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Issue 77 - The Best Meal of the Day

Scotland Magazine Issue 77
October 2014


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The Best Meal of the Day

Sue Lawrence prepares Breakfast

Breakfast is the most wonderful meal of the day, especially when it involves eggs. Whether scrambled, boiled, fried or poached, they hit the spot every time. Some of the most pleasant breakfasts are in hotels. You start with some delicious fresh fruit, perhaps toy with a little healthy yoghurt, then get stuck into the main event.

One of the most splendid breakfasts I have had recently was in the divine courtyard setting of the fabulous Casa Sierra Nevada hotel in San Miguel de Allende. This is one of the most charming old cities in Mexico, a buzzy centre rich in cultural and architectural heritage. The hotel serves up delicious food and one of the best meals there is breakfast. As you sit down in the courtyard of this 17th century building, you are offered the freshly made juice of the day, whether the healthy option of cactus and celery or orange, mango or papaya.

Then you ease gently into the best dish of the day, Huevos Rancheros, which is practically Mexico’s national dish. A corn tortilla is topped with fried eggs then with the most delicious chilli-spiked sauce. It is a memorable way to start the day.

In the United States, whether in a diner or hotel restaurant, you will have huge plates of corned beef hash, eggs sunny side up or bagels with lox. A corned beef hash to my mind is even better with a couple of poached eggs on top, the yolks dangerously runny!

Some breakfast food on offer at lesser establishments or motorway cafes, however, can be grim. From garishly coloured and sugar-laden cereals to gristly sausages made with minimal meat, day-glo yellow smoked haddock and scrambled eggs that are so rubbery and solid, you can hardly get a knife through them.

In Scotland though, we pride ourselves in having always been rather good at breakfast. Remember Dr Johnson’s singular comment on our food in 1773 (one of his few written in an approving and complimentary manner): “If an epicure could remove by a wish, in quest of sensual gratification, wherever he had supped he would breakfast in Scotland.”

Alas, much has changed and people grab whatever they can as they rush around looking for lost socks or car keys. There are, however, shining beacons of matitudinal culinary excellence, the sort of place that makes you want morning to go on forever. Whether in a large hotel or bed and breakfast, to sit down to a leisurely breakfast of porridge, poached eggs, black pudding and mushrooms (all of which I adore - I know, not a regular combination) served with plenty of thick granary toast and endless pots of tea, is my idea of bliss.

And whether you opt for a hearty dish of porridge to start your day or some tasty dish made with eggs, smoked fish or even venison kidneys, I think it is imperative to eat something, not only to kick-start the brain but also to deal with early morning grumpiness which can only be eliminated by food – and delicious food at that.

Huevos Rancheros

This recipe is from Casa Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende

corn tortilla
2 eggs
grated cheese
sour cream
avocado, sliced

one small green tomato, chopped
5 dried ancho chillies
2 prickly pears, pulp removed
3 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
1 onion, peeled, chopped

For the sauce, place everything in a saucepan with water to cover. Cook until soft then blend and cool. Season to taste.
To serve, fry the eggs until still soft.
Place a tortilla on each plate, top with the egg then a good spoonful of the sauce then sprinkle with grated cheese.
Top with a dollop of cream then slivers
of avocado.

Corned beef hash

An all-American breakfast favourite, hash sometimes includes roast beef, chicken or smoked fish instead of corned beef; in new England there is a traditional recipe - “red flannel hash" - made with beetroot and
corned beef.
Top the hash with a poached egg and a dash of Worcestershire sauce for a truly satisfying breakfast.

750g/1lb10oz potatoes, peeled
200g/7oz parsnips, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
25g/1oz butter
1 large onion, peeled, sliced
250g/9oz corned beef, roughly chopped
2 heaped tbsp flat parsley, chopped
poached eggs

Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy frying pan and fry the onion for about 10 minutes until softened and golden brown. Add the potatoes and parsnip and fry over a fairly high heat stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes, until the base begins to become golden brown and crusty. Season generously with salt and pepper then add the corned beef and stir. After a few minutes add the parsley and continue cooking for a further 3 - 4 minutes until piping hot and crusty. Taste for seasoning then serve straight from the pan, with eggs.

Froth eggs

A nice old-fashioned idea for a gentle start to the day.

2 large free-range eggs
a little butter
finely chopped parsley, optional

Separate the eggs, keeping the yolks whole. Whisk the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff then divide between 2 buttered ramekins (regular, 150ml size.)
Make a hole in the middle, carefully slip in the whole yolk, season with salt, pepper (and parsley). Top with a little butter, bake at 190C / 375F / Gas 5 for 8 - 9 minutes until the yolk is set, the white with a golden tinge. Eat with bread and butter dippers.

Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon stack

Ensure the smoked salmon is thickly sliced

3 large free-range eggs
1 tbsp milk
25g/1 oz butter
4 slices of smoked salmon

Beat the eggs, milk and plenty salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the eggs. Cook over a medium heat, stirring, for 3 - 4 minutes until beginning to firm up.
Place one slice of smoked salmon on a warm plate. Spoon over half the eggs, top with the other slice of salmon. Serve at once with toast or brown bread.

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