This morning, the alarm clock woke me up at 8 a.m. I was extremly tired and felt a cold creeping up to me, so after having hit the snooze button for the umpteenth time and not feeling the least bit better, I decided to stay at home. There's almost nobody who takes the first week of class seriously anyway.
I stumbled into the kitchen, pulled Sophie's new cookbook off the shelf and went back to bed.
As I flipped through the pages, uuh-ing and aah-ing every so often, several thoughts hit me and I came up with an idea for a wonderful breakfast. But I've got to go further back:
It all goes back to my grandmother on my mother's side. She and I didn't have much in common. We disagreed on many things starting with how to dress and ending with how to lead a life. What we did share was an enormous passion for food, for making as well as for eating it.
When I was seven, my mum took up a fulltime job and I spent my afternoons after school at my grandparents' house waiting for her to pick me up in the evening. These afternoons were usually filled with my running around the garden, picking strawberries or uprooting carrots after which I would go back to the kitchen and have a plate of delicious homemade apple strudel, rice pudding, yeast dumplings or French toast placed in front of me. My grandmother was an amazing cook and baker and her specialty were those fabulous Southern German puddings with eggs, flour, sugar, milk and copious amounts of butter. To this day, the smell of something floury, eggy, sugary being fried in butter always reminds me of her.
Four years ago today she died, taking many of her treasured recipes to the grave. And although we disagreed more often than not, I still miss her sometimes. Her low, dirty chuckles when she found something amusing, her love of cream gateaus and the comforting sight of her short, plump figure bent over the kitchen table, kneading dough, cutting fruit or whipping cream while some delectable pudding was sizzling in the oven. This dish is my tribute to her (although she would have disapproved of the plum wine as she disapproved of all ingredients that were foreign to her).
French toast with poached fruits on yogurt
(inspired by grandma and Sophie Dahl)
1 slice of wholewheat toast, dry
30 ml/1/8 cup milk
1 Tbsp cane sugar
1 generous pinch of pure vanilla (alternatively 1 glug of vanilla extract)
1 Tbsp butter
2 firm plums
1 firm pear
2 Tbsp cane sugar
3 cardamon pods
Half a cinnamon stick
1 pinch of ground cloves
Some plum wine (I strongly suggest you buy some (available at asia food shops) as it goes really well with the plums. Otherwise you can always substitute fruity red wine. And don't worry about the alcohol, it will boil away while cooking.)
100 g/ 1/2 cup yogurt
1 pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
Whisk together the eggs, milk, 1 Tbsp cane sugar and vanilla. Place the toast in a shallow bowl and pour in the egg mixture. Leave to soak for 20 minutes.
Core the pears and cut into chunks. Stone the plums and cut into quarters. Fill a small pot with about 1 cm/1/2 inch of water, add the fruit, the cardamon pods and the cinnamon stick and bring to the boil. When boiling (really bubbly boiling) slowly add the plum wine until the fluid is still simmering but stopped bubbling. Turn down the heat and let it cook for 5-10 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Add the sugar and the cloves, cook for another few minutes, then take off the heat and remove the cardamon pods and the cinnamon stick.
When the toast has soaked up all the fluid, take a small pan and melt the butter. Fry the toast for a couple of minutes on each side until the outside has browned.
Put the toast on a plate, top it with the yogurt and the poached fruits and sprinkle with cinnamon. Some flaked or julienned almonds would certainly be delicious, too.