The morning after a heavy night is often a time when, with all the will in the world, you just can't face throwing on the proverbial apron and cooking. I'll be the first to hold my hands up and admit that my hangover meals often consist of little more than a pint of cold water and two slices of buttered toast (well not strictly true, but it sounds much better than saying "margarined toast").
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a late night (to tell the truth, practically all night) poker game, hosted by friend-of-a-friend Jim in nearby Stoke Newington. Our mate in common is Alex, probably my oldest friend (we've known each other since before primary school), and one of my only true foodie-friends my own age. The poker was really fun. Despite the fact that we both sank too many cans of Boddington's, I ended up winning the game and the jackpot of £20 that came with it.
This led to further liquid celebration with my mate Alex en route home - we eventually made it back to Alex's house in Camden after daybreak, collapsed into heaps and crashed out. The following morning after gaining consciousness (swiftly followed by sleep-deprecated grumbling) we were both overcome by an incredible urge for eggs - specifically of the poached variety. Over the years it's become a custom that whenever Alex has friends over, for whatever occasion, we always make the effort to create something elaborate (suffice it to say that even if we were only making beans on toast, those haricots would be quivering in their tomato sauce).
The great thing about Alex's kitchen is that there's always something interesting to be found, whether it be the result of an early morning trip to Salvino's Italian deli or the multitude of bits and bobs left-over from previous cooking. On this occasion we chanced upon some olive bread, courtesy of Salvino, some moutarde de Charroux that had been bought in Paris, a few slices of smoked salmon and some Columbian Blacktail hens' eggs, courtesy of Waitrose. Here's a quick run-through of our brekkie, alongside photos taken from my mobile phone (click to enlarge). Not the best picture quality, I'm afraid. It was very much spur of the moment cooking and I can't take the camera everywhere I go.
We used up what was left of the mustard (which wasn't that much at all). Then a joint decision was made to combine the mustard with something creamy and mild to create a light sauce for our soon-to-be-poached eggs. A quick root around the fridge produced a tub of fromage frais, which seemed the obvious candidate.
When combining two ingredients in this way, it's always best to add the more flavoursome ingredient gradually to the other until the perfect balance is achieved. You can make a taste stronger, but it's hard to make it lighter. We added a little Maldon salt and white pepper and simply left to the mixture to infuse.
It seemed only right that if we were going to be feasting on Columbian hen eggs, we should be drinking Columbian coffee with it. One cup while cooking and another at the table.
I've never been a huge fan of olives, but this bread was just amazing. Cut into thick "doorstep" slices and toasted lightly, then spread with my favourite margarine Bertolli (formerly known as Olivio).
Once our bread was cut and our coffee was on the go, we got some boiling water ready for poaching the eggs in. We added plenty of salt to the water and, crucially, a little white wine vinegar which helps the egg's albumen to coagulate around the yolk faster, producing a superior result.
A good tip when poaching eggs, especially if you have to coordinate their timing with many other elements, is to half-cook them and then remove them into a bowl of iced water. When ready, you simply drop the eggs back into the simmering water for a brief moment before plating up.
Alex soon wilted under my interrogation, revealing that he'd sliced the tomatoes in half and sautéed them with caster sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, herbes de Provence and sesame oil.
Not at all shabby, I thought. Definitely inspirational hangover food.