The chance to enjoy a proper sit-down breakfast – or even, I daresay, the occasional breakfast in bed – on a weekday has been one of the (few) perks of lockdown. If I’m going to be under year-long house arrest then I’m going to have a three-minute egg on a Monday dammit.
But as return to the office beckons for many of us, carving out time for brekky will become trickier. I’ve always been envious of the effortlessness and speed with which Romans take their breakfast: cappuccino and cornetto eaten standing at the bar counter. Somehow gulping down cornflakes or Weetabix standing in front of the mirror whilst shaving doesn’t have the same glamour about it.
But breakfast can be speedy, enjoyable and sustaining. Here are five ideas for midweek that take less than ten minutes. Save the Full English for the weekend.
A bowl of porridge in the morning is like a hug from mum and a slap on the back from dad all in one. There are few vignettes more antithetical to the typical metropolitan morning madness, than that of a bleary-eyed figure in a dressing gown, slowly stirring a pan of oats with a wooden spoon.
Spurn the microwavable sachets. They will tempt with enticing-sounding flavours but mornings should not be spent nervously peering inside a microwave, however rushed you are. If you are anything like me, it will always boil over. Instead, embrace the pan – it will be a five minutes well spent. Eaten plain, porridge is amongst the blandest of foods, though will appeal to some contented souls. I prefer a dollop of good jam, perhaps some seeds or nuts, or some golden syrup. Add berries or a sliced up banana if you like.
Porridge does not need to be just sweet. Cook your oats as normal but replace the milk with stock and add some chopped herbs and seasoning and you will have a deliciously savoury version. Then top with anything from a poached egg to garlic mushrooms.
I love crumpets. Underrated things. With their spongey, chewy texture I would even serve them at lunch or dinner in place of sourdough ciabatta. Their joy is in their lightness and the little holes for the topping to ooze into. Simply toasted with salted butter is hard to beat, but try also exploiting those perforations with a twist on eggy bread. You can serve with a berry compote but for the time-poor a slick of maple syrup suffices for midweek.
Foodie millennials love nothing better than to tell their friends about their Bircher museli recipe, no doubt invented after a mindfulness-induced brainwave. Bircher museli has been around since around 1900, a product of Swiss physician Dr Bircher-Benner’s exploration of new diets for healthy living. And while the Swiss name may give an air of Alpine sophistication it is simply what the rest of us call overnight oats. The combination of grated apple, rolled oats, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and yoghurt or milk is a very good one but can be endlessly adapted. You can mix your oats with other grains, such as wheat or rye flakes; you can soak them in milk, orange or apple juice; you can sub in pear or other seasonal fruit for the grated apple. The great attraction of overnight oats is of course that all the work is done the night before, but if you forget the previous day you can cut down the soaking to a mere 10-15 minutes and they will still taste fine.
It has been several years now since Shakshuka burst onto the food scene and it remains as ubiquitous on London restaurant brunch menus as avo toast and superfood smoothies. The North African dish is nice but too time-consuming for a weekday. You can though have baked eggs, a hundred different ways, in a mere ten minutes. Simply get the oven very hot and take a large-ish ovenproof ramekin or similar vessel. Put in your chosen filling, cut nice and small – it could be some raw spinach, sliced mushrooms, cooked ham or smoked salmon – and crack one or two eggs on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper – or indeed some spice or herbs – and bake for 8-10 mins until whites are set but yolks still runny.
It’s a shame everyone’s forgotten about the kipper. No-one seems to want to eat fish in the mornings anymore unless it’s smoked salmon at The Wolseley. Kippers – cold-smoked, butterflied herring – are healthy (Omega 3 and all that) and inexpensive. They are also sustainable thanks to the large shoals the herring swim in, enabling them to be fished without bycatch. Simply fry them for a couple of minutes on either side and then flake the flesh away from the skin in bite-sized chunks and fold into scrambled eggs. Here’s hoping that Seaspiracy has a silver lining and puts Britain’s silver darlings back on our breakfast tables.