Croque-Mrs And Lazy Sunday Mornings

Lazy Sunday mornings are the best. Mostly because they usually come at the end of a wild work week, a busy DIY Saturday or an intoxicated night out or a mix of the three.

So come Sunday we are all too happy to stay in bed for as long as we can before dragging ourselves downstairs to prepare what has quickly become one of our favourite breakfasts (ahem… brunch/lunch/mid-afternoon snack): the Croque-Mrs. It’s definitely not my healthiest recipe, but it feels like a comforting hug on those special mornings after the night before, and that’s where it all started! A couple of years back, on a morning afternoon after a somewhat inebriated night out, we decided we’d make lazy Croque-Madames (without the Bechamel sauce), only to realise we had no ham or gruyere.  Never mind, we decided to anglicise the recipe, so here are the Croque-Mrs:

For 4 Croque-Mrs
Prep: 10 minutes
Cooking 5 minutes

Ingredients:
4 slices of bread
8 bacon rashers
4 eggs
4 slices of cheddar or about 100g of grated cheddar
Butter

Method:
Grill the bacon under the grill or on a griddle pan. In our home we like it crispy, but it’s personal preference that rules on this one!
Place the bread under the grill (medium) until lightly toasted.
Turn the slices over and spread butter on the non-toasted side.
Now, timing is of the essence if you like to eat uniformly warm food, so you might want to start frying your eggs now.
When the eggs are doing their thing in the frying pan, place 2 bacon rashers on each slice, then add the cheese.
Place under the grill (low) for 3-4 minutes until the cheese has melted.
By then, your eggs should also be cooked so you can start plating up by simply topping each slice of bread with a fried egg.

Serve with ketchup or something tomato-based if you fancy cooking.

C’est prêt, bon appétit!

The Olympics Strike Again! (Handball)

After a great afternoon at the Beach Volley-ball on Horeseguard’s Parade, we were lucky enough to also have tickets to go and see the Handball quarter-finals at the Basketball Arena… in the Olympic Park! Our session was at 6pm to see Denmark v. Sweden so we took the afternoon off and headed to Stratford at lunchtime, straight from work. I was honestly a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see France but we arrived just minutes before the final whistle and you could totally hear the French supporters singing “Allez les Bleus” from the outside. There was an enormous roar when the game ended; it looked like the building was shaking from it! According to a friend, the game was very tight (France won in the last second) so my heart may not have survived the emotion had I watched it live! Anyway, we had a great evening at the park. The handball was very impressive – action-packed and fast-paced and there were loads of supporters of both teams, which made for great atmosphere. After the match we had a couple of drinks with some friends who also had tickets and then we decided to wander around for a while. Wearing heels that day may not have been my best idea of late as we walked for nearly 2 hours! But I got some lovely night shots of this really impressive place!

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We are now facing Croatia in the semis tonight, I hope “Les Experts” (that’s how the team is knicknamed) will live up to their reputation! Allez les Bleus!

We Were There! Beach Volleyball At The Olympics

So finally, our first event was here. It was a bit of an early start for us on a Saturday as we had to be at Horse Guard Parade for 10.30am – we’re normally just about opening our eyes at that time! Anyway, the lead up to Saturday was a bit unusual: while checking the schedule on the official website Darling-Chéri found out that things had been changed and we were actually going to see two mens’ games rather that one mens’ and one ladies’. As you’d expect, he was not impressed (yes, I pointed and laughed). Luckily for him (and probably for me, as a consequence), the schedule got changed again and on Friday a colleague who had the same issue told me that we were back to the original programme. Good news. My colleague did encourage me to wind Darling-Chéri up until the last minute but he’d had a pretty poor week so I told him as soon as I had him on the phone and I can tell it really cheered him up!

I also boasted in a recent post that I hadn’t bought any Olympics merchandise, well, that jinxed it all and by Friday we had a Team GB cap, a France cap, some Team GB sweatbands and a couple of hand flags each, just in case we got to see either team play. And I really restrained myself on the official website! Which made me think I shouldn’t take my payment card when we go, or I might just come back with the whole shop! I mean, I really like the little rowing rubber duck!

They advise you to be at Horse Guard Parade about 90 minutes before the event. We were there a bit earlier than that, so got right at the front of the queue and we were in the waiting area within minutes of the gates opening. It was aperitif time so we headed straight for the bar and chilled out with a couple of beers while the Queen’s Guards Marching Band was opening the day: YMCA, the A-Team, We Are The Champions and the inevitable Chariots Of Fire (somebody is making a mint on the rights of this theme tune right now!). I have to credit the staff for doing a great job here. For a temporary venue, I found all the facilities to be of rather high quality and the staff were great at moving people through the different parts of the park and into the stadium in a smooth and friendly manner. The gold medal totally goes to the girl on the life-guard chair right by the stadium who greeted us with a deadpan: “Ladies and gentlemen I would like to introduce you to the rain, our main sponsor today.” In the megaphone when the rain started. Actually I think it might have been this girl: YouTube video of the “happiest” London 2012 member of staff.

Finally, we got to our seats and watched the two games. For the ladies, it was Spain v. Italy, and for the guys it was the Netherlands v. Switzerland. Like most people in the crowd, we had no real interest in the teams playing, but the atmosphere was great nonetheless, with lots of cheering and clapping at each point, Mexican waves going around etc. This was probably helped by Peter Dickson (you will know him for being the OTT voice of the X-Factor, BGT, E4 etc) who was managing the commentary and clearly in good form. Getting the crowd enthused about fit athletes jumping up and down or semi-naked dancers doing an animation at the break is one thing, but getting 15,000 spectators to cheer the volunteers raking the pitch (“You know you love it, it’s rakey-rakey time!”) is talent!

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At the end of the day, we really enjoyed the whole experience and it’s really made us even more excited about going to the Olympic Park on Wednesday for the Handball!

Inspiration Is In A Kitchen Cupboard

I really like lamb and mustard and I have a great recipe of mustard and feta crusted lamb which I’ll share one of these days, but by the time I’d got home from work yesterday and spent an hour removing lining paper in the front room, I just wanted to cook a really quick-fix dinner. I had the lamb already thawed in the fridge, so that was one thing I’d have to use for sure. As for what to do with it, I had a look around the kitchen tops and in the cupboards and ended up making this Mustard and Basil Lamb Rump Steaks served with tender stem broccoli and red peppers. Now a couple of caveats: rump steak really isn’t my favourite cut, I tend to find leg steak has got less fat, but I went with what I had in the fridge, obviously. For the vegetables, I would normally have had pan-fried or roasted Mediterranean veg, but the broccoli was about to go off and is much quicker to prepare so I swapped. And it worked rather well I have to say!

And now for the recipe:

For 2 people
Prep time: 10 minutes
Marinade (optional): 30 mins to 2 hrs
Cooking: 6-8 minutes

Ingredients:
2 lamb steaks
3 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp clear runny honey
1 tsp lemon or lime juice (optional)
About ten leaves of fresh basil

Method:
In a shallow bowl, mix the mustard, olive oil and honey
Chop the basil leaves finely and add to the mix
Place the lamb steaks in the bowl and cover with the marinade.
You can cover and leave it in the fridge to marinate for a couple of hours (optional)
When ready to cook, heat up a bit of olive oil in a frying pan or use a griddle pan. Cook the steaks for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
If you have any leftover sauce, set the meat aside once cooked and add the sauce to the pan for a minute or two then drizzle over the steaks.
Serve it with vegetables and roasted potatoes.

C’est prêt, bon appétit!