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Breakfast Club

February 14, 2013

It is a constant source of astonishment to me how many people seem to skip breakfast on a regular basis. I’ve even worked with some crazy weirdoes for whom breakfast seems to be a bit of an alien concept:  “Breakfast? You actually eat that? I mean, I know you’re supposed to, but nobody ever does right? Who has the time?”

Although I guess it’s kind of telling that these are usually the same people that somehow manage to turn up at work at 7am (or so I’m led to believe, how am I supposed to know?) with immaculately pressed clothes and polished shoes, whilst I roll in at ten past nine with my hair poking out in all directions and a copy of the Metro  with the sudoku  filled in wrong. But I mean really – porridge lost out against hyper-punctuality for you? What kind of life do you lead?

We all know by now that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it kickstarts your metabolism, stops you snacking on crap later and all that. It’s really good for you and you should eat it. I can sort of understand people not doing other things that are good for them: going for a run when it’s raining is a drag sometimes, and salt and vinegar Kettle Chips are really, really tasty. But skipping breakfast? It’s been a good eight or nine hours since you guys last ate. Aren’t you at least a bit peckish? Why is eating not the first thing you want to do as soon as you leave bed? Is it just me who is always starving in the mornings?

I admit that most days, if I’m working full time, I do opt for cereal. I don’t care what anyone says about cereal being full of salt and sugar, any working person who has time on a week day morning to faff around making smoothies and poaching eggs is just a freak, and that’s all there is to it. Pouring a bowl  of muesli and chucking a bit of milk on takes 30 seconds so that’s what I’m sticking with if I’m actually planning on arriving in work before 11. I tend to alternate between rice milk, oat milk, and sometimes this new coconut based milk so as to avoid overdoing the soya. (When the anti-veggies go on the attack about the environmental impact of soya, I like to be genuine when I mention that they probably consume a lot more soy than I do!)

On holiday in the US I also got turned on to oat bran. I always assumed oat bran was just the American term for porridge (which I do love, but it always makes a horrible mess of my crockery when I make it). Oat bran is finer and smoother than just the porridge oats. It’s available in health food shops here fairly cheaply. It has a creamy texture so you can make it with water rather than milk. It takes around one minute to cook in a pan or less in the microwave, and it seems to be less sticky than porridge, so washing up afterwards is easier. It also lends itself to Cupboard Surprise style pimping up quite well – in the US I was eating it with cranberries and slivered almonds. Here I’ve been going mainly for sultanas, chopped hazelnuts and maple syrup (I LOVE maple syrup). I’ve also tried desiccated coconut and lemon zest and just a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. If you’re more into savoury breakfast maybe sesame seeds and a pinch of salt would work? There might be an oat bran challenge for somebody here: what’s the most unlikely thing you can put with oat bran that still tastes good (Students please note: no this does not constitute approval of vodka for breakfast).

On weekends I do like a proper full cooked breakfast. For years I found this a bit of a challenge as cooked breakfasts are one of the meals it’s often a good idea to eat out, because timing the cooking of each individual item is a fine art, and they tend to use up every knife and pan you own and make a disaster zone  out of your kitchen.

Vegetarian breakfasts eaten out are sometimes a bit disappointing;  often it’s just the meat eater breakfast with the meat taken off or replaced by a pile of mushrooms (I don’t know who decided that mushrooms were a vegetarian equivalent to bacon, the same person who decided that a big mushroom sandwich was equivalent to a vegetarian burger I guess). Generally I’m not a big eater of fake “meats” but when it comes to a fried breakfast they have their place. If you can find or make some good veggy sausages to keep in the freezer they do come in handy for this. The fake bacon I’m less sold on personally: it tastes OK, but it is kind of weird that they go to so much effort to make it look like bacon by painting that little white strip on it and cutting it into a rasher shape, but it is always very obviously not bacon, and the impression always seems to be more marble-effect -insole-for-a-small-trainer than actual meat. There’s something really odd about that that I can’t quite get over.

Anyway, with the help of Linda McCartney sausages, and one enormous frying pan (seriously, I could sit in it) I have started making regular one-pan weekend breakfasts that have so far really impressed everyone to whom I’ve served them.  Obviously meat eaters could use normal sausages if they want, but I suspect the more absorbent veggy ones actually work better with the sauce.

There’s a very big cupboard surprise element to this, it’s the one-pan principle that counts more than what you actually put in it – but a key point in the success I think is the liquid smoke. This is a marinade type product that is easy to get and cheap in the US, and hard to find and pricy in the UK. However, it is worth tracking it down online and paying what seems like a silly amount (about £4 a bottle) because a bottle will last you for six months even if you put it in everything like I do. It adds a delicious smoky flavour to anything you care to think of. You can use barbecue sauce, but it won’t be as good.

Posh Weekend Breakfast

Pour oil into the biggest flat frying pan you can find. Slice an onion and throw that in and fry for a  minute, then take some defrosted sausages (2 per person is about right, but use as many as you like), chop them in half crossways, and throw into the pan, add a few drops of liquid smoke on top of each one. Fry until they brown. Now pour in a tin of baked beans and heat through. Turn heat off, add a generous shake of nutritional yeast (or marmite if you prefer) and black pepper, and more liquid smoke if you want, then stir it all together before serving either on its own or over a slice of toast.


  • Add thinly sliced potato at the same time as the onion and turn over as you cook to brown them. Maybe garlic would work too, if you can deal with garlic in the mornings.
  • Add halved fresh  cherry tomatoes or sliced mushrooms
  • Add some paprika or a pinch of chilli
  • Stir some houmous  or HP sauce into the baked beans
  • Use slices of extra firm tofu that you’ve soaked in sesame oil and liquid smoke instead of or as well as the sausages.
  • If you eat eggs, just after adding the beans, scrape everything to one side of the pan, and crack a couple of eggs into the empty side. You can mix everything together once the eggs   are cooked.
  • Serve over a breakfast muffin or a savoury pancake/crepe instead of toast
  • Anything else you think of (let me know so I can try it too!)
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