I never tire of food-related fantasy games. Forget 'I Spy', how about ‘your last meal on earth’, or ‘if you had to eat one meal every meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?’ Well, that second one’s easy: breakfast.
I suppose I might’ve mentioned my inability to make a decision – or perhaps I haven’t. It drives the BSG round the bend; he is decision incarnate. But this one is easy. Breakfast is a meal where anything goes, thereby removing the choice conundrum from the proceedings. Thus, breakfast is perfect for someone like me.
As well as blurry boundaries between foodstuffs - do I plump for yoghurt, fruit or Bircher muesli, croissants or the full English? - start and end times are also a grey area, meaning that it’s quite possible to graze from waking until lunchtime. Some of my happiest and most enduring university memories are from mornings whiled away in my friend Caz’s room in halls, drinking tea and eating toast and boiled eggs, more with Marmite and perhaps just one more piece - with marmalade - until lunchtime. We may have even missed a lecture (once), waiting for the perfect runny consistency to the yolk. Nothing cements firm friendship like sharing rounds of hot-buttered toast and pots of tea.
Of course, due to obvious time constraints, weekday breakfasts are more confined to the bounds of convenience; toast and its infinite possibilities, your favourite cereal, some porridge and stewed fruit once autumn takes its crisp hold. Eggs and bacon are reserved for the week’s end - a Friday treat of a bacon and marmalade sandwich, perhaps. The BSG and I rejoice in the advent of most weekends with a proper, frothy latte from our coffee machine – smileworthy, even on the dankest of days.
Breakfast is a parade of wonders, where friends’ wacky combinations are frequently exposed; Caz, for example, likes marmalade and Marmite on her toast… My Belgian great-grandmother loved nothing more than to dip toast and Gouda into her morning coffee (white and strong, if you’re interested). I am ever so pleased she passed me this habit. Try it - delicious. My grandpa, the king of the avant-garde food combo, always ate his sausages with marmalade, the Tabasco and Gentleman’s Relish never far out of his reach.
Then you have breakfasts that are ideal for certain situations. This year has been full of weddings, and I don’t think that there’s a better way to start a wedding Saturday than with kedgeree. Protein- and carb- rich, it stops the gap that the skipped proper lunch will leave, lines the stomach for the inevitable afternoon drinking and wakes up the taste buds with hints of spice, lemon and parsley – just make sure you check your teeth for green bits before you leave. Definitely worth prepping in advance, it can sit and wait, warming through under foil in the oven whilst you get on with things. Deal with any fishy/oniony bits before washing and dressing in your finery – no one likes eau-de-cuisine.
You don’t need a wedding as an excuse to whip this up. I reckon it’d steel you for any big (or small) day. It might take the edge off a marathon spring clean, a looming hulk of admin or a trip to a blue-and-yellow hångår to buy silly-named flat-pack furniture, a Venus flytrap and other stuff you never knew you needed.
4 eggs, almost hard boiled (prob 6 minutes will do) and peeled
680g smoked haddock fillets (or a mixture of smoked and unsmoked fish works too. Try mackerel.)
2 bay leaves
250g basmati rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2.5 teaspoonfuls mild curry powder
Juice of half a lemon (and the other half in wedges for squeezing over)
2 good handfuls of chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander
In a large shallow pan, heat some water (or milk) - deep enough to submerge the fish - with the bay leaves. Add the fillets, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 5-7 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Remove the fish from the pan and, when cool enough to handle, remove the skin, flake into chunks and set aside.
Cook the rice in boiling water according to pack instructions – it should be on the al-dente side. Drain the rice, refreshing briefly under a stream of hot water from the kettle. Return the steaming rice to the saucepan, covering it with a clean tea-towel and then the lid to stand for a few minutes. This is a top-quality tip from my step-mum and it ensures the fluffiest rice imaginable.
Whilst the rice is cooking, melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, then add the onions and soften them gently without colouring for five minutes or so. Add the curry powder and cook for another couple of minutes, until the kitchen is filled with aromas. Add the rice to the pan and heat gently through, carefully folding in the flaked fish and adding the lemon juice to taste. This can now stand in a pan or dish, waiting warm under foil in a low oven until you are ready to eat.
Just before serving, add the parsley or coriander, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the eggs cut into quarters. Serve with the lemon wedges.
Twist: For some extra texture, crispy fried onion bits are often sprinkled on the top.