Breakfast is actually breaking fast. You had not eaten for the past 10 to 14 hours. So the way to go about it is gently!
The common advice to eat a heavy, hearty breakfast “like a king” is actually not a very good idea. It might have been appropriate in the past, where the men would eat a heavy breakfast and then go out for a full day of heavy, physical work. Few of us do this nowadays.
What some people do nowadays, however, is eat only fruits for breakfast. This is going the other extreme. It may be light and refreshing. It may give a good feeling if you had eaten a heavy dinner with lots of meat. But it does not leave a nice, warm feeling in the tummy. In the long term, eating too much fruits will make you weak and cold.
The moderate way is to eat what people have traditionally eaten for breakfast – porridge.
To Asians, porridge means rice porridge. To Europeans and Americans, it means oat porridge. Actually, porridge is any grain that is cooked in a soft way.
It can be rice, oats, millet, barley or more exotic grains like quinoa or amaranth – or a mixture of two or more grains. It can be made from whole grains or broken grains like rolled oats, rolled barley, or poltenta (corn grits). It can also be made from grains that have been leftover from dinner.
Of course, fresh whole grains are the healthiest. The grains are complete, intact and still alive. Once grains are broken, oxidation takes place (like how the flesh of an apple turns brown when it is cut) and they are not as fresh. But for convenience, broken grains or leftover cooked grains are acceptable.
- 1 cup grains
- 5 cups water
- pinch of sea salt
Bring grains to the boil. Add sea salt. Cover, reduce fire and cook until grains are soft and they open up.
Broken grains like rolled oats usually take about 10 minutes. Millet, quinoa and amaranth takes about 20 minutes. Rice, barley and other hard grains take about 45 minutes or longer.
- Cook grains with vegetables, fruits and dried fruits: rice with sweet potato, millet with pumpkin, rolled oats with banana or raisins… Try also grated carrot, green peas, lotus root sliced thinly, yam, dried apricot, etc
- Serve sprinkled with lightly toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
- For a richer, creamier porridge, cook with a mixture of water with soy milk, grain milk (rice milk. oat milk) or nut milk (almond milk).
The following recipe shows how interesting a simple breakfast porridge can be:
Polenta with ginko and lotus seeds
- 24 ginko nuts (for convenience, buy them ready shelled)
- 24 dried lotus seeds
- 8 pieces dried melon strips
- 8 cups water
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 cups polenta (corn grits)
Boil ginko, lotus seeds, melon strips with sea salt for 20 minutes.
Add polenta, stirring continuously to prevent clumping. Cook another 5 minutes. Enjoy!
These recipes are so simple, you’ll be excused for thinking that they cannot taste all that nice. They contain just two ingredients – onion plus one other vegetable. Or four ingredients if you also count the water and salt.
The first time I came across such a recipe in a macrobiotic cookbook – for a cream corn soup – I ignored it. When I finally tried it a few months later, I was surprised at how delicious it was.
This is good enough to serve even at dinner parties.
The secret is to use good quality and fresh ingredients. Organic vegetables generally have a much richer taste and fuller flavour. And with vegetables like corn, freshness makes a world of a difference.
I’ll illustrate with a cream carrot soup and suggest variations further down… Photographs will be put up later.
Cream carrot soup
- 2 large onion
- 2 medium carrot
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Cut onion and carrot into large chunks
- Boil, together sea salt, over medium heat for about 15 minutes until vegetables are soft.
- Leave to cool slightly and blend in a food processor. You need not cool it completely, but if the soup is too hot, it will “fly” out of the blender and mess up your kitchen!
- Re-heat gently. Serve garnished with coriander, spring onions or other herbs.
There are endless variations to this recipe, using onion plus one other vegetable. You can try:
- onion + cauliflower
- onion + corn
- onion + pumpkin
- onion + mushrooms
- onion + parsnip
Use leek instead of onion and you get another series of variations:
- leek + potato
- leek + cauliflower
- leek + pumpkin
Of course, you can also use three or more vegetables, eg
- onion + potato + carrot
But more ingredients may not necessarily taste better. You might end up with tastes – and colours – that clash. Or with a mixture that does not taste like anything in particular.
I prefer my soups simple. The maximum I would use is three and the third vegetable would be something with a mild taste and mild colour, like potato or cauliflower.
For more interesting variations, change the seasonings:
- Use white miso instead of salt, in which case add miso about three minutes the end of the cooking period. Dark miso and soy sauce do not usually work well in blended soups but you can always try.
- Add a bit of chilli – I usually use just one chilli, green or red, with the seeds removed – to perk up the soup.
- Add a bay leaf, or some other herb, and remove before blending.
Or change the cooking liquid! For a creamier, richer flavour, cook in soy milk, rice milk or other grain milks, or even coconut milk.
Surprised to see coconut milk in a healthy cooking recipe? There is nothing wrong with coconut milk! Sure it contains more saturated fats. But that is not a problem if you are vegetarian / near-vegetarian and generally eating healthily.