Jo Corrigan—One Damn Fine Singin' Hinnie

Ellie Parker 12 June 2008

Jo Corrigan is the heart and soul behind The Commoner in Fitzroy.

To kick off Breakfast Out's official launch, Jo discusses the wonders of childhood breakfast memories, the importance of cooking in season, and the glories of Singin' Hinnies.

On childhood memories of breakfast
My favourite breakfast as a child was the honey from the man next door, mixed with the fatty cream off the top of fresh cows milk. The cream would set in the billy in the fridge overnight, and we would mix that together with the honey and slather it on our toast. That was a Sunday morning treat.

I think breakfast has a lot to do with childhood memories. It is a special time and we gloss over it.

On Singin' Hinnies
At home, on a Saturday morning, I make these buttermilk pancakes called Singin' Hinnies. I discovered the recipe in an old-fashioned Scottish book that I bought in a second-hand shop in London. 

Initially I cooked them on Shrove Tuesdays in a posh London restaurant. They were a little pancake coated in a spiced sugar and served with clotted cream ice-cream. Brilliant! We then started to serve them with deep-fried elder flowers. They are really delicate and digestible because of the buttermilk.

There are some people who get dressed in a suit every day, go to work, come home, have dinner and watch TV, time and time again. These are the people who need Singin' Hinnies in their life.

On seasonality at The Commoner
A recent visit to The Commoner by our exotics truck revealed an abundance of pine needles covering this big box of sticky wild mushrooms. We immediately made potato bread and put sautéed slippery jacks on hot toasted, buttered potato bread.

At the moment there are incredibly sexy lemon trees around, heaving with fruit. Seasonality for me means that I think about the top four things that I can do with lemons. For example, I make a lemon sugar, made from spiced sugar with lemon zest, for the outside of the Singin' Hinnies. I also love a really good lemon cake and lemon curd.

Carrots are also great at the moment. I love the idea of a whole poached carrot with a massive pile of freshly grated horseradish served with a soft-boiled egg on the side.  That will be coming to The Commoner as the ultimate vegetarian breakfast.

That is how we do a seasonal menu at The Commoner-simple variations on one beautiful seasonal ingredient.

Our priority is for the customer to experience a reflection of the environment they live in, in the food they eat. They see pomegranates on the tree and they see pomegranates on the plate. They see quinces in the markets and they see them here in the restaurant.

One of our biggest passions is making sure people know how to go home and re-create something. We don't hide it at all. To encourage people to cook and to shop at seasonal times is one of our jobs.

On breakfast at The Commoner
Breakfast time is that time in the day when you need nurturing. I am a true believer that what is missing in most people's lives is breakfast nurture. It means you start the day in the wrong way, with both a chemical and a mental imbalance.

You are vulnerable during breakfast time, and you want someone to mentally stroke your elbow and say ‘everything is okay'. Even though later you have to mow the lawn and do the shopping and pay the bills, for the moment you are going to be looked after. That is at the heart of The Commoner.

Great service is about gauging each customer's individual response. They may just want to be looked after. Sometimes people look up at you at breakfast time, and you just know that they need a friend. That friend could be a bowl of porridge or it could just be an encouraging word. There has to be a connection at breakfast that you often don't need at lunch or dinner.


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