I’m a big fan of the American baked goods sold by Outsider Tart in Chiswick. They have cookies the size of your head, gorgeous brownies and amazing cheesecakes. I don’t stop by as often as I’d like but I know it’s there, waiting for me to have a cheesecake craving. Relatively recently, they expanded their premises to take in the shop space next door (where there used to be an unsuccessful raw pizza place – I mean, why?!) and they’ve used this new space for cafe seating.

They call it Blue Plate and they offer hot breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes there. My friend and I visited on a Sunday morning and grabbed two seats at the large communal table, the smaller tables were all already full. Their menu that day (I think it changes often) read like a dream – pancakes, grits, hash, hot meaty sandwiches. Diner food galore.

Johnnycakes with blueberries (£6.50 for a short stack – 2 pancakes) were thick, fluffy, cornmeal pancakes studded with lots of the purple fruit and served already drizzled with syrup. We, of course, needed more and helped ourselves to the little pitcher set out. As with all pancakes, they fill me up something ridiculous and I have no idea how anyone can put down more than two (and if you can, they sell stacks of 2, 3, or 4).

Johnnycakes with Blueberries

I can’t only have sweet for brunch or breakfast though – savoury is mandatory in my books. Cheesy grits with fried eggs and sausage (£9) immediately stood out on the menu to us and a bowl of the creamy, cheesy grits, studded with sausage bits and topped with fried eggs soon arrived at our table. And a biscuit! I think this was my first biscuit in London and it was a mighty fine one it was too. The grits went down a treat, especially with a bit of hot sauce. They’re creamy and comforting and about a million times better than a bowl of oatmeal.

Fried Eggs and Grits with Sausage

Blai and I went back for brunch this morning. Blai was utterly rapturous about his cheesy grits and biscuit while I decided to try something else and went for the migas (£9.50), an excellent Tex-Mex mixture of scrambled eggs here with sausage, blue corn tortilla chips, onions, jalapenos and sour cream. There was also a good chunk of excellent cornbread.

Migas

The only thing missing there? Those bottomless cups of brewed coffee – they only sold Americanos here and only by the single cup (of course). There are freshly squeezed juices and smoothies and bottled American soft drinks also available.

They’re open 8am-6pm everyday and on Thursdays they stay open until 10pm. I’ll be back…often.

Outsider Tart
83 Chiswick High Road
London W4 2EF

Outsider Tart on Urbanspoon

I wanted poutine, that glorious (or possibly gruesome, if you’ve never had it, I suppose) combination of French fries, cheese curds and gravy, while I was in Canada; yes, I know that poutine is Quebecois but I also know that it’s available everywhere in the country. Growing up in Vancouver, even Burger King offered it. When Renée heard of my need, she directed me to Gilead Café, known throughout the city to serve a very good, but modern, poutine. We were staying a stone’s throw from the Distillery District in Toronto and Gilead Café is a stone’s throw from that, making the café just two stones’ throws from us; yes, I could drag my colleagues there one morning.

I knew nothing about the cafe and even less so about Jamie Kennedy, the chef-owner. From what I can gather online, he’s quite a star chef in Toronto and he cares very much about where all the food he uses is sourced. I knew nothing of this when we entered Gilead Café for brunch that Sunday morning. The space is big and bright and I loved the walls lined with homemade preserves. Do come relatively early as we did and get seated immediately – there was a small queue as we were eating.

Three of us opted for the Hash with Sunny Side Up Eggs and Greens. The hash changes on a regular basis and the chalkboard indicated that today’s was going to be with succotash and bacon. Large chunks of potato were fried together with the corn and bacon mixture and served in a piping hot cast iron frying pan. It was a delicious start to the morning but I have a small quibble – I just wished the potatoes were cubed smaller, increasing the amount of fried surface area.

Hash with Sunny Side Up Eggs and Greens

One colleague ordered the Howdy Pard’ner, an open faced Sloppy Joe with a poached egg served with fries. He seemed pleased with it.

Howdy Pard'ner

And of course, the main reason I was there, a Poutine which I ordered for the table. A bowlful of well-browned fries (the way I like it) came out topped with cheese and the same meat topping as in the Howdy Pard’ner (actually they had layered the ingredients, ensuring that you always get something good with your fries). A big dollop of sour cream topped it all. It wasn’t a classic poutine by any means but it was certainly very good.

Poutine

As you can see from this Flickr search, the toppings seem to change regularly. The pork confit version looks amazing.

I couldn’t leave without trying one of their sweets and so bought a little butter tart to split between the four of us. It really was a very small one and so divvying it up did look a bit silly but I’m glad of just partaking in a single bite – it was ludicrously sweet.

Butter Tart

I’ve heard good things about their French toast for dessert though so that might be something to try if you’re there. The place is open for breakfast and lunch and turns into a bistro at night for dinner.

Gilead Café
4 Gilead Pl
Toronto, ON
M5A 3C9

Gilead Cafe on Urbanspoon

And that ends my short roundup of Toronto eats – as usual, all my photos of my trip can be found in this Flickr photoset. It was a fun trip – apart from the conference I attended, I also went up the CN Tower, visited Niagara Falls (not to be missed!), and was privileged to be invited to dinner at Shayma’s (the beautiful Shayma of The Spice Spoon). And of course, the St Lawrence Market is not to be missed, especially on a Saturday when the farmers all set up stands too. I enjoyed a delicious peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery, bought mustard from Kozliks, and shared a gorgeous wild blueberry strudel from Oodles of Strudels. Toronto is yummy.

Hooray! The Richmond-Stratford overground line is running on Sundays again! We celebrated this last Sunday by hopping a train to Dalston; we were in search of Turkish food for brunch. I already had a place in mind – Evin Cafe, where fresh gözleme could be found, a Turkish filled flatbread I’d been wanting to try. It’s difficult to miss on Kingsland High Street – we found this sight in their window.

Making Gözleme

We entered the restaurant and were surpised to find quite a large space with lots of seating. After making ourselves comfortable at a table at the back, we ordered a range of the Turkish dishes that were listed on the breakfast menu and all turned out to be winners in my book! As you can imagine, a gözleme was part of the order.

First up was a sucuklu menemen (£5.75), a mixture of green pepper, onion, tomato, special garlic sausage (the sucuk) all bound together with scrambled egg. It may not look like much but it was fresh and delicious all scooped up with the basket of sesame-studded Turkish bread that came with our food. The sucuk tasted quite like a Spanish chorizo.

Sucuklu Menemen

Turkish Bread Olives

The günün çorbasi (soup of the day – £3.50) was lentil that Sunday and I had to have it, having heard great things about Turkish lentil soups. A big bowl was set in front of me and I dipped my spoon in: it was quite homogenous in colour save for the occasional speckle of green and red. It was thinner than I expected but this in no way was a bad thing. In fact, this was the loveliest, full of flavour red lentil soup we’d had in a while and I cannot wait to try to recreate it at home.

Lentil Soup

Last to arrive from the front of the restaurant was our cheese and spinach gözleme (£2.50); it was bigger than we both expected with its ends falling off the plate. This was just gorgeous – a soft, freshly made flatbread sandwiching crumbled mild feta cheese and lightly cooked fresh spinach.

Cheese and Spinach Gözleme

Look at the fresh spinach in there!

Inside the Gözleme

I can’t wait to try one with potato – the last filling that’s offered (Josh of Cooking the Books says it’s a spicy and minty potato mix).

With a freshly squeezed orange juice and a can of Coke, our bill came to £15. You lucky, lucky people of Dalston; I wish I had a local place like this (but really, now I can get here in half an hour!). Service was good and you’re never put under pressure to vacate your table – I saw a couple people set up their laptops. It’s definitely worth a trip out here – we spent the afternoon exploring the local shops too and went home with quite a lovely box of baklava (including a fabulous chocolate and pistachio one).

Evin Cafe
115 Kingsland High St
London E8 2PB

Evin Cafe on Urbanspoon

“What do you mean you don’t like pancakes?!” This is the usual response when I declare that I’m just not a big fan of American-style, thick, fluffy pancakes, not the thin kind common here and in France. I don’t want to eat a stack of heavy carbohydrates so early in the morning, wasting valuable space in my stomach which could be filled with bacon or sausages or fried eggs instead. That said, my pancake-loving brother was down this Easter weekend and I spoil him terribly. Easter Sunday’s brunch was buttermilk pancakes with streaky bacon and there was lots of butter and maple syrup on the side.

More Maple Syrup

Oh yes, that combination of sweet and savoury is a popular one in our household – no bacon and the pancakes just become too cloying. I turned to the net and found that Alton Brown’s recipe for buttermilk pancakes is well respected, supposedly turning out very fluffy and flavourful. And so they did – they are possibly the best American pancakes I’ve had! The batter is very easy to put together and doesn’t require a long rest so gather the eaters around the table, ready to eat the pancakes hot off the pan. That said, if you want all your pancakes ready before bringing them to the diners, they keep very well in a warm oven.

And you know, it turns out I don’t mind a pancake now and then, especially when made into a teddy bear or Easter bunny shape! I certainly cannot deal with a proper stack of them, as my brother can, but one or two is just about right. Lots of space left for bacon!

Bunny and Bacon

Teddy Bear Pancake

I had bought only one little tub of buttermilk which only held one cup’s worth from my local supermarket and so added a cupful of regular milk to replace the other half missing. They still turned out fine though I bet the flavour would be even finer with all buttermilk. If you want them a bit jazzed up, scatter chocolate chips or fresh blueberries over the batter in the pan before flipping. To make the animal shapes, work fast and with a tablespoon!

Buttermilk Pancakes
adapted from an Alton Brown recipe.
serves 4-6.

2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tbsps caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk (or half buttermilk, half regular milk)
4 tbsps cooled and melted unsalted butter
extra butter for the pan

Place all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk together. Beat the eggs well and pour them on top of the dry ingredients along with the buttermilk (or buttermilk and milk) and the melted butter. Whisk together just until it comes together – lumps are alright! You don’t want to overmix this.

Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat. Before making each pancake, make sure to butter the pan. Pour in enough batter to reach a desired size. Cook the first side until bubbles form in the top of the pancakes – this should take about 2-3 minutes. The bottoms will be golden brown. Flip and continue cooking for about another minute. Remove and keep warm until serving. Repeat until all the batter is finished.

I think I’ve said it before but we’re not big breakfast people. Waking up is torture enough each morning and the thought of consuming something just makes me nauseous. For me, it’s just throw on some clothes, gather my things and I’m out the door in ten minutes flat (Blai can confirm this – apparently I’m not particularly verbose in the morning. I just sort of grunt). On weekends, I tend to crawl out into the living room and plonk myself on the sofa, it being a convenient and more socially acceptable substitute for the bed at 11am (I think).

Baked Eggs and Beans on the Plate

But here’s the thing, though I don’t eat breakfast, I really like the idea of it. Sweet breakfasts don’t do it for me so no pancakes or waffles or even cereals. For me, it’s all about the savoury. Bacon, fried eggs, sausages, fried noodles, noodle soups, leftover pizza – that is, if I could stomach it. But once in a while, always on a weekend, I’ll strive to make some brunch – too late for breakfast, just a little too early for lunch – and we’ll feast before the day’s events.

Baked eggs are very popular in our household – I love the look of the eggs nestling in their little beds of spinach or potato chunks or stew or what have you. For brunch last weekend, I set the eggs on top of baked beans, not just any baked beans but some doctored up ones – this time with chorizo and onion. Thanks to the dish’s tinned beginnings too, it’s very quick to put together. I served them with sausages, rocket leaves and toasted muffins. A good way to start the…uh… afternoon!

Baked Eggs and Beans

Baked Eggs and Beans
serves 2.

3-4 large eggs
1 tin baked beans
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
a few slices of cured chorizo (or 1-2 cooking ones, if you have it), chopped
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco to taste
freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Heat a pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Fry the chopped onion until translucent though no harm would be done if you fry them till golden brown. Toss in the chopped chorizo and fry them until they’re frizzled. Add the tin of baked beans and stir through. Season with the Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce and let the beans bubble for a bit. Take off the heat and add lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stir well. Pour into a baking dish that will comfortably hold the number of eggs you’re using.

Make a few indentations in the beans and crack an egg into each dent. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes or longer if needed, until the whites have set. The egg yolks should have nestled into the beans, protecting them from the heat of the oven and so they should still be liquid. Serve with other brunchy things.

Fresh corn cobs are still available at the farmers’ and outdoor markets and after eating my fill of boiled corn on the cob, I wanted to use it in some other way. After a disappointing corn waffle at one London restaurant, I thought I’d cook my own corny brunch one past Sunday. Since I don’t have a waffle maker/grill, I thought I’d make fritters instead. These turned out to be more like pancakes as I didn’t use much oil to fry them.

Corn Fritters and Streaky Bacon

The corn fritters turned out gorgeously toothsome being chock-full with all those fresh corn kernels and when paired with some streaky bacon, became even better. Taking it all to another level was the honey I drizzled over them! I think maple syrup would be lovely too, the sweetness matching perfectly with the sweet carbiness of the fritters and saltiness of the bacon.

Corn Fritters with Honey

Fresh Corn Fritters
adapted from a recipe by Bill Granger.
serves 3-4.

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tbsp sugar
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup milk
fresh corn kernels, cut from 2 cobs
oil for frying

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, paprika and sugar. Crack in the eggs and beat them into the flour. Add the milk bit by bit and stir well to combine. You should end up with a very thick pancake batter. Stir through the corn kernels.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil, twirling the pan to coat the surface evenly. Fry the batter as you would pancakes, using 1 tablespoonful of batter per fritter. This will take about 1-2 minutes a side, until they are golden brown.

Serve with rashers of bacon on the side and honey or maple syrup to pour over.

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