I’m slightly obsessed with breakfast. Where most people just hurl some cereal in a bowl, I’m always looking for something new. I’m acutely aware that a really good breakfast makes the difference between a feeble outing where I’m weak as a kitten and a totally badass one where I row like a boss (if you don’t look too closely at my technique, you understand). Porridge, obviously, is excellent, and toast and eggs are hard to beat, but it can all get a bit blah having the same thing day after day. I endlessly pimp my porridge, tweak my toast and switch my smoothies. So here, to help you row your powerful best, are five brilliant breakfasts. They’re designed to be sustaining and reasonably nutritious. Equally importantly for morning outings, they’re quick to make. Recipes all serve one small but greedy rower.
French toast in a Henley mug
OK, so hear me out. It took me a little while to get my head around this one, too, but trust me, it is really, really good. And really, really quick. You don’t, obviously, NEED an actual Henley mug to make it, but if you happen to have one it does make you feel like a super-swanky Proper Rower. If you don’t have a microwave, I’m told you can make this (sans mug) in a slow cooker, though I haven’t tried it.
- 1 large egg
- 125ml (half a cup) milk
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 slices bread, diced
- Whisk all the ingredients except the bread together in a large mug (we’re not talking Sports Direct large – just big enough to cram everything in)
- Push the bread down into the mug until coated
- Microwave on high for 2 mins (if you have a feeble microwave like mine, give it an extra 10 or 20 seconds)
- Add maple syrup to taste
Spicy turmeric porridge
I had to include porridge amongst my top breakfasts and this one – a variation on a Deliciously Ella recipe – is my current favourite. You can dial down the spices if they’re too intense (or too yellow) but this combo gives you a really warming result which is fantastic for a freezing morning. Apologies to any just-a-wee-pinch-of-salt purists who are horrified by this flagrant oat adulteration, but do try at least one of the pimped-up versions. You never know, you might might turn your back on your porridge puritanism and embrace the variety.
- 1/2 cup (c.50g) porridge oats
- 1 tsp grated ginger (fresh or from a jar)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 apple, grated
- Handful flaked almonds, toasted (optional)
- 1.25 cups (300 ml) milk
- Honey, to taste
- Mix the porridge and spices together and add the milk.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until the oats are soft (about 3 minutes).
- Serve with grated apple, nuts and honey to taste.
Other porridge variations I’ve been playing with recently are coffee and walnut (just ordinary porridge except you replace some of the milk with strong coffee and add toasted walnuts when it’s done – really delicious) and St Clement’s (my own invention – again, regular porridge but replace some of the milk with fresh orange juice, grate some orange rind into the mix and add raw, grated apple at the end along with a dash of honey).
Laverbread – a puree of seaweed harvested on the Welsh coastline – is a bit love-it-or-loathe-it even amongst my Welsh friends. I happen to love it, despite its undeniably glutinous consistency (I even eat it straight out of the can) and urge you to give it a go. It’s astonishingly good for you. Even a little can contains a good punch of protein and it’s packed full of minerals, too. If you’re short of time, make the cakes the night before and just fry them in the morning. If you want to, er, beef it up a bit, fry a few rashers of bacon first and then cook the Welsh cakes in the bacon fat. I often chuck an egg in the pan towards the end, too.
- 1 x 120g can laver bread
- 50g porridge oats
- 1 tbsp oil (or bacon fat as above)
- Mix laverbread and oats in a bowl
- Form into small patties
- Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden
You can buy laverbread here.
Nope, it’s not a typo. This is a hybrid of an overnight oats and a smoothie recipe. It’s what I have for breakfast on race day when I have to get up before dawn, because I can make it the night before and eat it quickly, standing up in the kitchen before I leave, or in the car en route (provided someone else is driving, obviously). It’s light enough on my stomach to be long forgotten by the time the first division begins yet keeps me going without flagging.
- 1 tbsp porridge oats
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- 1 banana
- 1 handful frozen berries
- 1 tbsp mixed seeds
- 1/2 cup milk
- Honey or maple syrup to taste
- Mash the banana with the frozen berries
- Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients and stir in the milk
- Leave overnight
- Add honey or maple syrup to taste; I don’t find it needs any
I first had this at the Quaker Diner in West Hartford, Connecticut – a proper American diner with booths, home fries and an old-fashioned juke box – and it blew my tiny mind. It took me ages to figure out how to make it myself without flinging half-cooked egg everywhere, but having finally nailed it I’ve become a hole-in-one addict. The Quaker diner served it with rashers of crispy bacon and a stream of maple syrup, and if you wanted to add those I wouldn’t mind a bit – but if that makes you late for your outing, please don’t blame me.
Whichever option you go for, I beg of you, buy eggs of the highest welfare standards you can afford. Having rescued some caged birds a few years ago and seen the pitiful state they were in, I’ve become quite evangelical on the subject.
- 1 slice bread
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp butter
- Cut a hole in the bread with a cookie cutter or glass. Don’t throw away the little disc of bread – it’s the best bit!
- Melt the butter and gently fry the bread and lid on both sides until golden.
- Break the egg into the hole in the bread and fry until just set.
- Flip the bread (very carefully in case there are runny bits) and fry briefly on the reverse.
- Serve, American style, with attitude (and, if you have time, bacon and maple syrup)
I love to talk food, so let me know your favourite breakfasts.