A GENERAL manager of a splendid five-star hotel where I once worked was disarmingly pragmatic about our job. Forget clichéd boasts of "unforgettable experiences" or "unrivalled luxury". The hotelier’s goal, simply, is to provide the best possible night’s sleep. He could add it was to offer the best possible breakfast too. While only a fraction of guests dine in your typical large hotel dining room of an evening, virtually every one will take breakfast before departure. Finding time to linger is a rare luxury, so an unhurried breakfast is the loveliest treat.

Small touches create the magic. Freshly squeezed fruit juice is a world apart from even the best quality shop-bought versions; the finest unsalted butter spread on proper bread (perhaps, for once, from a toast rack?) is a luscious golden indulgence.

Personally I tend to avoid "the works" and the predictable protein overload it entails. I’m not alone: a friend of mine just back from a trip to Ireland recounted an outstanding breakfast of a Swiss chard omelette, hitting the right blend of the familiar, thanks to the eggs, and the deliciously unexpected with silky leaves and crunchy stem of chard. A black pudding hash also caught the eye: nuggets of peppery black pudding and sauté mushrooms topped with a wobbly poached egg, ready to spill its oozy yolk, sounded divine for an unusual but satisfying start. A breakfast that gets creative with the usual ingredients is sure to be as memorable as it is intriguing.

Young spinach and gruyere omelette

Recipes serve 4

12 medium-sized fresh free range eggs

150g young spinach leaves

60g gruyere, or comte, cheese

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Butter about 80g

1 dstsp chopped tarragon

A piece of nutmeg


1. Pick off and discard the spinach stalks, taking care not to bruise the leaves. Fill a clean sink or generous sized container with very cold water. To this, add the picked spinach leaves and swirl very gently so the leaves don't get bashed. Once washed, lift out into a salad spinner and spin dry then transfer to a bowl for now and set aside.

2. Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk together briefly with a fork or whisk. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper and stir in the chopped tarragon.

3. Grate the cheese on the small to medium face of a box grater.

4. You will need to make the omelettes one after the other so preheat the oven to 100C.

5. Heat a wide, non-stick pan or omelette pan over a moderate heat. Add a quarter of the butter and allow to melt for a minute then add a quarter of the spinach and wilt for 30 seconds in the butter. With the help of a ladle, add a quarter of the egg mix and allow to spread around the pan.

6. Run the tip of a rubber spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen it from the sides then swirl the mixture around once every 30 seconds, breaking up the base of the egg in contact with the pan, and allowing new egg to set across the pan. After two minutes, the mix will be firmer. Now sprinkle a quarter of the cheese across the face of the omelette and leave for another minute to melt slightly. Grate a little fresh nutmeg over, if desired. Use the spatula to loosen the egg mix away from the edges again then roll the omelette over to create the traditional rolled up effect. Transfer to a serving plate and pop into the oven.

7. Wipe out the pan at once with kitchen paper and repeat until all four omelettes are made

8. When ready, serve at once with fresh ground black pepper. If you wish, you could serve a small bowl of grated cheese on the side or you could offer a plate of grilled streaky bacon in the middle of the table.

Black pudding and mushroom hash

4 thick slices black pudding, cut 1.5cm thick each

300g button or chestnut mushrooms

12 boiled new potatoes, cooled and halved or quartered

A rounded dstsp chopped parsley

50g unsalted butter

1 tsp picked thyme leaves

4 eggs to poach or fry


1. Preheat oven to 190C. Quarter the mushrooms then wash thoroughly and dry in a colander. Heat a wide frying pan over a moderate heat for one minute then add a dstsp olive oil and the butter. When it is foaming, add the mushrooms and fry steadily so they become a nutty golden colour all over, turning regularly.

2. Meanwhile spread the sliced black pudding on a baking tray, place in the preheated oven and cook until just beginning to soften, but not turn crisp on the outside, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for now.

3. Add the potatoes to the pan with the mushrooms and continue to sauté so these also become golden brown. If necessary add a little more butter

4. Fry or poach the eggs, according to personal preference.

5. While the eggs finish, add the black pudding to the pan of mushrooms and potatoes and stir in. It will crumble apart. Toss the chopped parsley through the mix and add a twist of black pepper, if you wish.

6. Divide the hash mix between four serving plates. Top with the egg, scatter the thyme all over then serve at once.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife KY15 5LH, 01334 840206 www.thepeatinn.co.uk