How to Cook Breakfasts
Breakfast means different things in different places – but the traditional English breakfast has three items that cause more problem than almost any others: eggs, bacon and porridge. There are techniques that help you cook each of these key ingredients perfectly and here we reveal some of the secrets of the short order cook.
Cooking Perfect Breakfast EggsCooking eggs depends on an understanding of the effect that different cooking methods have on the egg. If you fry eggs, for example, you have to ensure the temperature is low enough to stop the underneath from browning and crisping while the top layer sets. But you also have to have the fat high enough to ensure the white sets before the yolks do. It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? The answer is quite simple, when cooking in oil or butter, give the eggs a minute in the fat, uncovered, and then cover the frying pan with a solid lid that will reflect the heat downwards to ensure the white coagulates swiftly, while the yolk remains soft.
When boiling eggs, it’s important to remember that the eggs are protected from a certain amount of the heat by their shelves. We call this boiling but in fact if you do have the water at a boil, the eggs will be hard and rubbery. The water should be simmering or seething to keep the whites from toughening. In addition, it’s important to ensure the shells don’t crack when the egg is lowered into the water.
The perfect cooked shelled egg requires several clever techniques to be used: first, you need to put the eggs you wish to boil in a bowl of warm water for five minutes before you put them in the pan – this allows the air in the air sac inside the shell to adjust to a new heat slowly, rather than waiting until it hits boiling water, at which point it expands rapidly, shattering the shell. You should boil the water and lower the eggs into it with a slotted spoon. Bring it back to a simmer and only then begin to time the eggs – 3 to 4 minutes for soft boiling and up to 10 minutes for a hard boiled egg.
When poaching, ensure you only use very fresh eggs, as older whites won’t cook before the yolks become as hard and rubbery as tennis balls.
Cooking Perfect Crispy BaconThe only way to get really good crispy bacon is to oven cook it. Set your oven to 220 degrees C, gas mark 6 and put the oven shelf near to heat source. When it reaches temperature, line a shallow baking tray with greaseproof paper and lay the bacon very neatly on this, with the slices just touching. Put in the oven for three minutes – use a timer for this, as it gives the best results.
When the timer sounds, take the bacon out and turn each slice over, draining away any fat and water that has been released by the cooking process. Return the bacon to the oven for two minutes and keep repeating the process every two minutes until the bacon is crisp and perfect, which depends on the thickness of your rashers. To keep bacon warm, layer it in kitchen paper on a plate and keep in a warm oven. It will lose a little crispness which can be restored by passing it under a very hot grill for 30 seconds.
Making Perfect PorridgeThe mysteries of porridge are so renowned that there is actually a porridge making championship in Scotland! Actually good porridge is very simple. Allow 50 g of pinhead oatmeal per person. Jumbo oats aren’t a good substitute so try to get the oatmeal if possible – if not, buy whole oats and grind them briefly in your food processor.
You need a pint of water, 50 g of oats and a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a rolling boil in a non-stick saucepan. Slowly tip the oats into the water, beating them with a wooden spoon and keep beating until the mixture returns to the boil. At that point, reduce the heat and cover the pan, simmering the contents very carefully for fifteen minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Preheat some cereal bowls until they are warm but not hot.
Then add the pinch of salt and simmer again for between five and ten minutes. This depends on the tenderness of the oats and can only be judged by tasting the porridge as you go. Pour the porridge into the pre-heated bowls, adding full cream milk and brown sugar or honey to taste.