We have all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of day. It is also my favourite meal of the day. I have to admit in my younger years I was never a morning person. I wanted silence and a good cup of Joe before I spoke a word to anyone. My husband changed that. He is very much a morning person and has this infectious way of being cheery and happy in the mornings that I would like to think has rubbed off on me over the years. There is just something about waking up to a new day, a new start and waking up to breakfast. I have a deep love and respect for breakfast. It helps wake up my brain, fuel my body and gets things started on the right note. Food, or the absence of it, is so closely linked to my mood that if I skip breakfast you might find me in tears by lunch.
That said, breakfast is also the most versatile meal of the day for me. There is so much one can do for breakfast. From muesli, porridge, yoghurt, fruit, muffins, eggs, pancakes and even leftover food from the night before. I am by no means a breakfast traditionalist though. While I can get down with all of the usual breakfast fare, I do not limit the first meal of the day to eggs, pancakes, granola or other breakfast-y things. I’ve been known to root through the fridge in the morning, dig out the remains of a rib eye steak or a bbq lamb chop and eat it cold off the bone. I tend to listen to my body and feed it what it wants, even if it gets weird. Go with your gut, right? And sometimes my gut tells me to break an egg in last night’s curry and mop that up with some crisp sourdough bread or leftover flat breads. And cake for breakfast is something I do eat on occasion and think is totally acceptable. However, I don’t do cereal, ever. I cannot understand how people can have boring old cereal most mornings. Even as a child I remember refusing to eat cereal. I suppose convenience and time plays a big factor for us in our stressed, fast paced and rushed lives.
While time may be a factor most weekdays, weekend breakfasts are meant to be leisurely and the later the better. That’s when I like taking my time and make a good egg fry up for the family with some pressed beef, mushrooms, tomatoes, spicy sausages and maybe some lovely baked beans. Then there is the toast; sometimes it is a commercial white loaf and other times a lovely crisp rye bread or a home-baked loaf. It has to be toasted to perfection, crisp but still retaining some of its softness – served with lashings of cold butter. For drinks, there is freshly squeezed orange juice and plunged coffee for the adults. I also lay some lovely fruit on a platter, served with luscious and creamy Greek yoghurt and if I manage to get up early enough, some lovely fresh muffins, crispy sweet French toast or even doughnuts. Feeling relaxed. Eating something that is a little bit more special than your average run of the mill weekday breakfast. Putting a little bit more effort into the aesthetics of the meal. Bottomless coffee. Perhaps flowers on the table. Being totally present in that moment, enjoying your food, not thinking too much about the worries of the day, not concerning yourself with your to-do list, phone and other technological devices off to the side. Breakfast time is always social. And let me tell you something, if you’ve had a really hard day and have come home wondering what you are going to cook, breakfast for dinner is an idea. What’s wrong with spreading the breakfast mood to the rest of the day?
Perfect French toast
I am not sure if the French actually invented French toast but I am really glad Martha Stewart perfected it.
• 6 large eggs
• 1 ½ cups milk
• Juice of 1 medium orange (about 1/4 cup)
• Seeds of one vanilla pod
• 1 tbsp sugar
• Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tbsp)
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
• Pinch of salt
• 6 slices of bread such as brioche, sliced 1-inch thick, preferably a day old
• 4 tbsp unsalted butter
• 4 tbsp vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)
• Pure maple syrup (optional)
1. Whisk together eggs, milk, juice, vanilla, sugar, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl; set aside.
2. Place bread in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold bread slices in a single layer. Pour egg mixture over the bread; soak for 10 minutes. Turn slices over; soak 10 minutes more or until soaked through.
3. Preheat oven to 200°C. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and set aside.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry half the bread slices until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
5. Transfer to wire rack; place along with baking sheet in oven while cooking remaining bread.
6. Wipe skillet and repeat with remaining butter, oil and bread. Keep in oven until ready to serve.
7. Serve warm with maple syrup, if desired.
Fatima Bheekoo-Shah is a wife, mother, food blogger, foodie and breastfeeding activist who is finally answering her calling to be a writer.