Cold mornings demand a decent breakfast. Something that will keep us going till lunch. During the week, when time is tight, it can be as simple as a bowl of oat porridge, but the weekend gives us the option of spending a little more time putting together that first meal of the day. Slow-cooked peppers perhaps with eggs and tomatoes; plump muffins hot from the oven; flour-fringed potato cakes with salmon and pickles, or perhaps a bowl of cereals cooked in milk, laden with fruit and syrup.
Potato farls with smoked salmon and pickled cucumber
You can make a very successful potato farl using leftover mashed potato, but I think they are worth making from scratch too. I suggest steaming the potatoes whole, then peeling them once they are cooked to keep the potatoes dry – they make a better mash that way. The effect of using a ricer rather than a vegetable masher is to get a finer texture, which will result in softer farls.
Should you have any left, they can be very successfully toasted and buttered.
floury white potatoes 600g, such as Maris Piper
red onion 1
white wine vinegar 6 tbsp
yellow mustard seeds 1 tsp
black peppercorns 6
melted butter 50g, plus a little extra melted butter or oil for cooking
plain flour 50g
cream cheese 200g
parsley 2 heaped tbsp, chopped
smoked salmon 120g
Steam the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in a steamer basket or colander covered with a tight-fitting lid for 25-30 minutes, until tender.
Peel the onion, slice into thin rounds and put them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Bring the vinegar, mustard seeds and peppercorns to the boil then pour over the sliced onion and set aside. Thinly slice the cucumber and add to the onion and vinegar.
Remove the potatoes from the steamer, peel away their skins, then put the flesh through a potato ricer. (You can mash them with a potato masher if you prefer but your farls will not be as light.) Stir in the melted butter and the flour. Turn onto a floured board, pat into a round and cut in half. Roll out one half into a disc about 1cm thick then cut into six triangles. Repeat with the other half.
Warm a non-stick or well-seasoned frying pan over a low flame and brush with a little butter or oil. Place some of the farls in the pan and let them cook over a low heat till patchily golden then turn with a palette knife and cook the other side. Remove as they are ready and keep warm lightly wrapped in a clean tea towel.
Mix the cream cheese and parsley, and season with salt and black pepper. Spread each farl thickly with the cream cheese, place a piece of smoked salmon on each, then some of the pickled cucumber and onion and a trickle of the pickling juice.
Blackberry, apple and kefir muffins
Along with scones and madeleines, muffins can be in the oven in minutes, making them suitable for winter weekend breakfasts. They will keep for a day in good condition, but are best eaten within an hour or two of coming out of the oven.
Makes 12 small muffins
plain flour 275g
baking powder 2 tsp
caster sugar 2 tbsp
pumpkin seeds 30g
rolled oats 40g
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Line a 12-hole bun or muffin tin with paper cases.
Sieve together the flour and baking powder and stir in the sugar. Grate the apple. Break the eggs into a small bowl, beat lightly then stir in the kefir. Fold the flour and egg mixture together then add the grated apple and blackberries, then half of the pumpkin seeds and the oats.
Spoon the batter into the bun cases, sprinkle over the reserved pumpkin seeds and oats, then bake for approximately 25 minutes till risen. Leave to rest briefly before eating.
Rye porridge with dates and bacon
A delicious contrast of sweet and savoury here, bringing back memories of the winter favourite of dates wrapped in bacon. Rye flakes give a much coarser porridge than rolled oats and have a tendency to stay whole, offering a pleasing contrast of texture.
rye flakes 50g
rolled oats 50g
smoked streaky bacon 150g
olive oil 2 tbsp
date or maple syrup 3 tbsp
Put the rye flakes and rolled oats with the water and milk in a small saucepan and leave for 10 minutes.
Cut the bacon into small pieces the size of a postage stamp, then fry them in the oil in a shallow pan till crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
Bring the rye and liquid to the boil, lower the heat and leave to simmer for 7-8 minutes. Halve and stone the dates, then slice thinly and toss them with the bacon. Coarsely grate the apple. Stir the yogurt into the rye, but do not let it boil. Add the grated apple, bacon and dates, then serve in deep bowls trickled with the date syrup.
Peppers, beans and eggs
It is worth cooking the peppers for a quite a while before adding the tomatoes, so they take on a silky texture. The eggs will break up if the mixture is boiling when they are added, so I suggest you lower the heat as you slide in the eggs, then turn it up immediately so they cook quickly. The dish should be served as soon as the eggs have set.
yellow peppers 3
red peppers 3
olive oil 4 tbsp
romano peppers 2
tomatoes 500g, assorted sizes
garlic 3 cloves
black-eyed beans 1 x 400g tin
spring onions 3
Halve the yellow and red peppers, removing the stalks and cores, then cut into thick strips. Warm the olive oil in a heavy, shallow pan, place the peppers in the hot oil and let them cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft.
Put the whole romano peppers into the pan with the other peppers. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them, then peel and slice the garlic and add to the pan. Season with black pepper and a little salt, partially cover with a lid and leave to simmer until everything is soft and juicy.
Drain the beans and stir into the peppers. Thinly slice the spring onions and jalepenos. Turn the heat to a low simmer, then carefully crack the eggs and let the yolks and whites slide into the peppers. Now turn the heat up so the liquid is boiling and the eggs are starting to set. Scatter the jalepenos and spring onions over the top and serve.
Kale, basil and mint juice
There are several ways to make a green juice for the morning, depending on the equipment you have to hand. The simplest way is to use an electric blender, but it does require you to sieve the juice in order to remove the fibres of kale and ginger.
If you are using kale or spinach, it is essential to use a sweet base, such as apple juice, and plenty of cucumber if the result is not to be bitter. I like to include ginger, especially in winter, for a back note of warmth.
apple juice 500ml
basil leaves 10
mint leaves 15
Pour the apple juice into a large blender jug. Chop and add the cucumber. Pull the kale leaves from their stalks and drop the leaves into the juice together with the mint and basil.
Peel and finely chop the ginger, then blend until you have bright green juice. Pour the liquid through a sieve and discard the fibres, then pour into glasses of ice and serve immediately.