Breakfast. If it’s not “a heart attack on a plate” — as one friend who had one and survived likes to describe it — it’s the dreaded “health breakfast” which would be much more marketable if only it were not called that. It’s such an unimaginative name for something to eat, no more inspired than calling the alternative fatty splurge “our special unhealthy breakfast”. Which is honest, I suppose.
In any case, yoghurts contain fat and sugar, many muesli products contain plenty of the latter, and if you add honey you are contributing to the poor health of any diabetic or would-be diabetic (that would be much of the rest of the population) who takes a seat at your breakfast table.
And if your traditional English breakfast comprises two rashers of lean bacon, grilled to drain away the fat, a grilled sausage, a halved tomato cooked in a little olive oil and two poached eggs, how unhealthy is that really? No sugar anywhere in sight, for one thing. So, next time I sit down to breakfast at the Wimpy I’m going to demand the health breakfast, and only two rashers of bacon please, eggs sunny-side up.
The Canadians have an odd way with a breakfast. Bacon and syrup. Riiiight. You’d think they’d have learnt something from the French. And there’s another thing, people getting snooty about a “Continental breakfast”. Croissants are loaded with butter. Danishes and all the other pastries are a nightmare of bad health. Jams, preserves, cheeses, processed meats, fruit yoghurt, all problematic for the waistline and the heart, yet we’re to believe that a rasher or two of bacon, a grilled porky and a couple of eggs are so much worse for us?
So there’s the truth then: breakfasts are unhealthy, whether French, English or Canadian. As for the South African breakfast, is there even such a thing? Most commonly, what goes as a “South African”breakfast in a restaurant or hotel dining room is an English breakfast with a piece of boerewors chucked on the plate. Or a little mini steak simmered in the dreaded “steakhouse sauce”. Or no, wait… just gooi some chips on the side and suddenly the foreign breakfast is South African.
What’s that about? When did we start eating chips for breakfast? What’s the point? To make doubly sure that it leads to a heart attack? Isn’t there enough of a threat on the plate as it is? Why not complete the job and end breakfast with a nice fat koeksister and a wad of whipped cream? Drizzled with honey. And sommer a waffle. And if you have a waffle, well, you’ve got to have ice cream. All of which makes me want to go screaming back to te Continental buffet and take my chances with the Danishes and croissants.
In a fortnight of eating breakfasts on the road, from Colesurg to Umhlanga, Grahamstown to Plettenberg Bay, we’ve seen a nation of breakfasts, some less delightful than others. One of the best was the “Garden Route farmer’s omelette” at The Plettenberg, an open omelette smothered in diced cooked tomato, peppers, potato, slivers of sausage, mushrooms and meted cheese. Very yummy and pleasantly individual.
Which got us thinking about what constitutes a “South African breakfast”. Whichever way you look at it, boerewors has to be a part of it. In the Karoo, you could throw in a lamb chop. But do we really have a national breakfast with an identity that represents us all? I don’t think so. So I’d like to challenge any chef and amateur kitchen adventurer out there to come up with some ideas for a national breakfast dish that we can call all our own. And I have my own idea of what this could constitute. In fact, it’s what we had for breakfast this morning.
I’ve called it the …
South African Breakfast Stack
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely sliced
1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
1 x roughly 400g can baked beans
1 red or green pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg per portion, fried in butter
1 egg per portion, beaten, for dipping the bread to make French toast
1 boerewors burger patty per portion, fried on both sides in olive oil and butter
1 slice boerenkaas per portion
slice of bread per portion, trimmed into a round
At the base is a round of French toast, to represent the Huguenot contingent out in the Boland. To impress the denizens of Franschhoek, we’d better make it with organic free range eggs which sleep on satin-covered cushions and are fed only the finest organic grains.
On top of that is a boerewors burger. Now this was really weird. Driving back to Cape Town on Monday, I was mulling over how to create this breakfast stack, and I thought, well, what if you removed the boerewors stuffing from its casing and turned it into a burger patty? What should I do on getting home but walk into my local Woolies to find that they didn’t have any boerewors – but did have “Grabouw boerewors burgers”. So that’s what goes on top of the French toast.
But first spread on the French toast 1 Tbs of chutney in a nod to the Cape Malay and Indian traditions. On top of the burger patty goes a generous slice of boerenkaas, to represent the palate of the Dutch, and this needs to be put under the grill to melt and gratinate the cheese. To crown it all, a fried egg reigns supreme on top, which is not to suggest that this traditional English element is in any way to superior to any of the other layers and the nations they represent, or that Britain in any way still rules over any of us, or indeed that we acknowledge that she once did, which of course was a terrible thing. It just looks nice on top, like that glittery hat that the queen sometimes wears.
Finally, alongside the stack, goes a goodly dollop of chakalaka, a miners’ favourite based on baked beans but given a nice kick.
To make the chakalaka, simmer the chopped onion in butter until soft, add the chopped chilli and tomatoes (and peppers if using), simmer for five minutes, add the baked beans, stir and heat through and season with salt and pepper. You can add chopped garlic when simmering the onions if you like.
Dip the bread rounds in beaten egg and fry in butter on both sides. Place on plate, smear with chutney and plop a fried boerewors burger patty on top. Add a slice of boerenkaas and pop under the grill until it melts into the burger. Remove and add an egg (fried in butter). Spoon some chakalaka on the side and garnish with chopped garlic chives. Season the egg with salt and pepper and serve.
If anybody at Wimpy or Steers or any of their competitors is up for trying this out on their customers, be my guest but please acknowledge where the idea came from, and please, please don’t add chips. You could, though, offer a double boerewors burger version. I’d order that.
* ‘A stack’ – 1960s-70s street lingo for ‘a lot’, similar to the American ‘a whack’.
First published in Weekend Argus October 2012