowed me with Rebecca. Such an easy read for a young voracious reader, it had none of the jargon that many writers employ to impress their verbal prowess on their readers. No frequent visits to the dictionary or the use of a guide, like I was compelled to use the first time I read Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, or should I say ‘attempted to read’, when I was still in school. Silly me! But Rebecca was a joy, and I consumed it from cover to cover, feeling her overpowering presence in the room as I read through, wondering if she was watching me, her presence all too real. I ultimately did manage to re-read Ulysses in its entirety several years later, with some degree of understanding I hope, but that’s another story.

So birds bring to mind Daphne du Maurier, and Hitchcock, who found her work so compelling, he made three of them into films. ‘Birds’ scarring a couple of generations, creating an aura of dread around ravens and crows, with a terrified Tippi Hedren cowering as those big black flapping beasts tried to gouge her eyes out.    

Given my fear you’d expect me to avoid our feathered friends all together, so it is a bit odd that I would count bird-watching as a hobby. But it is a truly fascinating activity, one I discovered twelve years ago, all thanks to a friend I met on the meditation trail. A gentle soul, Toni advised me on which books to buy, and took me through the paces. Generous enough to commend my sharp eyesight as being better than her field-glasses at spotting details, she would often ask me to verify the striations or the hints of coloured crown or neck or underbelly. Toni passed away from cancer a few years ago, her tryst with the disease thankfully short, her numerous postcards of stained glass windowed cathedrals from places she visited around the world a reminder of how fortunate I was to have known such a wonderful soul.

So the birds chirrup and chirp and caw and squawk and hoot and gurgle, and trill excitedly when the sun comes up each morning before the city awakens and the raucousness of the day drowns out their voices. And a tiny baby owl pops out from under the rafters of the old printing press in front of my window a short distance away, but too far for me to get a clear shot. A crow doing a couple of sorties, curious at this plump little morsel that suddenly materialized out of nowhere, and then curiosity satisfied or fearing Mama Owl lurking somewhere, flew off. The baby, popped back under the rafters, then stepped out again, in what I would like to think was a bit of gauntlet throwing down, and finding the crow gone hopped back up.

What a hoot!

Two coffees downed I figured I should get brunch going before the painters turned up. After a couple of days of boiled egg and bread breakfasts I felt like I had earned my lavish eggy feast…

A Spinach Frittata with Grilled Tomatoes.

Limited choices make for simple, speedy and very tasty decisions.

Here are the ingredients –

4 eggs

2 loosely packed cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped

One large clove of garlic, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon salt

2 chillies (I used 1 green and 1 red, just for colour)

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (more if you want it cheesy)

2 tomatoes cut down the middle… for grilling

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

My oven packed away, I had to cook this on the stove top. But I covered the pan with a tiny wok like utensil called a kadhai, which fit snugly over the egg pan. This is a super easy recipe. All it entailed was whipping up three of the eggs, folding in the spinach and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan (leave a little for later), before adding the garlic, chillies and salt. I couldn’t seem to find my pepper mill, so left it out of this recipe, but a twist or two of freshly milled white pepper (or black if you like) would be lovely, without overpowering the spinach which I wanted coming through.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and the same amount of butter into the pan, swirling it around, before adding in the egg mix.

Keeping the heat low throughout the cooking process, whip up the fourth egg with a tiny pinch of salt and the rest of the Parmesan and pour it over the already cooking eggs.

Cover the eggs with the kadhai and cook/bake for 5 – 7 minutes. Remove the lid and flip the Frittata over for that lovely golden crust.

kadhai covered…

Serve with grilled tomatoes, or anything you fancy. I chose to go with grilled tomatoes and decided to share it with a friend.

What a delightful way to start the day.