Michael Zee, author of Symmetry Breakfast and creator of the wildly popular Instagram of the same name is an expert in the small loving touches that strengthen and solidify a romance. He’s spent years making incredible breakfasts as an ongoing love letter to his boyfriend, Mark. And he must have done something (or cooked something!) right because the two married this week. So if you really want to impress your significant other, why not try making them the best breakfast of their life!
Michael has shared four of his favorite date recipes with us for this romance laden month. And we guarantee that if you make any one of these for your girlfriend/boyfriend, they’ll want to stay with you forever.
And may I suggest a gift of a sexy robe be paired with this breakfast (which was not at all highly contested in my list of most romantic V-Day gifts)? Just a thought.
CHURROS Y JAMON CON CAJETA CHURROS WITH HAM AND CARAMEL DIPPING SAUCE
Ingredients for the Churros:
Makes 8 churros
- 1 cup water
- Oil for deep frying
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1⁄3 cup minced Serrano ham
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 8 squares of baking parchment, 4 x 4 in
Ingredients for the Cajeta:
Makes 3 jam jars of sauce
- 2 quarts goats milk
- 2 cups grated panela, or light muscovado sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1⁄2 tsp baking soda
To make the cajeta, place the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a large, heavy–bottomed pan (large is important and you’ll see why later). A copper pan is traditional in Mexico, but any heavy– based enamel or steel pan will work fine. I’d advise against using cast iron because of the risk of damaging the pan.
Over a low heat, slowly melt the sugar into the milk and add the vanilla extract. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, so you don’t burn your hand.
Dissolve the baking soda in a tablespoon of water and quickly add this to the milk, still stirring. Within seconds the liquid will double in volume, so quickly turn the heat down if you need to.
Now, for the next 4–5 hours, with the heat on low, it is a matter of stirring occasionally and making sure it doesn’t burn. Perhaps use this time to finish those odd jobs around the house you’ve been putting off.
Sterilize three jam jars. The easiest method is to wash them in hot soapy water, rinse but not dry them, and then bake them in the oven at 350°F for 15 minutes.
The cajeta should now be glossy and caramel colored. It will thicken as it cools. Carefully pour into the sterilized jars, screw on the lids, then immediately turn the jars upside down and leave to cool completely. This will create a vacuum seal and it simply means that you’ll be able to keep the cajeta for longer. You can store it in a cupboard until opened, then keep it in the fridge and use within 6 months (if you can manage it; it’s more likely that you’ll scarf the lot).
To make the churros, you’ll need to invest in a heavy–duty piping bag with a star nozzle or a specialist churro gun, which you can find online.
Gently heat the oil in a heavy pan. You want the oil to be at least an inch deep.
In a separate pan, add the water, light brown sugar, and butter, and melt. Bring it to a boil and add the flour and salt. Combine the lot with a spoon and some elbow grease until you have a batter that looks like wallpaper paste.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with the vanilla and combine this with the flour mix. You will now have a smooth, glossy batter.
Finely mince the Serrano ham and add this to the batter. Combine the superfine sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
Load up your churro gun or piping bag with the nozzle already inserted. Test the temperature of the oil with a pea–sized ball of the batter. If it browns fully in 90 seconds then it’s ready.
To create the classic teardrop shape, pipe the mix on to a sheet of the baking parchment and, using a pair of scissors, snip the batter clean from the nozzle.
Gently lower the churro, paper attached, into the hot oil. After 30 seconds it will come free of the paper; using tongs, carefully discard the paper.
Continue to cook for 1 minute, then flip and cook for another minute. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining batter. Leave to cool for a minute so that you don’t burn yourself, then sprinkle each churro gently with cinnamon- sugar. Serve with cajeta and coffee.
IDLI SOUTH INDIAN FERMENTED RICE PANCAKES
Ingredients, Makes about 20 idli:
- 3 cups rice (long–grain is fine)
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1⁄2 cup water 1 cup black gram lentils (urad dal)
- 3 tsp salt
- Oil for greasing the pans
Start in the morning of the day before you’d like to eat – some forward planning is required. In a bowl, mix the rice with the fenugreek seeds and cover with the water. In another bowl, put the urad dal and cover with water. Leave both bowls for a minimum of 5 hours.
The evening of the day before eating, drain the water from the rice but don’t discard it. Put the wet rice in a blender and add 1⁄2 cup of the water. Blend until you have a smooth batter, adding extra water, a little at a time, until it flows easily. Decant this into a large bowl and repeat with the dal (start with 1⁄4 cup of water this second time, as you should have some residual liquid in the blender).
Add the liquid dal to the rice with the salt and mix together using your hands. The bacteria on your skin will help kickstart the fermentation. Leave this covered overnight to ferment in a warm oven; I leave the oven light on. Depending on the time of year, this process will give different results, but you should have a huge, bubbling white mass.
The day of eating, give the batter a good stir. The consistency should be that of thick cream.
Prepare your idli pan by lightly oiling each of the sections with either a brush or a paper towel. Fill the bottom of the pan with water, making sure it doesn’t touch the idli holder. Ladle in enough batter to reach just beneath the edge; you’ll get some rise but not lots.
Steam the idli for 20 minutes with the lid firmly clamped on.
Remove the idli with a wet spoon, running it round the edge of each pancake. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with sambar and coconut chutney.
Leftovers can be transformed into idli fry, a delicious snack of deep fried idli served with a dip, chutney, or sauce of your choosing and a cup of tea.
1⁄2 cup milk
1 3⁄4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp black pepper
1⁄2 cup grits (Palmetto Farms is my favorite)
1⁄2 cup grated sharp or mature Cheddar
2 tbsp butter
Add the milk, water, salt, and pepper to a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down to low and add the grits, stirring continuously for 5 minutes. The aim here is low and slow. If the grits start to bubble, then your heat is too high. Cover with a lid and continue to cook on low for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
Taste to check if they are tender and cooked.
Take off the heat and add the cheese and butter, stirring until melted.
Serve the grits as they are with an extra knob of butter, or with crispy bacon and fresh grilled jumbo shrimp, egg, or perhaps with chorizo or spicy merguez sausage. The beauty of grits is that they’re a vehicle. Go to town with the flavors: perhaps make them with half milk and half stock, or add some chili paste and a teaspoon of honey.
PASTEL DE NATA EGG CUSTARD TARTS
Ingredients, Makes 12 tarts
- 1 pack ready–rolled puff pastry (13.8 oz is standard in most supermarkets)
- 1 whole egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 2⁄3 cup superfine sugar
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 2⁄3 cups whole milk
- Zest of 1⁄2 lemon
Take the pastry out of the fridge and packaging at least 30 minutes before unrolling.
In a cold pan, place the egg and egg yolks, sugar, and cornflour, and mix until combined. Pour in the milk and gently whisk until you have a smooth liquid. Place the pan on a medium–low heat whilst continuing to whisk. The secret to smooth custard is to take your time; if the heat is too high you risk making scrambled eggs.
Once it starts to thicken you can turn the heat up very slightly and continue to stir for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest. The custard should have a thick yet pourable consistency.
Pour the custard into a glass bowl and cover with cling film to prevent a skin from forming.
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Unroll the pastry and remove the plastic. Cut it in half lengthways and place the sheets on top of each other. With the long side facing you, roll the pastry tightly into a long sausage and cut it into 12 discs.
Place each disc in a lightly greased muffin tin. Dip your thumbs into some water and press into the middle of each round. You want to flatten the bottom and push the pastry up the edges. It is OK if the edges come up a little above the tin.
Divide the cooled custard between the 12 pastry cases and bake for 20–25 minutes. You want the tops of the tarts to be burnished with black spots and the insides still to be soft, with a little wobble.
Leave the nata to cool and enjoy them like the Portuguese do, with a small coffee – um pingo (espresso with a touch of milk) – and eat with a teaspoon. That way it seems to last longer.