A girl doesn’t ask for much.
It would just be wonderful if:
- Hairdressers were affordable
- I could teleport instead of taking public transport
- There were more hours in the day (apparently, Mozart had the same number… something doesn’t add up here)
- I could start the day with the perfect weekend breakfast
I am coming to terms with the fact that most points on this list are impossible (although I’m taking some comfort by wishing my hair to miraculously change as I sleep). Breakfast, though, is easy. To start, I need to discover what makes a breakfast ‘perfect’.
We all have varying opinions on breakfast. Some people love it and, like myself, bounce out of bed in order to eat, some people hate it and queasily sip coffee until lunch. Other people have strangely specific breakfast requirements – no soft fruit before noon, for example.
Weekday breakfasts are a rushed affair, a mouthful of cereal or a banana, but, the weekend… oh the weekend, there is time for impulsive, leisurely experimentation. This can be a healthy start to the day, or gastronomic substitutes for lunch, although, there is a difference between something hearty and an edible heart attack. This post mercifully halves my self-inflicted project so I focus just the salty side of life; eggs, toast, mushrooms – we will leave pancakes, French toast, and anything bathed in Nutella for a second post.
When considering the ‘best breakfast’ I disregarded the classic English fry up because, aside from the basics of eggs and bacon, the rest is personal to the chef. You might prefer fried bread to toast, or black pudding to baked beans. I also think most food blog-readers know how to scramble eggs – apologies if you can’t but you won’t find them here (although they are here and here, evidentially I really like scrambled eggs).
So, to business. I selected four of my favourite savoury breakfasts, and volunteered as your guinea-pig, dear reader, by cooking and sampling each one for assessment. Sit back, breakfast is served…
Garlic Mushrooms and Tomatoes on Toast with Tarragon Hollandaise
A grandiose start – to the morning and this list!
Classic mushrooms on toast usually copes well without frills and fuss. It’s practically camping food, something to warm your cockles on a cold morning, crouched by your tent. But in this case, you have the luxury of your kitchen, which is why I complicated everything by throwing hollandaise on top.
Pros: Oh my, it is indulgent. The creamy hollandaise soaks into the toast, and you use your crust to mop your plate clean. Cooked mushrooms only need a lick of butter to become juicy, and tomatoes are rumpled spheres begging to be burst, and neither complain when garlic and tarragon jump into play. In fact, they practically sing and do the can-can. It’s a meal that could empty your purse in a cafe, instead you can eat it in your dressing gown with bed hair.
Cons: It may be the weekend, and you probably aren’t cooking over a camp fire, but is the morning really the time to drag out the food processor, melt butter, and painstakingly whip up hollandaise? Hollandaise is the reason everyone goes out for breakfast…
How-to: Sliced field mushrooms or closed-cup, like chestnut and cute little button mushrooms, are best as they’re meatier than others. Flash in a pan with sizzling butter, crushed garlic and cherry tomatoes. If it all looks dry add a splash of water which creamily emulsifies with the butter. Hollandaise is quick (especially if you have a food processor to hand). Egg yolk, salt, splash of lemon in the blender, whack it on and oh-so slowly pass melted butter through the feeding tube. Hey presto, hollandaise. Taste and season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and add chopped tarragon.
Serving yoghurt with eggs is a strange concept as both are soft, yielding foods which can be consumed in one gulp. Served with thickly-cut sourdough, though, you have the perfect tool for bursting those bulging yolks which ooze everywhere, transforming it into a creamy, garlicky dip scattered with herbs. Not forgetting that smokey, spicy melted butter, drizzled all over…
Pros: When else is the perfect opportunity to practice your egg poaching skills? Bread must be made for mopping as this is exactly what you want here. Hits of that bright red butter with the yolk and yoghurt are spicy and salty; it would be lovely to have a jug of it, handily ready to pour over all of my meals.
Cons: Cold yoghurt with warm eggs is a big no-no so it’s worth bringing the yoghurt to room temperature as you potter around making coffee. Some recipes suggest warming it in a pan or in the oven but, honestly, that turns my stomach.
How-to: Mix together a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt with half a clove of crushed garlic, and season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Leave to warm slightly. Melt a spoonful of butter and let it brown, then stir in dried chilli flakes and paprika. Fill a pan with water and add some large glugs of white vinegar. Bring to the boil, then slightly lower the temperature. While the water is moving crack in your eggs. Cook for 3 minutes. The water wants to boil but not froth or your eggs will break apart. Scoop them out and rest on kitchen paper. Season and serve on top of the yoghurt, covered in melted butter, with herbs and bread.
Curry-fried eggs with sesame
Lacy fried eggs with a border of sesame seeds is as pretty as a handmade doily. Which you then dredge in curry powder.
Gaylord is a master of fried eggs. Our daily lockdown meal consisted of eggs, bacon, avocado, toast, maybe sausage, and only now it’s concerning that this was a daily occurrence… He would fry those eggs in a moat of sizzling butter (naturally) and would liberally sprinkle them with cumin, paprika, or curry depending on his mood. Curry-fried eggs were a revelation for me. For this breakfast, however, I’ve added some crunch with sesame, and you can have a flirt with fragrant herbs if you wish.
Pros: This is the quickest of the bunch with no fuss and yet equally as satisfying. The curry powder bolsters the somewhat bland egg white, kicking it into life, and the sesame seeds give it some crunch. Best served with a large hunk of toast and a half of creamy avocado.
Cons: It’s a little brown to look at but what do they say about judging a book by its cover… Less is more as far as curry powder is concerned; you don’t want to blow your mouth off. And don’t be heavy-handed with the sesame seeds otherwise you’ll find them in your teeth for the rest of the day.
How-to: Warm a frying-pan and toast some black and white sesame seeds for one minute. Add a teaspoon of butter and crack in your eggs. Sprinkle with curry powder as they cook, and scoop up some toasted seeds to stick to the uncooked white. Season with a pinch of salt and serve on toast with avocado, or some mushrooms and spinach.
Potato farls with scrambled egg and salmon
I knew scrambled eggs would make an appearance sooner or later.
You may or may not be aware but I really like stodgy food. The best way I can define it is as a squidgy dumpling on top of a stew; it’s not glamourous, colourful or healthy, instead stodge just defines comfort. This is how I feel about a potato farl.
Mashed potato is mixed with flour to form a simple dough. Seasoned and fried in butter it is thick with a creamy soft filling, and a crispy shell-like surface.
Pros: Potato farls are such a change from toast! Sourdough can be a devil to cut, whereas these farls can be scooped onto a fork. The potato soaks up the softly scrambled eggs, and can also be served with fried or poached eggs as they’re ready to mop up yolk. Delicious served with eggs and smoked haddock or salmon.
Cons: Now, mashing a potato on a Sunday morning isn’t exactly relaxing. And preparing it the night before isn’t ideal either. Best idea is to have the farls made and ready in the freezer, within easy access for the morning’s eggs.
How-to: For two farls, boil one large peeled and quartered potato until soft. Mash with a tablespoon of butter. Sift in 50g plain flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir to form a dough. Tip onto the work surface and cut in half. Shape both into balls and flatten. Cut each in half. Fry in butter until golden and serve with eggs.
Breakfast is a personal meal. Some might take your fancy one day, and another all you want is toast. This experiment has been an adventure for me. As a breakfast advocate, it has been thrilling to discover more beyond the walls of scramled eggs on toast.
My favourite of the four is the potato farls, but it depends on my mood. Tomorrow, if I’m feeling audacious, I might try them with some curry-fried eggs on top.
Now I just need to work on teleportation and finding a cheap hairdressers.
Stay tuned, for part two… Which is the best sweet breakfast?!