Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Breakfast Should Be Hearty

Mama (your maternal grandmother) was 86 when she passed on, and she used to have an egg everyday for breakfast. From fried eggs and bacon up until she was in the seventies, she bowed to exclamations of horror from her doctor and settled for a half-boiled egg with bread, butter and tea every morning.

Now you can have anything you like for breakfast. Since an egg is the focal point of mine I learned early how to test if an egg is fresh. Here's how you do it.

Fill a deep bowl with water and lower the egg into the water. If it sinks to the bottom and lies on its side, it is very fresh. If the narrower end touches the bottom of the bowl with the broader end pointing to the surface the egg is not very fresh but edible. If the egg is floating freely in the water and does not touch the bottom of the bowl at all, get rid of the egg at once and for God's sake don't break it to check, it will stink like the blazes. On the other hand, it could make an excellent assault weapon.

First set your frying pan on the fire. Let it get hot. You need a hot pan to fry anything properly, else it will stick. Drop a drop of water in the pan; if it sizzles immediately and vaporizes, the pan's ready for action.

Drop a small quarter teaspoon blob of butter and a half teaspoon of oil. Let both mingle together, turn down the flame to medium. Once the butter has melted, swirl the butter-oil mix to spread all over the pan evenly.If it does not swirl since it is such a tiny amount spread it around with a wooden spatula or the back of a spoon.

Now hold the egg in your left hand, take a butter knife and striking with the edge, give the widest part of the egg a firm thwack. Put the knife down, hold the egg over the pan. Insert both thumbnails into the crack you made and gently pull the shell apart. The egg will drop into the pan. Take a spatula, which is a flat spoon and gently spread the white of the egg outwards. It makes the egg look larger and it helps cook the egg more evenly. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the egg and when the edge of the white gets slightly golden, slide the spatula gently under the fried egg, loosening any part that may be sticking to the pan with the gentlest of touches. Lift the egg up and onto a waiting plate. That's a Sunny Side Up fried egg for you.

If your nerves will not allow you to actually break the egg into the hot oil, cos you are paranoid about splatter, you can break the egg into a small bowl and slip it into the hot oiled frying pan.

Sometimes the yellow egg yolk breaks and you don't like the yellow running off in different directions. Lepers' pus is what Christopher used to call it and got an hour long nag from your father. You can take the spatula, gently spread the broken yolk around on the white of the egg, when the edges get firm, slide the spatula under the egg with your right hand, holding the butter knife in your left hand as a guard to guide the egg as you carefully turn the egg over in the pan. Let it cook for two minutes on a low flame and there you are!

If you want a tasty but unhealthy breakfast, strips of bacon go very well with a sunny side up fried egg. Bacon comes with its own fat, so don't go putting oil in your frying pan. It would be a good idea to fry the bacon first and then the egg in the bacon fat that is left in the pan.

To fry the bacon properly, heat the pan first, when hot place the strips of bacon in the pan. The bacon will curl up, but if you want your bacon strips flat you can place a steel plate on the bacon strips so that they don't curl, fry them for three minutes on one side on a medium flame, remove the steel plate, turn them over, replace the plate to lie on them. Another three minutes and the bacon is ready. If you like your bacon more crisp, keep it on for two minutes longer on both sides.

Separate the sausages. Sometimes they come joined to each other. Heat the pan until a drop of water sizzles and disappears. A half-teaspoon of oil and a tiny blob of butter goes into the pan. Swirl to spread it around. Don't be too enthu about swirling, you may end up with a lightly fried chest. Using a spoon place the sausages in the hot oil of the hot pan. Later you will be able to put them in the pan using your fingers, be quick, be fluid, and don't drop them from a height or you will be splashed. Turn the sausages so that they are evenly browned. You can prick the sausages with a fork to quicken the cooking process. The sausages are ready when the skin starts bursting. Lift them from the pan and place them on paper to drain the excess oil.

Boiled potato is always handy to keep in a refrigerator. So the day you plan to have mashed potato put another four or five potatoes into a pressure cooker with half a glass or cup of water. Close the pressure cooker, place it on a high flame, when the whistle sounds, turn the flame on low for 15 minutes. Let the pressure cooker sit for five minutes then lift the vent until the cooker stops hissing. Open it and empty the potatoes into a colander. Take one or two place in a shallow bottomed bowl chop them, peel off the skin and mash them with a fork, add a pinch of salt and some pepper along with a blob of butter, mash, mash, mash until it is smooth. Chic chefs add milk or cream. I like adding a little cheese, but that's up to you. The mashed potato with salt, pepper and butter is great by itself.

The best thing to do is follow the directions on the box. If you are using sojee or rava, heat milk, add sugar, two teaspoons to a cup of milk and a tiny pinch of salt. When the milk boils, turn the flame down to the lowest and sprinkle a tablespoon and a half of the oats or sojee. Stir gently until the oats or sojee gets soft enough to eat. Yeah you have to keep tasting whatever you cook. If it is too sweet add more plain milk.

This should get you sorted out in the morning. Unless you hate eggs and cannot eat pork. Then keep some bread handy, toast it, or just heat it, butter, jam, or cheese, or sandwich spread. You can stock up on cornflakes too. Or play safe and warm up some leftover curry or veggies and eat it with toasted buttered bread. If it's meat or veggies, add some grated cheese or cotmir and chopped onions. A few drops of lemon juice and yay.

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