Easy like Sunday Morning Annie Bell Forget the Fry-Up, the Smart Weekend Breakfast Consists of Granola, Griddle Cakes, Fruit, and Lots of Champagne. Photographs by Patrice De Villiers
Bell, Annie, The Independent (London, England)
I had just done the A-Z of Irish country-house hotels and was on the way back when the plane's hydraulics failed and it caught fire. As we hung in the air with a question mark over our survival, I was glad that I had breakfasted every morning that week as though it had been my last.
A few hours earlier we had sat down to a dining table groaning under home-made fruit compotes, yogurt and cereals, jugs of fresh orange and pink grapefruit juice, whole local cheeses and a roasted ham (and that was before the cooked breakfast).
An average weekday breakfast in our house is nothing you would want to read about. The children's tastes run to Ready-Brek and, as I taste that familiar white pap to check its sweetness, I have to keep reminding myself that I, too, loved it at that age. Now, no amount of nostalgia would persuade me to eat a bowlful. At the moment, I am passionate about home-made granola, which my children will not touch. It is nothing like the commercial varieties - it is more like a broken-up flapjack with raisins and is not designed to be eaten flooded with milk but as a crunchy smattering over a compote of fruits sitting in syrup, with a dollop of fromage frais or Greek yogurt on top. The restaurateur Sally Clarke sells a delicious version in her Kensington shop and I rang her hoping to extract the recipe. "Absolutely not," she told me. "That recipe is my pension." She did offer to make one up for The Independent, but I decided instead to rig one up myself. This is easier than you might imagine - and it is hard to believe that anything so delicious can be produced with such austere ingredients. First, take a trip down to your local healthfood store. You need jumbo rolled oats and wheat flakes, the ones that are almost chalky in the centre. I like hazelnuts and almonds in my granola, but you could also add brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. All these are rolled in a sticky combination of date syrup - which you can also find in Middle Eastern shops - and a dark, smokey honey such as heather or New Zealand Manuka, which produces a nice caramel after it has been toasted in a low oven. The result is every bit as healthy as muesli, most types of which I hate. The exception is a delectably silky concoction created by our Swiss au pair when I was a child. She steeped porridge oats in milk overnight then added quite a lot of cream. We would eat it with brown sugar, toasted hazelnuts, grapes and bananas. If you feel like trying it, use 250g of medium oatmeal in 400ml of milk with a couple of tablespoons of soft brown sugar. In a country-house hotel, breakfast would not be complete without something cooked. But I have yet to stay in one where enough effort is made to accommodate the non-meat eater. There is nothing wrong with grilled tomatoes on hot buttered toast, or scrambled eggs and fried mushrooms (although, in hotels, these are nearly always tasteless buttons). But how much nicer it would be find sauteed wild mushrooms on a crispy hash brown. Ideally, you should tuck into all this at about 11am, which allows you to add a little Champagne to your orange juice. Avoid flying for the rest of the day. Granola, makes 600g 5 tbsp strong honey, eg, heather or Manuka 2 tbsp date syrup 2 tbsp vegetable oil 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1 level tsp ground cinnamon 150g oat flakes 100g wheat flakes 70g skinned hazelnuts 30g flaked almonds 1 tbsp sesame seeds 70g raisins Heat the oven to 160C fan oven/ 170C or 325F electric oven/gas mark 3. Gently heat the honey, date syrup and oil together in a saucepan until runny, then stir in the vanilla and cinnamon. Add the oat flakes, wheat flakes, the nuts and sesame seeds and stir to coat them. Spoon a thin layer onto a large, oiled baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until the nuts are lightly golden. …