Rise and shine

Glenfiddich award-winner Sybil Kapoor reinvents the great British breakfast.
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

Breakfast is a serious matter of national identity and never more so than during the summer holidays. You know you're in France after a week of coffee and croissants, just as a stay in the Caribbean is flavoured by the early morning taste of ripe papaya, lime and sticky cinnamon rolls. The aroma of freshly grilled kippers, on the other hand, definitely belongs to comfy, well-worn British hotels. Holidays give us the perfect excuse to start the day at a leisurely pace, indulging in breakfast and even breaking down some of the national boundaries.

Breakfast is a serious matter of national identity and never more so than during the summer holidays. You know you're in France after a week of coffee and croissants, just as a stay in the Caribbean is flavoured by the early morning taste of ripe papaya, lime and sticky cinnamon rolls. The aroma of freshly grilled kippers, on the other hand, definitely belongs to comfy, well-worn British hotels. Holidays give us the perfect excuse to start the day at a leisurely pace, indulging in breakfast and even breaking down some of the national boundaries.

Much has changed in Britain since 1946 when George Mikes, in his satirical How to be an Alien identified the first rule to becoming naturalised: "You must start eating porridge for breakfast and allege that you like it." Now the most fashionable start to the day is a sophisticated smoothie such as lettuce, pear and lime, or tomato and carrot. Nigel Slater has even written Thirst (Fourth Estate, £12.99) dedicated to such matters. But for those without a juicer, the more solid cooked breakfast is enjoying a revival, particularly among recovering clubbers and supporters of home-grown produce. To qualify as modish, however, it should be made only with organic or specialist ingredients – eggs from rare-breed hens and bacon from happy pigs – painstakingly sourced from a farmers' market or straight from the producer.

Breakfast has always moved with the times and been subject to the whims of fashion. In the 18th century, the British aristocracy were smitten by the French craze of taking their chocolat, tea or coffee in bed with dainty pastries. The nation was soon divided between the rough and tumble country squires, who preferred an old-fashioned hearty breakfast of savoury hot dishes, cold roast fowl and meat, potted fish and plenty of alcohol, after a morning's hunting; and the effete townies, who enjoyed buttered toast, muffins and sugary spiced rolls in the privacy of their bedrooms after a heavy night of gambling. Both occasionally nibbled a breakfast plate of watercress to ensure good health. A century earlier, the rich were into piquant salted fish, fresh oysters, cold meats, cheese, bread, butter and ale, while the poor had to content themselves with a pottage (a form of porridge cooked with water, broth or milk) made from locally grown barley, oats or wheat.

In other words, there are few things that have not been eaten in Britain for breakfast. Nastiest must be the Victorian habit of rehashing yesterday's dinner in between two pieces of toast – topped with crumbled hard boiled egg, breadcrumbs and lemon juice. It was called German toast. In fact, the only true requirement of a British breakfast is that it should offer the perfect excuse to spend an indolent morning lounging over the breakfast table. Reading the newspaper or gossipy letters is de rigueur, talking is optional. It's a moveable feast that can be adapted whether at home or on holiday, so we should insist on our right to a good breakfast whether we're lazing in Lucca or camping in Cornwall.

Roasted tomato bruschetta with bacon

Serves four

This is a modern twist on the bacon buttie. If the weather is fantastic, you can grill the bacon and sliced bread on a barbecue instead. Once the bacon has cooked, let it sit on top of the bread as the latter toasts over the charcoal, so that the bread absorbs some of the bacon fat. Otherwise, brush with olive oil.

450g baby plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
1tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 slices smoked back bacon
4 slices of sourdough bread or pain de campagne
Bunch of watercress, washed and trimmed of its tough stalks

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/gas 6. Line a baking sheet with some foil. Strip the tomatoes of their stalks. Place on the foil and roll in a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast the tomatoes for 20 minutes or until their skins begin to split as they become soft and juicy.

Meanwhile, preheat a ridged cast-iron oven-top grill pan on a medium heat. Once it is hot, start grilling as much of the bacon as will fit comfortably on your grill pan – moving it around to ensure that its fat becomes suitably crispy while the meat is seared with golden grill lines. As the meat cooks, pile it up in a corner of the pan, while you add further rashers.

Finally, add the sliced bread to the oven-top grill pan and lightly toast on both sides – so that it absorbs the bacon fat as it cooks – then divide between four warm plates. Drizzle some of the juice from the cooked tomatoes over the bread before topping with the bacon, followed by the gooey tomatoes. Garnish it with the watercress and serve immediately.

Spicy Indian omelette

Serves one

No holiday in India is complete without a chilli omelette eaten with lots of buttered toast and ketchup. This recipe is my husband's and includes the un-Indian ingredient of Parmesan, which makes it taste even better when eaten in the UK.

15g butter
half small onion, diced
half green chilli (or to taste), finely diced
quarter tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
half small clove garlic, finely chopped
2 organic eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp finely grated Parmesan

Place an 18cm omelette pan over a low heat. Melt the butter in it and gently fry the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic for 5-6 minutes or until soft.

Roughly beat the eggs with a fork and mix in the coriander, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and pour the eggs into the pan. Draw a wooden spoon through the eggs, towards the centre of the pan, letting the liquid egg refill the channels. As soon as the omelette starts to set, sprinkle in the Parmesan. Once it begins to set, but is still soft, tilt the pan. Using a spatula, flip over one edge. When it is cooked to your liking slide it on to the plate and serve with lots of hot buttered toast.

Summer muesli

Serves one

Dr Bircher-Brenner invented muesli in Switzerland in the 19th century to encourage his patients to eat raw food. Even today, the Swiss soak special "muesli" oats overnight in milk or water before mixing them with fresh fruit the next morning. The soaking makes them deliciously creamy. Unfortunately, British oats turn to mush when treated in the same way, so here is a scrumptious interpretation which retains a little of the crunch of luscious organic jumbo oats.

1tbsp (10g) unblanched almonds
1tbsp (5g) unblanched hazelnuts
3tbsp (15g) jumbo rolled organic oats
Salt
100ml full-fat milk
55g strawberries
55g raspberries
30g blackberries
Quarter ripe peach or nectarine

Cut the nuts in half and mix with the oats and a tiny pinch of salt in a bowl. Pour over the cold milk and leave to soak while you prepare the fruit. Wash and hull the strawberries. Roughly slice and add to the milky oats along with the raspberries and blackberries. Wash, quarter and stone the peach or nectarine. Slice each quarter and halve each slice. Mix gently into the fruit and oats. Sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and serve.

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes

Serves six

Buttermilk pancakes, like apple pie, originated in Britain before travelling to America with the early settlers. They make a fantastic and filling breakfast dish for very little effort.

Blueberry sauce
115g caster sugar
Generous pinch of ground cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon
500g blueberries, washed
Pancake batter
285g plain flour
halftsp salt
halftsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp baking powder
1 large egg, roughly beaten
1tbsp melted butter
400ml buttermilk
225g blueberries

Start by preparing the blueberry sauce. Put the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in a non-corrosive saucepan and set over a low heat. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, gently mix in 500g of blueberries and increase the heat very slightly. Allow them to simmer for a few minutes or until they release lots of juice but are still holding their shape. Set aside.

Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and gradually beat in the beaten egg and melted butter, followed by the buttermilk until it forms a smooth thick batter. Wash and gently pat dry 225g of blueberries, then fold into the batter.

Set a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat and liberally grease with sunflower oil. Clarified butter can be used instead. Once the pan is hot, spoon a blob of batter on to the pan – spread it out slightly and try to encourage it to settle into a round shape. Repeat the process until you have three pancakes. After about 2-3 minutes, when they have puffed up and show tiny bubbles, flip them over and cook for a few more minutes on the other side. Keep warm, until all the pancakes are cooked, then serve sprinkled with caster sugar with the poached blueberries and, if you like, crème fraîche.

Comments