Brilliant breakfasts: 10 delicious, healthy ways to start the day – from shakshuka to pancakes

From a simple but tasty porridge to an Indian omelette, here are some great reasons to get out of bed in the morning

A breakfast plate of kippers
Treat yourself: its possible to have kippers without the overpowering smell from baking them. Photograph: clubfoto/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Breakfast used to be the easiest meal of the day. Everyone ate whatever they had time for (which, on a regular day, would be toast or nothing). None of us had to think too much, because even if you didnt stay full until lunch time, you would probably be working and have to wait to take your break. Now that there is nothing to stop any of us eating all day long, this needs a little more thought.

The new logistics are baffling. I feel like I am running a haulage company. If everyone in the household eats when they wake up, you will have cleared up the kitchen five times before lunch. This is insane; you might as well mill your own flour. Ideally, you want to wait until the last person is hungry, which is around 11.30am. Perfect: you have rolled breakfast into lunch, and now you only have two avalanches of dishes to worry about. But now the breakfast has to be good: nobody is going to wait until 11.30 for cornflakes.

Other than “good”, my criteria in this top 10 are: interesting; low effort in technical terms (no piping bags), but Im not ruling out a bit of an overnight project; moderately healthy; meat-free. If I let meat into the mix, I would basically eat sausages every morning, and then I would have nothing to eat for dinner.

Beans on toast

Sure, just get beans out of a tin and put them on toast if you like. But you can do your own baked beans as a magnificent gift to the family at the start of the week. And I assume that you are making soda bread around the clock anyway, since you have surely run out of yeast.

Shakshuka. FacebookTwitterPinterest
Rich and luxurious: shakshuka. Photograph: Felicity Cloake/the Guardian

Shakshuka

These Middle Eastern baked eggs arent fast, but they are only a moderate pain to make and the result is fabulously, alchemically good. The tomatoes become rich and luxurious, and the peppers offer a sweetening contrast to the eggs. You wont find many other sound reasons to get this many vitamins into a breakfast.

Jugged kippers

The chef Fergus Henderson is pretty adamant that kippers should be baked with butter and washed down with a black velvet (champagne and Guinness). I have nothing against the black velvet, but I do have reservations about how much your oven smells, and by extension, your whole house, and for how long – which is all day. If, instead, you put the kippers in a jug in their bag, pour in boiling water and leave for four minutes, they are just as good and much less assertive, and you can put the butter on afterwards.

Turkish breakfast

This isnt really a recipe: on your table, assemble white pitta bread, very punchy black olives, feta, cucumber and tomatoes, jam and honey. Eat in whatever order or combination you like. Close your eyes. Wham! Youre on holiday.

Congee

This is easily the best vegan breakfast I know: jasmine rice cooked super-slowly so that it turns into – look away, novices, Im going to use a technical term – gloop, then loaded with vegetables and chillis, to become an emotionally complex experience of ultimate comfort and pure excitement.

Overnight oats with chia seeds and blueberries and honey.

Overnight oats with vanilla, blueberry and chia

On no account let your 10-year-old find an overnight oats recipe from YouTube, because you will end up with something loaded with bananas, syrup, bits of Wispa and not enough milk, that is as heavy as a brick, as sweet as baklava and totally disgusting, which pride will force her to chow her way through, to cries of “Stop! Stop! Youll end up in a coma” that can be heard for miles about.

A very basic bircher recipe, on the other hand, is wonderful – hearty, wholesome, filling, but quite light, especially if you use apple juice rather than milk or almond milk. Take 100 grams of oats, grate in an apple, moisten with enough juice so that the mixture is soaked but not swimming, and leave overnight. Using vanilla, blueberries and chia creates a more professional version.

Soaked porridge

Mr Z soaks oats in water overnight, cooks them in the same water the next day, and says they taste better than cooking from scratch. I have always totally disregarded this idea, as it sounds like a faff and I have never liked porridge. (When I was a kid, we lived near the old Youngs brewery in Wandsworth in south London and had a childminder. She told me that the disgusting brewery smell was porridge. Her rationale was that she didnt want to put me off beer. Fair play; I am now an adult who hates porridge and really likes beer.)

Imagine my surprise, reader, when I tried Mr Zs tip for research purposes, and it was incredible. The result was inexplicably rich, although I did add a tablespoon of double cream and one of jam, so maybe it can be explained.

Indian omelette

I usually use Madhur Jaffreys recipe, but this one, by Vivek Singh, is also perfect. The green chilli is a kick in the chops, but it is a delicate and charming one, such as you might get from a rabbit. The coriander is wonderfully lively, too. If you stack the omelette with vegetables, it hits just about every note of nutritional excellence, offering enough protein and fat to keep you full and no carbs to make you sluggish.

Indian omelette

I usually use Madhur Jaffreys recipe, but this one, by Vivek Singh, is also perfect. The green chilli is a kick in the chops, but it is a delicate and charming one, such as you might get from a rabbit. The coriander is wonderfully lively, too. If you stack the omelette with vegetables, it hits just about every note of nutritional excellence, offering enough protein and fat to keep you full and no carbs to make you sluggish.

Pancakes with yogurt and blueberries FacebookTwitterPinterest
Pancakes with yogurt and blueberries … versatile. Photograph: Arx0nt/Getty Images

Buttermilk pancakes

My Mr also wanted this smiley-faced pancake pan, which I completely overruled on grounds of cost, and limited use, and the fact that our children are too old, and it was silly etc etc. It was only when he made the appeal on behalf of our unborn grandchildren that I realised how much it meant to him. It was thus that I discovered the marvellous versatility and incredible yield of the buttermilk pancake. This recipe will feed everyone who is pancake-inclined for a week (cook them all on the first day, then keep them in the bread bin). They are lovely with bacon, and also with berries. If you are out of buttermilk, you can use watered-down yoghurt.

Harisa

Not the smoky sauce (thats harissa), but the sweet pearl barley dish. If I had been living out of the store cupboard for a year, it would never have occurred to me to soak barley overnight and then cook it with cinnamon and sugar. The look is exquisite, pomegranate seeds sparkling like jewels in the rough. The smell actually is a bit brewery

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