When we went to the UK in 2016, one of my favourite things to eat was a full english breakfast. The mix of bacon, sausages, eggs, black pudding, baked beans, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast really hit the spot especially when served with grilled haloumi. Also its a truly iconic meal and we got to try several versions ranging from the traditional at the famous Layer Cake diner and a deconstructed version at the Fat Duck.
Fast forward to 2022 and I had a meal at Gucci Osteria da Massimo Botturo where they served a fantastic American Breakfast dish which consisted of poached quail egg and caviar covered with a potato foam. A light and simple presentation that inspired me to try to create a similar spin on the full english breakfast instead.
The first step was to chose the exact components to use. For eggs I decided to use quails eggs as they are smaller and have a greater proportion of yolk than chicken eggs. I was unable to find the traditional Heinz vegetarian beans locally so I tried a variety of different beans including some Amys Vegetarian Beans but in the end I felt that Bush’s country style baked beans worked best for the final dish. For the tomatoes I decided to use a version of the tomato water that was used in amazing Shellfish in Seawater dish from the Manresa cookbook. The mushrooms were included as a fluid gel and finally for the toast I decided to use a croissant foam as it can add volume and flavour without making the dish too heavy. Nithya is not a big fan of english bacon or black pudding so I decided to skip them and finally I skipped the sausages a I couldn’t really come up with a good way to integrate them into the dish.
This is a fairly complicated with a lot of moving parts but fortunately many of them can (and should) be done a few days in advance so that the final assembly and service is reasonably straight forward.
- 1.5 kg of very ripe tomatoes
- 15-20 fresh basil leaves
- salt to taste
Cut the tomatoes into inch pieces, mix in basil leaves with salt to taste and let stand at room temperature for about 8 hours (stirring every 1-2 hours). Puree the mixture in a blender and freeze overnight in a covered dish that will allow you to remove the entire frozen block. I like to use a 1/3 size polycarb container as its easy to both use an airtight cover and remove the block.
The next step is to use the process of cryofiltration to extract only the tomato water and to leave the solids behind. For this I take a cooling rack and and place it in a baking pan. I then cover the the cooling rack with three of layers of cheese cloth and place the frozen block over the cloth. Now we just leave the setup undisturbed for a several hours during which the block will melt and release the tomato water while the solids stay with the cloth. Once the ice have completely melted, carefully remove the cheesecloth and solids while taking care to ensure that you don’t squeeze the cloth which can cause the solids to go through.
The finished tomato water should be refrigerated at least overnight and can be kept in the fridge for several days. For best results I like to serve it within 48 hours of making the water.
- 3 croissants
- 600g half and half
- Salt and pepper to taste
Tear the croissants into small pieces and heat along with the half and half in a saucepan till it comes to a simmer. Blend the mixture until it becomes a smooth liquid. If the mixture is too thick it will not foam correctly so feel free to add some more half and half to get it to the right consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and blend once more. Since the mixture will expand when foamed you should add 2-3 times the amount of salt and pepper that you would add to the liquid by itself.
Filter the mixture into a whipping siphon and reserve in the fridge for up to a week.
- 500g mushrooms
- 1L of chicken or vegetable broth
- 50g heavy cream
- 75g truffle butter
- Salt to taste
- Agar-Agar (2%)
Dice the mushrooms into 0.5 inch pieces and saute in a pan till the turn brown. Once the mushrooms have reached a nice brown, add one liter of chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cream and truffle butter (you can also use butter and truffle oil instead) and simmer for 5 more minutes. Puree in a blender and add salt to taste.
Freeze the puree and perform cryofiltration like we did for the tomato water in the section above. The mushroom water will not be clear like the tomato water but it will be very light and flavourful.
Add 2% agar-agar by weight (eg: 10g to 500g of mushroom water) and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes to activate the agar agar. Next we cool the liquid in the refrigerator till it forms a solid gel. The gel can stay in the fridge for up to a week.
Assembly and Service
- Croissant foam mix
- Mushroom gel
- 1 can Bush’s Country Style baked beans
- One shot chilled tomato water per serving
- 2 quail eggs per serving
Charge the croissant foam whipping siphon with a nitrogen (cream). Use one charge for 0.5l and two for 1l siphons. The charging process cools the mixture down due to the Joule-Thompson effect so you will want to start heating it after charging. Additionally since Joule-Thompson effect will also apply to service you will want to heat it to as high a temperature as possible so that it is still warm when it gets to the table. I found 95C via a sous vide bath to work well.
For the mushroom gel we convert it to a fluid gel by blending it with an immersion blender. The reason for the conversion is that fluid gels have a unique mouth feel and can be plated in interested ways. Place the mushroom fluid gel in a squeeze bottle and warm it in a bath to around 60C so it stays warm but does not pass the agar agar melting point of 85C.
The last step of prep is to make the quails eggs. Quail eggs have a relatively soft shell and cannot be cracked like a chicken egg. Instead you have to use a knife to cut a hole in the top of the egg and pour out the contents. I found that putting each egg in its own little bowl before service came in handy. Heat butter in a small pan and add a cookie cutter on the pan to help maintain shape. I then added 2 eggs to inside of the cutter to keep them in a circular shape and size that is a bit smaller than my serving plate. It only takes about a minute to cook the eggs so pay close attention so the yolks are still runny when the take them off the stove. Add salt and pepper to taste.
We begin plating by adding a spoon of warmed up baked beans to the bottom of the bowl. I like using a wide and shallow bowl so people dont have to dig too much. The wide brim of these Saturn bowls also comes in handy for plating.
Next we add the croissant foam. Remember that the siphon will be very very hot so I recommend using oven mitts to both shake the siphon and dispense the foam over the top of the beans.
For final plating we add the fried eggs on top of the foam and add some of the mushroom fluid gel on the brim of the dish. Unfortunately in my case I had overheated the fluid gel which led to a less than ideal texture. Next time I will keep it at ~65C.
We serve the dish along with a shot of the chilled tomato water to give add a shot of freshness and acidity to the meal as well as to break up the textures and flavours of the rest of the meal.
And there you have my take on Full English Breakfast: Quail eggs and baked beans with croissant foam, mushroom gel and tomato water. I thought the completed dish worked out quite well and is something that I will definitely make again. Its a lot of prep work to make it but I personally like the final texture and flavour combinations. The croissant foam in particular really stood out and has a very clear croissant flavour. One thing I might try in future is to add a slice of millionaire bacon to the plate rim so we get another non-traditional preparation of a traditional ingredient.