We’re talking breakfast today. What do you think of when you think of the first repast of the day? A ‘full English’, toast, croissant, cereal? Amazingly reports suggest that two thirds of Britons don’t eat breakfast at all, and of those that do many grab a takeaway coffee and a pastry or cereal bar on the run. For the remainder, the preferred options are invariably toast or cereal. For the vast majority of UK children who are offered breakfast, cereal is the meal of choice. The Co-op conducted a recent survey on the British breakfast choices and interestingly cereals came half way down the list of most ‘liked ‘ breakfast options, so there is some discrepancy between what people would like to eat and what they often do. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a full cooked breakfast came top of the list. In reality few families eat a cooked breakfast, especially during the week, and with health concerns over meat, nitrates and saturated fats, the popularity of this British classic has declined.
I personally think it’s time we reclaimed breakfast. Cereals, which populate cupboards and larders across the UK and the USA, are actually a poor choice for a meal that needs to keep you full until lunchtime. Originally developed by Kellogg in the USA for Western Health Reform Institute as way to get ready-to-eat cereals to the masses, they became a growing health movement fad. This changed in the 1930’s when sugar was added and sweetened cereals then became the norm. Advertising propelled cereal into the public limelight where it has remained ever since as ‘the’ breakfast choice.
In other parts of the world, people have different traditions: putu pap in South Africa, a porridge made with a type of corn; Pan con tomate, in Spain; griddle cakes in Russia; “tamagoyaki” a kind of pancake, in Japan,; huevos rancheros in Mexico, and many other global delights. The cooked breakfast has somehow been demonised, and yet many countries eat cooked food for the first meal of the day. There’s nothing wrong with cooked food. What you’re eating and how you’re cooking it are the more pertinent issues.
I’ve written positively about eating eggs, and clearly they make a good breakfast choice. Boiled, with soldiers of course; poached on wholemeal toast; scrambled on fresh bagels; even omelette – the ways with eggs are endless. We often do a cheaty version of huevos rancheros – literally ranch eggs – and a veggie version of kedgeree, a lightly spiced rice and fish dish that I do with boiled eggs and whatever veg is about. I’m also quite happy to have an egg a-top stuffed mushrooms, Rösti, or bean cakes. If you’re not a fan of eggs, are allergic to them, like my mum, or are vegan, there are still many other quick tasty choices you can rustle up, rather than grabbing for the cereal box. Beans on rye or wholemeal toast is a good choice if you use unsweetened, unsalted baked beans; Mushrooms stuffed with seeds and spring onions, and topped with cheese is a quick savoury bite, and cheesy tomatoes are surprisingly good.
The list of cooked breakfast choices is endless. I will share some of my favourites with you in my cook book, which I plan to release by Easter 2018. In the meantime, I’ve included a couple of recipes in the recipe section for you to try.
There’s nothing wrong with an uncooked breakfast. The Germans and Turks eat bread, cold meats and cheeses, and a homemade unsweetened muesli can be very satisfying. We make smoothies a couple of times a week, but make sure whole fruit is used, rather than juice, and that it contains protein – seeds, nuts, milk – to keep us full, and oats for slow-release energy. Whatever you eat need to pack a punch if it’s going to keep you from snacking before lunchtime, so make sure you have some form of protein to keep you fuller for longer.
Chia seeds are a trendy addition to the healthy eating brigades’ armoury of ingredients. They’re pricey and come in small quantities, but if you’re a vegan they’re a good protein source, and I occasionally make chia seed pots for breakfast. They are surprisingly filling. Blitz milk – soya or nut milk if you’re avoiding animal products – with banana, and a squeeze of lemon juice, then fold in the chia seeds and top with fruit of your choice. Leave to set for a few hours and the chia seeds will swell, making a set breakfast pot. They can be made ahead and left in the fridge but the fruit will discolour a little.
Homemade muesli is another regular in our household. I buy bulk ingredients – oats, seeds, nuts, flakes, and dried fruit – and make up a bowl of freshly prepared muesli, perhaps with some fresh fruit added. You can vary the content to suit you each time, or make up a batch of the muesli base and then add other bits to suit your fancy. It’s another filling option, and whilst not sugar-free, due to the fruit element, you can tailor it to your own specifications. It will certainly be better than anything you can buy, and you know what’s going into it.
I hope this has given you some inspiration and ideas for breakfasts. If you make something unusual for your first meal of the day, please feel free to share it.