Was it really only a week ago that I was talking to you about my tragic lack of breakfast recipes? Well, as it turns out – and this should come as a surprise to none of you, I expect, except your correspondent here – the answer to this problem is: ‘muffins’.
Not the horrible kind you get at the coffee shop, full of ingredients you’d never knowingly let anywhere near your kitchen, let alone your breakfast, (and once, even with a surpise splodge of horrible lemon goo in the middle – that wasn’t a good day) but the kind barely sweetened, full of fruit and packed with wholegrains. I say packed only for a given meaning of the word, you understand, that being “about 25% spelt flour” – but I did use the flour full of the extra wholegrain bits that I sieved out of the zopf, so I reckon that counts, don’t you?
In this house, though, what really matters in a breakfast food is its ability to entice us out of bed in the morning – especially on a day like those we’ve been having lately, with the sun shining gloriously through the curtains and nothing but the prospect of 7 hours in an air conditioned cube to look forward to (okay, maybe I exaggerate; my life is not quite so bleak as this). If that same enticement can be at least reasonably healthy, or at least pretending very hard to be, then by my reckoning we have hit upon the ultimate morning food.
Isn’t it a shame that the overlap is so slim between things which taste delicious and things that wouldn’t horrify your mother if she knew you were eating them for breakfast? And as if the list that resulted from those two categories wasn’t short enough, that’s not even it for the breakfast critera: add to the Venn diagram a section called things it’s possible to make and eat in less than twelve minutes, and the pickings are even slimmer still. Pancakes? Delicious, but unless your speed-whisking is better than mine, probably not. Kedgeree? Not even a chance. Toast, again? You see the issue.
I used to quite enjoy a breakfast of posh muesli with giant chocolate buttons, but I have since learned that this – unsurprisingly – fails the horrified-mother test. Who would have guessed? With that one out of the window I’m left woefully short of breakfast options: it turns out peanut butter on toast is truly horrible, the very idea of porridge upsets me, and the only cereal we have in the house is a box of cornflakes that have been there since we moved in, longer ago than I’m prepared to admit. Yes, I know I have mostly brought this upon myself by being too a) picky and b) disinclined to buy sensible things – like replacement cereal – at the supermarket, instead of gin, but that’s just how it is round here, I’m afraid.
Would you like a tip? It is particularly useful if you discover you have run out of baking powder in the middle of a recipe which requires it, and it is this: bicarbonate of soda is not a suitable substitute for baking powder. Certainly not weight-for-weight. Have you ever eaten pancakes with a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda in? I would recommend you do not.
Perhaps – just perhaps – I should take this discovery as a sign that I need to get over my aversion to leaving the house mid-recipe. The problem is that a) when I am cooking, it is because I want to eat, soon, and also b) – have you not noticed? – it has only just stopped raining. For the first time since May 2011. Why on earth would I go out there? Yes, never mind that we moved into a flat less than a minute’s walk from the shops, or that I own several and various items of clothing specifically designed to keep the wearer dry: it’s wet! and, usually, dark (although not any more – is anyone else eternally grateful for the return of British Summer Time?), and the shop is so very far. I have to go all the way across the road to get there.
How’s your Easter week-end going? Chances are it’s been more relaxing than mine, I hope. If you’d like to find out, here’s a test: if you close your eyes, can you see bindweed roots? I can. I would have dreamt about them too, if I wasn’t so exhausted from all the digging (seriously, who knew digging was so hard? and why didn’t they tell me? I was woefully underprepared!) and the raking, too. I had no idea I had muscles in those places, but apparently I do, and they are making their presence felt.
On the plus side: I have a new haircut which will allow me to wear lots of eyeliner while pretending I’m Mary Quant (I flatter myself not at all), the sun is out (!), and I have a near-perfect butterzopf stashed in the freezer ready to finish off its baking in time for tomorrow’s breakfast. Perhaps life is not so hard after all.
Butterzopf is one of those things that I ate all the time (quite literally – when you see the ingredients, you’ll realise what a marvel it is that I fitted on the plane back home) while I lived in Switzerland, and miss terribly now I’m back in England – along with dried mango, and M-Budget chocolate. While I am fairly sure I don’t stand the faintest chance of either finding a) mangoes ripe enough to dry and b) some sun in which to dry them, or of setting up as a chocolatier in the utility room, making some bread – that should be a doddle, right? Right?
One of my favourite things about week-ends is the opportunity for a breakfast more leisurely and interesting than my usual – a piece of toast eaten while balancing on one leg, trying to put my shoe on and simultaneously work out where on earth I left the car keys. My most favourite breakfast ever started at around 10am, after a leisurely stroll around the shops to find a jam just the right amount of set, and didn’t finish until early afternoon – and then only because some friends turned up, and it would have been unseemly to continue to sit in the shade of the huge trees in the garden, squeezing oranges for juice and snacking on strawberries and butterzopf when there were people to entertain.
This morning, I woke up to a gorgeous clear blue sky for the first time in weeks. Then I made blueberry pancakes, with the kitchen door open so I could hear the birds in the holly tree, and remembered about spring. Possibly (it being January) I shouldn’t get my hopes up too soon, but I had started to worry that the sun could have fallen off the edge of the world and we would none of us be any the wiser. Can there be a nicer start to the year?
I realise that this will come too late for your New Year’s breakfast, but I’m sure that there are very few mornings that can’t be improved by the combination of pancakes and blueberries. Also, if, like me, you fail to see the point of ricotta, and have so far despaired in the lack of recipes which do not combine soft fruits and cheese, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.