A few hours earlier we had sat down to a dining table groaning under home-made fruit compotes, yogurt and cereals, jugs of fresh orange and pink grapefruit juice, whole local cheeses and a roasted ham (and that was before the cooked breakfast).
An average weekday breakfast in our house is nothing you would want to read about. The children's tastes run to Ready-Brek and, as I taste that familiar white pap to check its sweetness, I have to keep reminding myself that I, too, loved it at that age. Now, no amount of nostalgia would persuade me to eat a bowlful.
At the moment, I am passionate about home-made granola, which my children will not touch. It is nothing like the commercial varieties - it is more like a broken-up flapjack with raisins and is not designed to be eaten flooded with milk but as a crunchy smattering over a compote of fruits sitting in syrup, with a dollop of fromage frais or Greek yogurt on top.
The restaurateur Sally Clarke sells a delicious version in her Kensington shop and I rang her hoping to extract the recipe. "Absolutely not," she told me. "That recipe is my pension." She did offer to make one up for The Independent, but I decided instead to rig one up myself.
This is easier than you might imagine - and it is hard to believe that anything so delicious can be produced with such austere ingredients.
First, take a trip down to your local healthfood store. You need jumbo rolled oats and wheat flakes, the ones that are almost chalky in the centre. I like hazelnuts and almonds in my granola, but you could also add brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. All these are rolled in a sticky combination of date syrup - which you can also find in Middle Eastern shops - and a dark, smokey honey such as heather or New Zealand Manuka, which produces a nice caramel after it has been toasted in a low oven.
The result is every bit as healthy as muesli, most types of which I hate. The exception is a delectably silky concoction created by our Swiss au pair when I was a child. She steeped porridge oats in milk overnight then added quite a lot of cream. We would eat it with brown sugar, toasted hazelnuts, grapes and bananas. If you feel like trying it, use 250g of medium oatmeal in 400ml of milk with a couple of tablespoons of soft brown sugar.
In a country-house hotel, breakfast would not be complete without something cooked. But I have yet to stay in one where enough effort is made to accommodate the non-meat eater. There is nothing wrong with grilled tomatoes on hot buttered toast, or scrambled eggs and fried mushrooms (although, in hotels, these are nearly always tasteless buttons). But how much nicer it would be find sauteed wild mushrooms on a crispy hash brown.
Ideally, you should tuck into all this at about 11am, which allows you to add a little Champagne to your orange juice. Avoid flying for the rest of the day.
Granola, makes 600g
5 tbsp strong honey, eg, heather or Manuka
2 tbsp date syrup
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
150g oat flakes
100g wheat flakes
70g skinned hazelnuts
30g flaked almonds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Heat the oven to 160C fan oven/ 170C or 325F electric oven/gas mark 3. Gently heat the honey, date syrup and oil together in a saucepan until runny, then stir in the vanilla and cinnamon. Add the oat flakes, wheat flakes, the nuts and sesame seeds and stir to coat them. Spoon a thin layer onto a large, oiled baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until the nuts are lightly golden. Immediately on removing from the oven, stir to break it up, then tip it onto a sheet of greaseproof paper to cool and crisp, separating the grains as much as possible. Crumble it into an airtight container and stir in the raisins. It can be stored for a week or so.
Citrus Salad with Autumn Raspberries, serves 6
I have never been able to cope with half a grapefruit, even with one of those curved knives that are supposed to make the job easier. It seems so obvious to remove the segments whole from the pith and eat a whole grapefruit. This particular combination of fruits is my own breakfast favourite. Serve as it is or with fromage frais and granola on top.
4 pink grapefruit
4 large oranges
Cut the outer skin off the grapefruits and oranges, then run a small, sharp knife between the segments and separate them, leaving behind the membranous pith. Squeeze any juices into the bowl before you throw it away. Add the raspberries at the last minute.
Griddled Welsh Cakes, serves 6
My fondness for scones and pancakes, cooked on a griddle until the edges are charred and crispy and the inside is blisteringly hot, grows with time. Sliced and spread with butter and raspberry jam, they are extraordinarily good. Knock up the dough the night before and these can be rolled and cooked in a jiffy.
350g plain flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp freshly ground mace
175g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
120g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
butter for frying
Place the flour, salt, baking powder and mace in a bowl and rub in the butter with your hands until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in the sugar and currants and then the egg to bring the dough together. Add a little milk if necessary. Wrap the dough in film and rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out to 5mm thick on a lightly floured surface and cut out 8cm rounds. Repeat the rolling no more than twice, then discard any left-over dough. Grease a griddle or cast-iron frying pan with butter and cook the scones for about 3 minutes each side until mottled with golden patches. Eat them hot, sliced and spread with butter and jam.
Truly sweet and fragrant peaches are gone now until their brief summer season returns. This should mean that bellinis are off the menu, but all is not lost: a ripe mango makes a fitting understudy. My greengrocer regularly sells Pakistani mangoes, a small slip of a fruit compared to the huge ones you more normally come across, which are utterly gorgeous, almost too good to ruin with Champagne, really.
For each bottle of bubbly, skin and puree three small, ripe mangoes. To refine the puree, I usually squeeze it through muslin. Spoon a tablespoon or two of into the bottom of each glass and gradually top up with the Champagne.
Celia's French Toast Rolls, serves 4
Celia Brooks Brown is one of the cooks behind Books for Cooks in Portobello, in west London. She has just produced her first book, Vegetarian Landscape (available from Books for Cooks, pounds 4.99; 0171-221 1992), from which this recipe is taken.
leaves stripped from a few thyme sprigs
125g Gruyere or Havarti cheese
8 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
100g unsalted butter
Whisk the eggs, milk, thyme and seasoning together in a wide, shallow bowl. Place a slice of cheese at the top of each slice of bread and roll up tightly. Moisten your fingertips in water and rub across the seam to seal. Leave the rolls to soak in the egg mixture for 10 minutes.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the rolls over a medium-low heat, turning frequently. When they are deep golden all over and the cheese begins to ooze out, they are ready to eat
Simon Hopkinson is away for two weeks. He returns on 7 NovemberReuse content