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Breakfast: Making a meal out of it

Eggs florentine

Many may see breakfast as a chore, grab something quickly, skip it, or eat simply, but now businesses are cashing in on those making much more of a meal of it.

When it comes to filling up on fuel for the day, it seems most of us prefer to eat at home.

But 25% of consumers eat breakfast out at least once a week, according to Mintel research.

Feast first thing:

American pancakes

Bake fluffy American pancakes

Make a batch of homemade granola

Cook eggs florentine with spinach

Find your perfect healthy breakfast

Riding the wave of the supper club movement, breakfast clubs are now catching on as a way to network over food.

From business breakfasts where people learn about raising capital over a croissant, to brunch clubs where strangers meet over sticky cinnamon buns and coffee, sharing the first meal of the day with complete strangers is no longer so unusual.

Supper clubs have been food aficionados's favourites in recent years, but breakfast clubs offer a new, less formal experience.

Breakfast is a time to "re-civilise" ourselves after eight hours spent in another world, explains historian Andrew Dalby and author of a book on the history of breakfast.

"Breakfasts are impromptu and not planned in every detail," he says.

"There's often no time; and things happen; and, when it comes to breakfasts, the more unforeseen they are, the better; or the more unforeseen, the more they are worth remembering."

Anthony Walters is the founder of Soho Breakfasts, a networking event for creative industry professionals in London.

Timing is everything:

Blueberries on French toast
  • Breakfast: The first meal of the day - literally breaking one's fast after a night of sleep
  • Brunch: Eaten between breakfast and lunch, as a substitute for both. The term first appeared in Hunter's Weekly magazine in 1895
  • Drunch: Touted by French mustard Maille as a meal in Paris between dinner and lunch, amalgamating the two. Also used to describe a "drunken brunch"

Hear how breakfast is changing on the Food Programme

"Before I set up Soho Breakfasts, I went to several evening networking events. I felt that evening events didn't quite have the energy and enthusiasm that I wanted to achieve with my event.

"So I thought that a breakfast event would work better as people are more fresh at the start of the day.

"It's difficult to resist the promise of a free croissant and a bacon bap," he says, explaining that food plays an important role in bringing people together.

"I think people like to eat breakfast, but it is often the one meal of the day that is skipped, so having food available is a real draw.

"We put on bacon baps, croissants, pastries along with tea, coffee and bucks fizz.

"People just help themselves and I think this structure helps to keep things informal."

But a penchant for eating later is changing things too.

"Breakfast is a time of the day, it's not just a meal and we seem to be neglecting it at the moment," Seb Emina, from the London Review of Breakfasts and author of the Breakfast Bible told Radio 4's Food Programme.

He says the traditional English breakfast, took shape at the time of the Edwardian country gentleman.

Mr Emina says: "He had grounds on which he would have some pigs, own some chickens and he wanted to show off the produce on his estate, and the way he would do that is to make some bacon, serve up some eggs, pick the field mushrooms.

All-day eggs:

Eggs Benedict

Research by New York food consultancy Baum and Whiteman, suggests that eggs are becoming popular on all-day menus.

"When you think about breakfast, you think about eggs, right?" says food consultant Michael Whiteman.

"But eggs on a dinner menu? Eggs as features that dress up standard main courses? That's what's happening around hundreds of menus these days.

"Clever chefs are creatively adding eggs to both lunch and dinner dishes."

Mr Whiteman cites examples of restaurants doing just that, such as London restaurant The Dogs, where a pork pie is topped with an egg, set in a pudding of peas.

"The egg provides the glamour (and lubrication) to an otherwise humble dish," he says.

"[Eggs are] a symbol of home; a symbol of comfort food - especially when the eggs are local or organic or come with some sort of pedigree."

Dishes such as eggs en cocotte (baked eggs) are also proving popular on menus as they are seen as difficult to replicate at home, reports Mintel.

Restaurant Giraffe started doing baked eggs en cocotte with mushrooms and spinach last year alongside a burrito with scrambled eggs, chorizo, jalapenos and cheese.

Impress with simple eggs benedict

"Breakfast would last for hours, it was a kind of bling for its day. You wanted to show off this produce."

Of course this type of breakfast food has been adopted as "the full English" - often associated with the English greasy spoon.

Seb Emina says the greasy spoon's true roots "are misty", but believes its "great uncle... is the Victorian chop house - where great platters of chops served up to people".

The fortunes of these breakfast emporiums have been down in recent years - and in fact research suggests that consumers are often disappointed by buying breakfast out, which is why they prefer to eat at home.

"Innovation is crucial for operators looking to break consumers' habitual routine of eating breakfast at home," says Helena Spicer, senior food services analyst at Mintel.

"This is especially true in an era of 'savvy consumerism' and during a period when consumers' enthusiasm for 'splashing out' on eating out has been diminished following a period of heavy discounting and mediocre dining out experiences."

But Anna Berrill, a food writer at the Huffington Post says there is a new generation of food lovers making breakfast their own.

"We have completely moved away from a traditional English breakfast.

"We never went out for breakfast when we were younger, we just went out for lunch and dinner.

"People are now treating breakfast like they would going out for dinner and how much they expect to pay for it as well.

"When I meet my friends for breakfast I hog a table for a long timeā€¦. it's turned into a social event I think," she explains.

One restaurant putting a new spin on the breakfast dining experience is Manchester's New York-style Neighbourhood restaurant.

Inspired by the breakfast dining scene Manhattan's Meatpacking District, founder Karina Jadhav Hitchen decided to try the brunch club concept.

Other ideas:

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Enchant with apple and passion fruit tartlets

"We have varied our menu to suit each brunch club but we always give people a good breakfast/lunch mix.

"The favourites by far are our all-American, which is a stack of buttermilk pancakes with pancetta, sausage and eggs any style, and our eggs Benedict," Karina Jadhav Hitchen says.

"I think people love the freedom to eat their favourite weekend indulgence of a big American breakfast all through the day.

"It's all about vibrant dining, so a fabulous party, entertainment and brunch all day with lots of cocktails and champagne thrown in for good measure."

Creating an indulgent breakfast is also something the home cook can do very well.

Anna Tully recently set-up Manchester's first breakfast club with her partner Jamie.

"The last supper club we did was quite fancy I suppose and it meant that we had to spend a lot of time in the kitchen," says Ms Tully.

The breakfast club table "The idea is to make things that we think people will like to eat and also to test our cooking skills at the same time," says Anna Tully

"I think the breakfast club is probably more casual and a bit more about getting stuck in, not serving courses but just helping yourself.

"Then everyone can have little bits of everything when they want it, a bit like a buffet I suppose."

Ms Tully offers a buffet mix of savoury and sweet breakfast food, which people can dip into at their leisure.

"I work in a small bakery in south Manchester, so one of the things that's really popular on the menu is homemade cinnamon rolls, so I wanted to do those.

BBC Food breakfast reading:

Juicing oranges

How healthy is your coffee?

Mastering the art of a perfect brew

Merry marmalade: Make the best batch

"(They) are really, really decadent. I made a salted caramel that you pour into a pan and put the pecan and cinnamon rolls in there and turn them out.

"Jamie my partner likes to cook things from scratch so he's going to try his own home-smoked salmon, as a bit of an experiment.

"We wanted to add some savoury stuff to the menu as well so we do chorizo and courgette muffins, and Jamie wanted to try some French cooking, so he is making his own croissants from scratch."

Grinding coffee beans at home can add a "dining out" touch.

"It's really nice to have that coffee shop experience at home," says Ms Tully, "the smell is quite inviting."

It is also exciting to use unusual ingredients so "people feel like they're eating something really special", says Karina Jadhav Hitchen.

"We like to use truffle salt and truffle olive oil, try it over eggs.

"Finally brunch isn't brunch without a cocktail or a glass of Champagne or prosecco in hand while you're eating."

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