The brunch before Christmas

Granola jar at The 11 O'Clock ClubThe final 11 O’Clock Club of the year arrived on a bright autumn day. By late morning the clouds had rolled in and the wind had picked up, but the 11 O’Clock Club provided a safe harbour from the weather beginning to rage outside its doors. The scent of croissants curled through the kitchen door and down the hallway to greet guests, who gladly shed coats and cosied up on comfortable chairs with mimosas and cups of tea.

As usual, proceedings began with warm croissants and homemade jams. These are always among the favourite items served, with one friend even texting me days later to tell me about her croissant dreams, but never before had a group demolished their batch so swiftly. Perhaps having worked up an appetite battling the blustery weather, one guest managed to devour an impressive four – yes, four – as the opener to their meal! Granola proved popular too, with it’s nutty, maple-glazed crunch offset by soft swirls of yogurt and the squidge of Dorset apple and blackberry compote.

The 11 O'Clock Club

For a truly restorative main course on a cold day, there was my breakfast take on ribollita – a Tuscan vegetable and bean ‘soup’. This is much heartier than your average soup, because it is made with lashings of olive oil, hunks of parmesan and so much bread that you can eat it with a fork. Garnished with bacon, yet more parmesan and a poached egg, and served with a side of focaccia, it is a truly decadent breakfast.

Yet, for me, few foods are more comforting than a wholesome bowl of porridge. This week’s cardamom porridge was flecked with rye flakes to add a slight chew, deep nuttiness and a faint acidity that works well to offset richer toppings: a pool of Greek yogurt, a stream of spiced plum compote and just a splash of maple syrup. I couldn’t resist adding studs of almond brittle, which I tell myself draw out the flavour of the almond milk, but are really just an extra treat to satisfy a sweet tooth. Perhaps not quite so wholesome after all, then!

                   Italian bowl at The 11 O'Clock Club  Autumn porridge bowl at The 11 O'Clock Club

Later a hazelnut and chocolate babka was sliced and stowed safely in little boxes, so that guests could savour it at home. Luckily they left me a slice to savour too, which I enjoyed during a quiet moment to reflect on the first season of 11 O’Clock Clubs and start scheming for 2016…

Chocolate and hazelnut babka at The 11 O'Clock Club

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