Borough Market Challenge #4: Two Transatlantic Brunch Toasts
On any given day (which may or may not be weather dependant, and unless I’m physically somewhere much more exciting) my head is usually very firmly in one of two cities: London or Los Angeles. So, when I was coming up with recipes to pitch for the Borough Market Blog this month and I came up with the idea of doing a lovely seasonal brunch toast with buttery greens, a poached duck egg and a few dried chilli flakes (so totally SE1 where my favourite London market is based) it seemed only natural to pair it with something looking a bit more forward towards the Summer time and inspired by my old 90024 LA postcode (not quite 90210, but hey.)
Funnily enough though, both of these recipes are inspired by my Los Angeles kitchen, a lovely big affair with a massive American fridge and the most horrible coloured granite worktops. Sometimes I used to pick up the most amazing steaks for dinner and to go with them as a quick side I used to fry up some thinly sliced leeks in butter and then wilt in some baby spinach leaves while by steak was searing bleu. The chilli flakes are there because I thought chilli oil would make the whole thing a little greasy, but the most unusual yet satisfying brunch I had in LA, a vegetable soup bowl made with braised greens and topped with a poached egg and some delicious chilli oil at Axe on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. While I have just gone on about how ‘LA’ my SE1 London brunch toast is, it is pretty much a London dish, too. London food is all about the different cultures that have contributed to it, right? And rather than just using the baby spinach and leeks from Trader Joe’s, I’ve seen what I can find in the market by way of just writing ‘market greens’ on my shopping list. I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same. For the recipe for my SE1 Poached Duck Egg, Chilli & Market Greens Brunch Toast, head over to the Borough Market blog.
My second brunch toast plays more to the LA stereotype, or moreover that of my postcode. 90024 is essentially Westwood Village in West Los Angeles where I used to have an apartment. Google Maps will give you a better idea, but it includes the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) campus and boarders Beverly Hills and Bel Air. I shared an apartment in a pretty awesome building on Glendon Avenue and all four of us who lived there used to shop at Trader Joe’s (America’s delicious answer to the M&S food hall) across the street. There was also something of a stereotype that I now associate with that postcode (or, as we’re in America now, zip code) for what we prepared for dinner. By the end of my 10 months there, I’d started to cook like my Californian roommates a bit, and I can still see the cities influence in my cooking today.
Let us build this brunch toast up from the beginning. Avocado on toast is about LA brunch at home as you can get, and while I will admit to not realising I actually liked avocados until my last week in Los Angeles (ironic I know, Kathryn had to practically force feed me the guacamole she ordered at Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica one lunch time to prove to me I liked it) I have more than made up for lost time and this is now one of my favourite, at home brunches. So it makes the perfect California base. I think my roommates and I, for lunch and dinner lived off of sunny side up fried eggs. I know they seem ubiquitous, but look at any number of LA brunch menus and you’ll realise how important they are. Finally, Pico De Gallo.
I know I have spoken about supermarket/ grocery store salsa in Southern California before, but just hear me out again. It’s important. Salsa in the supermarket in England is red, in the Mexican food section and comes in a jar. In SoCal, it is bright, fresh and vibrant, coming in tubs from the chiller section. Once you’ve tasted this salsa, either by dipping in a few tortilla chips, stuffed into your fajitas and burritos, or as I have done here spooned over your breakfast eggs there will be no going back. There are several different variations that are popular in California, but my personal favourite that I always kept a tub of in my fridge (I used to buy mine from Trader Joe’s, as well as their fantastic Soured Cream) was Pico de Gallo, a simple and fresh mix of finely chopped ripe tomatoes, white onion and jalapeños. I like to flavour mine with a little sea salt and fresh chopped coriander, too. For my Pico de Gallo recipe, as part of my Californian Avocado Brunch Toast with Pico de Gallo & Sunny Side Up Eggs, you can head over to the Borough Market Blog too.
What country or cities food, ingredients and cooking most inspire the food you like to cook at home. I know most European cooks and chef’s have their roots in either French or Italian cooking, and while I would say I fall into the former category, I think there is much more California in my food and cooking than there is France.