Monday, 10 December 2012

Breakfast in winter

Up in the far north of Scotland the days are short just now.  At Croftgarden you can take your breakfast by moonlight.  Here in North Wales the days are short, but not quite so very short.  Our kitchen faces East and on a sunny morning, even in winter, the light pours in.


Somehow a wild rose manages to grow on top of the stone wall outside the kitchen window.  It is losing its remaining leaves fast but the hips still shine when the sun comes up over the hill across the valley.  Yesterday a blackbird stood on the wall amongst the briars for a long time, inspecting the hips.  He flew away without taking any, swooping off up into the yew tree.

I like my breakfasts solitary and slow.  When the children were young I used to get up half an hour before they did specifically to have breakfast by myself before the mayhem of school lunches and sports kits and suddenly remembered homework got underway.  Ian and I enjoy a cup of tea in bed together in the morning now that life is not as frantic as it was with children and work clamouring around us but we only really eat breakfast together when we are on holiday and sitting across a table in a hotel dining room.  That has its own luxury but everyday breakfasts are separate affairs.

Now I have to negotiate the fact that my father in law will be in the kitchen making himself toast and tea, singing cheerily and ready for a chat about the weather, at the time I would naturally arrive to have my breakfast.  Sometimes I have it with him but mostly I come early or late in the hopes of having it on my own.

I like multiple cups of thin tea in my Emma Bridgewater mug and a poached egg from one of our own hens on toast made from our own bread.  Really fresh eggs made perfect poached eggs and do not suffer from the tendency for the white to swirl and spread all over the pan.  With a very fresh egg you do not need any of the tricks to make a poached egg the perfect shape: no need for drops of vinegar or swirling of the water or oddities like dropping in a spent matchstick.  Just break the egg into a small cup, heat the water in a small pan and just as it is breaking into a boil slip the egg from the cup swiftly into the pan.  Let it begin to boil again and then turn it down to a simmer for exactly three minutes.  A perfect poached egg sitting on its buttered toast on a blue and white plate is a great way to start the day.

If weight were no object I might have fruit and yoghurt beforehand and toast and home made marmalade afterwards but, as it is, these are luxuries for a special day or a holiday.  At home on an ordinary day, fresh eggs are luxury enough.

How do you start your day?

61 comments:

  1. 35grams All Bran or two weetabix with fruit and 100ml Semi Skimmed. Strong black cafetiere of coffee with a saccharin.

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    1. Well that is clear cut Neil! no eggs for you!

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    2. To elaborate - usually the above but sometimes grilled bacon and poached eggs (Lakeland floaty things spayed with one cal - that way you don't lose any egg - dead easy, they don't look as good though, guests get proper ones rather as you describe) - sometimes kippers. The coffee however, is a constant. Breakfast usually standing up in the accommodation kitchen whilst guests are sitting down in the next room. I look forward to the days of civilised breakfast times actually sitting down.

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  2. I too have breakfast alone, it is the most important time of the day, a time to reflect, meditate and enjoy before the mayhem and demands of working in a busy GP surgery. The kitchen also faces East and the light is always welcome. Good to see your blog again. I lost it somewhere !

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  3. I had been only thinking today that I had lost sight of your blog!
    Synchronicity.

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  4. On Sundays I have a boiled egg and toast, but in the week I make myself porridge - three and a half spoons of oats, half a cup of milk and in a couple of minutes you have porridge. Then the same three and a half spoons of plain Activia yoghurt into which I put a spoon of Bonne Maman Apricot jam. Plus Yorkshire tea, of course, in, like you, a Bridgewater mug. I read yesterday's paper and listen to Radio 4, switching my attention to whichever seems most interesting. Mostly I have breakfast alone in an all enveloping bathrobe. My kitchen faces south and so doesn't get much sun until the sun has climbed over the facing high hedge. Then the photovoltaic prism gets to work and the kitchen fills with spinning spectral sunbeams. Some things tacky are actually most beautiful.

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    1. I am a bit inconsistent when it comes to the radio. If I have it on at all it is Radio 4 but if breakfast co-incides with a political interview I often have to switch off to prevent myself losing my calm space!

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  5. Always with a mug of strong smoky tea (I blend 4 parts Russian Caravan with 1 part Lapsang) -- very particular about the mug which must be fine bone china and have a fine lip.
    Like you, I'm not keen to chat or visit while drinking it.
    Really miss this when we travel -- it's so often hard to find good tea away from home.

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  6. Breakfast tiem is when I catch up with reading new posts from fellow bloggers and respond to comments on my own. Sunday means toast and marmelade(both homemade). The above has reminded me I like porridge when the weather is cold, will have to remember to buy some. Christina

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    1. I see quite a few people combine breakfast with catching up with emails or blogs. That is an evening activity for me. Not quiet enough for morning, see response to Fennie above!

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  7. For the most part breakfast is a rushed business: microwaved porridge with a fist of raisins. The two minutes or so it takes in the machine is matched by the time it takes to eat it. But Saturday is different. I get bacon from the butchers in Caerwys and mushrooms from Will's shop for a more relaxed morning feast. Strong coffee washes it down. The Times provides the intellectual nourishment.

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    1. Morgan's bacon is good! We have bacon sandwiches for lunch sometimes, in fact you are making me feel that I need to get down there and buy some!

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  8. I am one of those people who (wot?) can't stand too much routine, so I simply cannot eat the same thing for breakfast too often. (My husband has eaten grape nuts since about 200 BC). Anyway, point being, I quite often pack the kids off to school, do some work, and then have a more hearty brunch, and have never been able to cook a poached egg without a "tool", which I currently don't have. Thanks for this egg-poaching master class. Will try next time.

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    1. Interesting. I too struggle with too much routine. I feel quite claustrophobic if routine is relentless. And yet although my breakfast time varies from day to day I practically always eat the same thing. Perhaps my brain can't get going early in the morning.

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  9. Weekday mornings can be a bit of a rush, so I'll tell you about Saturday breakfast.

    I start with my one-cup-a-week coffee and the morning paper. Then I boil or fry and egg and have toast slathered with butter (and jam for the 2nd slice) and 2 slowly savored cups of tea -- with my feet up --- in the living room --- alone and in the quiet. It's glorious!

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    1. Ah another egg fan! For me breakfast without an egg can contain many wonderful things but is somehow still a bit lacking.

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  10. Wedi codi'n gynharach nac arfer heddiw am 5.30 - Elisa yn mynd i'r Clothes Show yn Birmingham. Codi tra oedd y ser a'r lleuad yn dal yn ddisglair yn yr awyr - mae hi'n mynd i fod yn ddiwrnod braf iawn debyg. Sudd ffres grawnffrwyth ac yna uwd, resins, llefrith almwn a phaned o de cryf.

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    1. Roedd hi'n diwrnod hyfryd! Dw i'n hoff iawn o'r haul ac oer. Gobeithio roedd Elisa yn mywnhau'r Clothes Show. Mi aethon fyng chwaer ac ei merch hi ddoe hefyd!

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  11. I'm fan of early morning solitude too. As much as I love to have parents, children and grandchildren visit, I find the mornings difficult. I don't know why I need that solitary start - one cup of coffee in one particular mug (not an Emma Bridgewater, although I longed to bring one home with me in September!)and the same bowl of the same cereal....and a newspaper. I don't need long - 15 minutes in a pinch - but I feel slightly off-kilter if I don't get it.

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    1. The business of needing to eat breakfast alone is odd. Like you I don't need very long but without that bit of silence to adjust to the day I feel scratchy and inside out.

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  12. I have porridge for breakfast, eaten in my studio after my husband has gone to work, while I write lists and check emails.

    I save the poached eggs on toast for my lunch - and I'm totally with you, a fresh free range egg, poached with a runny yolk is a very special delight.
    I was amazed when on Prof'MasterChef, Michel Roux described how to poach an egg 'to perfection' - he talked about the pan, the water, adding vinegar BUT never once mentioned the quality of the egg!

    I'm also with you about tea from a favourite EB mug, def tastes better ;-)
    xx

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    1. I was astonished at the absence of any reference to the freshness of the eggs too. As far as I know, it is more important than all the other stuff!

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  13. How funny that everyone needs their own special mug... me too, I have a now-discontinued green hand-thrown-style one from Habitat which I can't manage without. I too like solitary breakfast, porridge usually. Now - what is 'thin' tea? x

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    1. Thin tea is very, very weak tea. I can usually manage to get three cups out of one tea bag. It has practically no colour at all and my daughters hate it!

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  14. Lovely post...

    Company at breakfast time - no... well, no talking, anyway. Porridge, with sultanas. Panad: well, camomile tea. Radio 4.... Er, unless I've got a deadline, in which case what's breakfast?

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    1. I like camomile tea but it wouldn't work for me for breakfast!

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  15. I feel much the same though the details differ.

    Get up early to have some time alone. Strong coffee with milk and sugar. Look out the windows at the garden, think about what to do, what will be done. Then email and blog reading, in view of the window view out. Yoghurt with grapes and nuts before showering and leaving for the gym and a day of "fool's errands." That is, on the four days of the week I don't go to work. But the early mornings alone are immeasurably important.

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    1. Another one! Wonder if it is more of an issue with gardeners? Probably not!

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  16. Sounds lovely. My usual weekday breakfast is a snatched bowl of nutty warming porridge made from whole rolled oats and skimmed milk, on the run. I love poached eggs on toast, though we have to make do with eggs from the farmers' market as we don't have our own!

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    1. I do like porridge too and every now and then I think I will have a change but somehow when morning comes I am there with my eggs again!

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  17. bonjour
    Et bien moi c est 1 café au lait avec quelques tartines de confitures et prendre le temps ... savourer la journée qui vient et qui est encore un cadeau ..
    regarder le temps et apprécier d etre bien
    me dire que je suis heureuse ...
    apprécier ma vie simple
    merci
    P.S. mais dès jeudi je vais pouvoir apprecier les petits dejeuner anglais les scones et le thé car je viens passer quelques jours a LOndres ....
    Marie-Claude

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    1. J'espere que vous vous avez amuser bien a Londres Marie Claude.

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  18. During the years when I was a busy, working, single Mum, the one thing I really longed for was someone to bring me a cup of tea in bed on Sunday morning. My wish has been granted and Roger now brings my a cup of Earl Grey tea in my favourite Emma Bridgewater Hellebores mug most mornings, before I get up and make the porage, currently (it is December and almost Christmas) served with both cream and brown sugar. I love a leisurely start to the day - one of life's great pleasures.

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    1. I agree about the leisurely start. For so many years I was up and out of the door at such speed I had breakfast without sitting down! Now I don't take long but I always sit and muse a bit before getting on with the day.

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  19. I am fascinated at how many people eat the same breakfast every day and have the attachment to the favourite mug. I am also intrigued by how many people like to breakfast alone even if they don't live alone.
    There is a whole range of food preferences going on here too. Don't you just love to know about the minutiae of life every now and then?

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  20. We have breakfast in bed and Andy makes it. It's a habit we got into when we started living together and 30 years on (and 28 years of marriage) it still happens :)

    It's porridge for me with chopped apple from our trees, plus coffee.

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    1. Breakfast in bed and Andy makes it!? You have it taped.

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  21. Breakfast is sacred, isn't it Elizabeth? Yes, I seek a rare quiet moment first thing in the morning. When the weather was clement enough I would get up early on Sunday mornings to go cycling with my eight-year-old Tristan. It was (and will be when spring arrives) a wonderful ritual although I would sometimes ache to cry out 'please stop talking for just a moment'! After our cycle ride we would stop at the village boulangerie and pick up some fabulous pistachio eclairs for the children's breakfast.

    Usually my breakfast consists of a damned fine coffee with hot with foaming milk (in my favourite cup), fresh orange juice, a kiwi if I'm feeling virtuous(loads of melon in summer), and something to nibble.

    The best ingredient for a perfect breakfast remains, without a doubt, a healthy dose of silence.

    Stephanie

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly about the silence! You don't eat a lot Stephanie. This is clearly why Frenchwomen don't get fat as the book claims!

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  22. The alarm(s) go off at 10 to 6 and I have to leave the house by 10 to 7, so no time for breakfast before I go. But I do have to have my panad in bed. Even if I am late, I will just add a bit more milk so that I can drink it quickly!! And it obviously has to be a certain mug.
    Breakfast comes a bit later in the day. A porridge pot with a chopped banana in it.

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    1. I would struggle to leave the house without breakfast. The only time I have done this was when I was working in the Lake District and left the house at about 5.45. I used to stop at Westmoreland services on the M6 and have bacon and scrambled egg and a huge cup of coffee. It always set me up for the day!

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  23. Porridge for me, usually with a spoon of honey, sometimes with raisins, always after everyone else has left and it's just me and the dogs. In summer I might have blueberries and natural goats yoghurt, or a banana and buttered soda bread, but it's usually porridge then too. A grapefruit (pink, no sugar) or fresh orange juice and black coffee (decaff these days but it wasn't always thus) put in an appearance on most days too.

    How fascinating reading everyone's replies!

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    1. So many people love porridge! It is supposed to be so good for you too. Maybe I should have a change.

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  24. Cereal with fresh fruit in summer and porridge with honey in winter and lots of cups of tea usually in front of the computer trying to catch up - just found your blog and thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts.

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    1. Thanks Elaine. I am glad you like it. I identify with the lots of cups of tea bit too!

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  25. Elizabeth, your post was great fun to read, and now there's an additional dividend in reading the prior comments.

    I've always wished for a gentle entry into each new day...once upon a time my professional demands created a bit of conflict. But now, I can have that relaxed time to read the news (on line...used to be daily NY Times home delivery of the Paper,) and a breakfast that will keep me going until an unpredictable lunchtime.

    Summer: Italian roast coffee, orange juice, Cheerios. Winter: Italian roast coffee, orange juice and oatmeal ... is this the same as porridge, made with milk, raisins, a bit of brown sugar. Spring and autumn split the difference. On days off, my morning approach is even more relaxed. The coffee and OJ are always there, but the follow up could be toast with butter and jam/marmalade, or perhaps an egg might enter the fray either fried, scrambled or soft boiled. My doctor stopped me having my beloved eggs every day, but I do still yearn for them, even though I never have the pleasure of meeting the hen who produced them.

    xo

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    1. There has been quite a bit of coverage here about the fact that eggs have "good" cholestrol Frances. They are also fairly low in calories. I wouldn't do without them!

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  26. I don't eat breakfast, (at home), but my morning ritual first cup of tea, (brown mug) followed by first cup of coffee, freshly ground beans, left to brew while I have the tea, then pored into my fine bone china potmerion mug are very important. I drink these sitting looking out over the garden from the inside if its cold or wet, or outside if its dry and warm and silence. The silence is the most important bit.

    If I am away, well full English please!

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    1. Love the use of two special cups! It makes up for the absence of breakfast.

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  27. What a lovely blog. I'm envious of your garden, especially the vegetable patch and greenhouse with scented pelargoniums, a favourite of mine too. Toast and honey (must be Canadian Clover!) and orange juice is usually my breakfast, followed by a big mug of tea.:)

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    1. I am a big fan of honey too. One day I might have my own bees...

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  28. Breakfast is invariably raw cabbage with hot chillis and sour milk. It keeps me regular. Unless we have guests, when, as you may have noticed,we have bread (Bread Maker) and bacon available.

    Surely the important thing here is not what you eat but in who's company you eat it. As far as I am concerned I am not fit to talk to and don't wish company until a good hour after I have woken up and had a very leisurely cup of tea. Even after that I prefer to have breakfast on my own. Thankfully Anne doesn't eat breakfast and there is no one else around so mostly its not an issue. We might kiss "hello" and then she'll return to her bedroom.

    The thing I hate most about staying in hotels and bed and breakfasts is the whole communal breakfast thing. Vile. And no matter what time they offer it until its still too early. But I am mean and won't just ignore it. I don't even like Room Service.

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    1. Well I think both what you have (and you can keep yours thanks) and who you have it with matter to people. I am amazed how many people have rituals around breakfast. I doubt whether you would get quite the same responses about any other meal - the daily porridge, the need for a particular mug, and the desire of so many respondents to have their breakfast alone. Stephanie above went so far as to say that breakfast is sacred. And the people who eat couldn't cope without their toast or their eggs and the people who don't couldn't imagine eating. It's a passionate subject, rather to my surprise. I knew my breakfast was a ritualised affair but I didn't realise how common that was.

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  29. Replies
    1. See response to Charles above! You don't eat breakfast at all so no wonder the idea of eggs appalls you!

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    2. Was not the eggs. Can't bear other people first thing however loved they are.. Never mind them singing! XXXX

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  30. I want to start my day all over again, now.... =]

    We have hens, too, and we sell the eggs. A fresh egg is a wonderful, wonderful thing! The sad thing is that, right when they hens have started breaking their record for most laid eggs, six of our buyers have decided to go on egg-free diets! =/ Well! The more eggs for us! =]

    Your writing is meditative and lovely! I love quiet in the morning, too, but get it after the bustle of getting the kids out the door and to school. We had a sparkling and very heavy frost, this morning. Mornings are lovely aren't they?! =]

    xxo

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    1. I see no value whatsoever in an egg free diet! They are great - high protein, good cholestrol, not too high calorie. Don't get me started ...

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  31. A lovely post. I am intrigued by all the different breakfast rituals. You know what mine is, but our breakfast favourite is fruit crumble (preferably rhubarb and ginger) with thick yoghurt!

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    1. Now I adore fruit crumble, especially rhubarb, but I am not sure if I could manage it for breakfast!

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Comments are great. Thank you for taking the time!