We recently returned from a long weekend in Northern Italy. Lake Garda to be precise. I’d never been to Italy before (the wife has, she’s been everywhere, and is determined to get me to see more of the world).
Rather than playing it safe, by booking travel and accommodation through a brand holiday company we winged it – randomly booking flights and a hotel that had 4 stars and did absolutely no other preparation until the night before.
It occurred to us that although we knew how to get to Verona (the nearest airport to Lake Garda) – British Airways takes you there – we had no idea how to get from the airport to our lakeside hotel.
So I began, at about 10pm the night before our flight, to investigate how to get from Verona to ‘Gardone Riviera’, the spot we were staying in. No chance. I mean for a start all the websites were in Italian.
There was one blog, written by someone who was English (or American) and interested in the area. He had a forum where someone had written the question ‘How do you get to Lake Garda from Verona Airport by train?’
Simple enough question you’d think. But this guy was one of those blogging expert types who suffers a form of pedantry restricted to those who know more than anyone else, and are only divulging their brilliance onto the unwashed masses through sheer exasperation at the stupidity and ignorance of everyone else.
His response; ‘Which airport are you referring to? There are several around Verona’. The person who wrote the original query didn’t respond (possibly because he or she realised they were dealing with a twat, who answers a question with a question). I can answer the blogger’s question though; ‘The airport everyone else arrives at when going to Verona, you twat.’ There.
Anyway, through a series of minor miracles, coincidences and lucky breaks we made it to our hotel. You might at this point be wondering, why not get a taxi. Well we decided that we were not going to throw money down the drain and we’d use public transport. All in all to get to our hotel that day we took one car ride, one plane flight, a trip on a coach, a train journey and another coach trip.
I was totally knackered by the time we got there, as my wife did her standard routine when we arrive anywhere hotel-related by making sure no one else is within 200 yards of our room – quite a hard trick to pull, but pull it she does. And I could write many, many anecdotes about our time in Italy, mostly positive (beautiful place, lots of history, laid back people (that can be good and then it can be not so good)), but here we can focus on food, more specifically breakfast.
What I like to eat in hotels is Eggs Benedict – doughy muffins topped with lightly poached egg, smothered in foamy, rich hollandaise sauce.
Getting Eggs Benedict in a hotel is a hit and miss affair – sometimes they don’t know what you are talking about, sometimes they are made at the buffet while you wait, and sometimes you just order from a menu. (Incidentally Eggs Benedict was created by a powerful chap called King Ben, who sent out an edict that all his people had to eat eggs with hollandaise sauce and muffins. Apparently).
I knew when we walked into the restaurant in our hotel we weren’t going to get Eggs Benedict, which was fine. They did do eggs; scrambled eggs. If I had been Gordon Ramsey I would have ranted at the bizarre, ‘yellow-matter custard‘ nature of those eggs. If I’d been Mary Berry I would have glanced a condescending smile at the waiters and glided away. If I’d been Jamie Oliver I’d have thrown my arms around and stormed into the kitchen to show the poor sod of a chef how to do eggs.
But I was none of those people. I was me and I had a hangover. So I slopped some eggs on a saucer and off we scuttled to a dark corner to eat (PS coffee was top quality, as were the refried beans).
So here I recreate Eggs Benedict the way I like it. You will need (serves 2):
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 dessert spoon lemon juice
- 1 dessert spoon wine or cider vinegar
- 4 oz. butter
- Salt and pepper
- 4 whole eggs
- 2 English muffins
- Bacon, ham or smoked salmon to serve.
The hollandaise sauce is based on our very own Delia Smith recipe. If she had been at that hotel with those eggs she would have adopted the chef, taken him home and taught him how to cook eggs.
Anyway Delia does go on a bit in her recipe about the pitfalls of making hollandaise sauce. I got a bit worried that a culinary cock-up was close at hand, but I needn’t have worried – it was pretty easy.
First put the egg yolks in a bowl and season.
Whisk for a minute or two (with a power whisk or by hand) until they go light and frothy.
Heat the vinegar and lemon juice in a pan until simmering. Drizzle into the eggs very slooooowly, whisking continuously.
Now melt the butter in the same pan. Again, drizzle this into the eggs very slowly, whisking continuously.
To serve, slice and toast a muffin. Pop a poached egg on top of each half. Pour the sauce over the top and crack some pepper on top.
If serving with bacon etc., put the bacon on the muffin before the egg.
Note: Eagle-eyed readers might note the presence of wine in the preparation of this ‘breakfast’. I’d like to point out that this creation was eaten for dinner; I do not drink wine for breakfast. Usually not anyway.