For quite some time, I've viewed a good breakfast as something of a treat. My normal workday morning bowl of Weetabix is nothing but fuel, economical in both time and cost, relatively healthy yet depressingly functional, drab and almost Stalin’esque. If I ever have the extremely unlikely misfortune to eat this in a Volvo estate, (grey), I’ll probably shoot myself soon after.
However, as soon as I have a day off, wallowing in an extravagant and leisurely breakfast is one of the greatest pleasures I know. Unhealthy, rich, filling, fried and often meat heavy, English mustard (Colman’s, natch) smeared on the side. The weekend papers to pore over. Coffee to start, and then a pot of tea to take my time over. Heaven.
As I'm talking about breakfast, I have to mention The Gallimaufry, just down the road from me, on Bristol’s Gloucester Road. It’s a favourite breakfast haunt of mine, especially for flaked ham hock on toast with poached eggs and hollandaise, or even better devilled lamb kidneys on toast. I treat myself to breakfast there a hell of a lot, but I'm just as likely to throw something together at home.
Here’s a breakfast I made recently and particularly enjoyed. I'm almost ashamed to say, given my carnivorous reputation, that is doesn't feature meat, but was happily delicious all the same.
Potato Farls, Fried Shitake Mushrooms, Roasted Tomatoes & Poached Burford Browns.
Potato Farls are a soft potato bread common to Northern Ireland. If you have a soft potato head, you can faff around making your own, but don’t forget this is part of a leisurely treat breakfast, as such forget all that and just buy them. Most supermarkets stock a brand adorned with the irritatingly self-satisfied face of chef, Paul Rankin. Don’t let this put you off. It’s a necessary embuggerance.
Eggs. Don’t buy cheap eggs, ever. They’re shit and also evil due to the horrors the chickens suffer, if you consume these, you’re probably evil too and are just a hairsbreadth away from strangling kittens for a pastime. Buy the best free range eggs you can afford from relatively cosseted, happy hens. I like Burford Browns from Clarence Court. Seriously, you can definitely taste the difference.
Tomatoes – As with eggs, don’t buy cheap tomatoes. It’s probably not evil, like eating rubbish eggs, but they taste absolutely f*cking ming, in fact worse than ming, they taste of NOTHING. You’re just cheating yourself for a few pennies. Buy tomatoes that are ripe and deep red, that actually smell of tomato.
Shitake mushrooms, nice, pretty expensive and slightly extravagant. Use these or something equally pretentious, if you can afford to (when I cooked this breakfast, they were in the reduced section, result!) So, if you’re not feeling flush, use chestnut mushrooms.
So, for two people, you’ll need:-
A pack of potato farls (with Paul Rankin’s face scratched off).
4 quality eggs
A punnet of shitake or chestnut mushrooms
6 medium sized tomatoes, best you can get
Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped.
Squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt (Maldon – natch)
Freshly ground black pepper
Butter for frying
Drizzle of olive oil
White wine vinegar for poaching
Whack the oven up to 200C, wash and dry the tomatoes and if they’re on the vine, you may as well leave that on. It looks and smells nice.
Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, grind of pepper and stick in the oven for 20 mins or so, until they’re starting to get a bit of colour and collapsing.
Trim and quarter/halve your mushrooms and melt a knob of butter in a frying pan, then sauté them over a fairly high heat until nicely browned. Season well and right at the end throw in the finely chopped parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Remove from the heat and stick to one side.
Poach your eggs. The method I use is a good splash of white wine vinegar in a pan with water. Bring it to a simmer, crack your eggs into a cup and gently slide into the hot water. Cook for 3 minutes. If instead of pleasing spheroid shapes, your eggs ‘explode’ – that’s a general indication that the eggs aren't that fresh, the fresher the eggs, the better they poach, so buy fresh eggs next time! Drain on kitchen paper.
Quickly fry your farls, 1 each, until nicely browned on each side.
Assemble the whole thing to your taste. I’d say farl on the bottom then the tomatoes, a nice heap of mushrooms piled over, topped with a couple of poached eggs. More salt and pepper. Job, as they say, jobbed.
Eat, drink some coffee, read the papers, (not the Daily Mail, please, remember my comment re: strangling kittens, that applies to this too). Relax.