My best beloved has spent a lot of time scolding me in recent days for my apparently shoddy daytime eating habits. Of particular concern is my wanton disregard for breakfast, by far her favourite meal of the day, and yes, arguably the most important one. She may have a point. The trouble is I’ve never been a breakfast person. My stomach takes a good deal longer than the rest of my body to wake up, and even then it often gets up on the wrong side of the bed. So I’ve learned not to rush things. But she’s started making the annoyingly valid point that in the near future I will need to start modelling best practice for my tiny daughter, who will not be content with the breast forever. Not if I have my way, that is; I’ve always believed that once you can say ‘breasts’ you have no business feeding from them. Although I intend to raise my girl pure ragamuffin-tyke, she will not be some feral hippy still suckling aged 8. Creepy.
Anyway, this ongoing dialogue (more of a monologue actually) has prompted me to draw up a list of things I can eat in the morning with some degree of enthusiasm. It wasn’t easy. You will not find cereal here – this is my personal top 5 breakfast list after all, and although I’m not averse to a bowl of muesli late at night (see recent blog) it bores me to tears in the morning – literally on one memorable occasion. Neither will you find ‘fresh fruit’. Fruit is not a meal. It is something you eat between proper food.
Top 5 Breakfasts for people who don’t like breakfast
#5 Black Pudding (pictured)
Although I can’t be doing with the greasy excess of a full English breakfast, I’m more than partial to one of its traditional components – black pudding. Despite being composed of pig’s blood and little else besides, black pudding is delicately flavoured and textured comfort food, just perfect for the fickle morning appetite. Sautéed in butter with slices of apple, and served with slabs of wholemeal toast, it is 100% my sort of breakfast – nuanced and lovely but still suitably sparse. Simplicity is the loadstone of an appealing breakfast. Nobody wants to think too hard when they’re barely conscious (well I don’t). Of course it’s the very thought of black pudding that scares the be-Jesus out of many. If you can get over the psychological hurdle of eating seasoned, congealed blood (soooo much worse than eating lumps of bisected muscle, right?), you’ll be richly rewarded and sweetly smitten. Honest. Click here for more on black pudding.
#4 Nasi Goreng
In my opinion the South East Asia region does breakfast better than anywhere else. In the sweltering heat (even before dawn) of these very food-centric countries they know a thing or two about whetting reluctant appetites, and there’s neery a bowl of cereal in sight. Every country in the region has its own beloved breakfast standards – Nasi Lemak in Malaysia, Black sticky Rice in Thailand, Kaya toast in Singapore, or my personal favourite and practically Indonesia’s national dish, Nasi Goreng.
Nasi Goreng may literally translate as fried rice but apart from a few obvious similarities, it bears little resemblance to its better known Cantonese counterpart. Whereas Fried Rice is little more than the name suggests, Nasi Goreng is so much more. Usually made with a blend of seafood (prawns, squid and the odd clam) and meat (anything but pork), it’s served with prawn crackers, a fried egg and a scattering of crisp fried shallots and maybe some chopped tomato. Well-rounded perfection. It packs a powerful, flavoursome punch from the liberal inclusion of chilli, cumin and turmeric, sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), and that pungent trademark of Indonesian cooking, shrimp paste (Belacan/Terasi). My Indonesian step-mother in law (is that a thing?) makes an excellent rendition of Nasi Goreng and seemingly effortlessly. Try as I might I can’t quite complete with hers, but I like to think I come close.
#3 Roti and curry
Another much-loved breakfast throughout South East Asia (and India) is piping hot, flaking, filamentous roti served with spicy dhal or potato curry. Although I could gorge on this combo at any hour of the day or night (and have done), I go mad for it at breakfast time. All morning recalcitrance goes out the window and I stuff myself like a Strasbourg goose. Very good frozen uncooked roti are now available at most supermarkets, and as we usually have curry left-overs of one form or another on hand ,I can see this being on regular morning rota in the near future. Roti rota. Rather like that.
NB: Spicy breakfasts are very common in tropical Asia. This might strike many westerners as being a bit unorthodox but it’s a great way of kick-starting the appetite and jolting one into consciousness. It’s very easy to get used to…
Click here for the Foodlovers Chana Masala recipe– a perfect breakfast curry.
# 2 Porridge
I like porridge. Both sets of grandparents practically force-fed me the stuff whenever I stayed over as a wee bairn. Truth be known I only tolerated the grey gloop because they sweetened the deal with a wide array of decadent embellishments. Unfortunately this led me to believe it was entirely normal eat porridge with butter, brown sugar, cream and sweetened condensed milk – all at once and all the time.
I’m sure some nutritional benefit still remains under all that sugar and saturated fat. Somewhere. But I don’t much care; I like my obscenely dressed porridge and pledge to inflict it upon my girl one day too.
# 1 Trifle
I have long believed trifle to be the very finest breakfast known to man, woman and possibly beast. It’s a leftovers breakfast of course. I mean nobody would make sherry trifle specifically for the purpose of breakfast, right? Um… right.
It saddens me a little that trifle has fallen so very far out of favour, or perhaps even collective memory. It used to be such a standard, but unlike all those tapioca travesties and blancmange snotfests of the same era, deservedly so. It’s been eclipsed by tiramisu, pannacotta and the whole steamed pudding revival. My paternal grandmother was a grandmaster of trifle ( … and little else in the kitchen. The woman could burn a cup of tea. Bless her), and she had a liberal hand with the sherry too – until the day my cousins and I rather overindulged and started to slur and stagger. After this her trifles, while still luscious and goodly, became rather chaste affairs. Perhaps in the morning company of my wee girl, virgin trifle would be more exemplary. Perhaps…
Tiramisu, just a well-bred trifle when all is said and done, is no slouch on the breakfast front either, but it can’t compete with the old fashioned charm and vague sillyness of an English trifle. Whip one up today.
What are your all-time favourite breakfast foods?