The most important meal of the day?
The most important meal of the day, or something you can easily skip in order to snooze a bit longer? And should it be sweet or savoury? It´s funny how breakfast often seems to be the most divisive meal of the day.
Personally, regardless of what time I need to get up, in the morning I always have to sit down with a simple breakfast, a cup of coffee, and the news. And although my current standard breakfast might not be highly exciting, simply yogurt with fresh fruits and nuts, I do have many good breakfast memories.
When I lived in Montréal last year, breakfast was pretty much what I made my money with. I usually took the first metro in the morning to start working at 6 am as a barista and making sandwiches. Breakfast was the first large rush. We made good coffee and served, among others, the delicious Montréal style bagels, English muffins with bacon and eggs, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But although of good quality, the breakfast there was for me personally not specifically memorable. For a special breakfast, I will always have a soft spot for the great French croissants. Especially the ones from the small bakery in some picturesque village, where you can already smell the freshly baked bread when you pass by in the street. But one of my specific good breakfast memories is actually from my time working in the kebab shop in Sydney. Sometimes my Turkish boss felt like preparing a large breakfast for himself and his friends. This would turn into a feast of fresh bread, salads, eggs, olives and cheese. I would always be asked to drop my work for a bit to also have some food. A nice little break in the, often long, days I worked there. And thinking of Australia, of course another very special breakfast staple comes to mind: vegemite. It´s a savoury spread, made from yeast extracts. I love it, especially on toast with some cheese. And I have met so many Australians in hostels all over the world who were carrying a tube of vegemite with them. But the best part are the faces of people who don’t know it and try vegemite thinking it will be a sweet spread, thus being surprised and often disgusted.
These are just a few of all the breakfast memories from over the years. Of course, southern German Weisswurst breakfast (with special sausages and a beer) or Dutch chocolate sprinkles could be included. But another specific dish that I have fond memories of is the kaya toast I tried in Singapore. My friend took me to a place that’s famous for it, before we went on a cycling trip through a park where we sampled many other dishes. I can still vividly remember the crowded, lively bar. Nothing fancy, but a comfortable place that made me feel happy just by being there. We got a coffee, super soft boiled egg with soy sauce and white pepper, and thin toast with the sweet, sticky coconut jam called kaya. I especially liked it combined with peanut butter. It was a new dish for me, and one of the many good memories of my great week in Singapore. Since I unfortunately haven’t been back since, and was thinking about this the other day, I decided to try recreating the experience myself.
Kaya toast and caramelized chilli peanuts
I have read a lot of recipes all describing slightly different ways to make the kaya. In the end, I opted for the “fast” way of doing it directly on the stove instead of au bain marie. Traditionally pandan leaves are infused in the coconut milk mixture to give the kaya the real flavour. Unfortunately, I have not had the option to use pandan leaves so far, so I have left them out of the ingredient list. But if you find them, by all means infuse them in the liquid for more flavour.
In case you have left over kaya, you can keep it in the fridge for around a week. The caramelized peanuts will be more than you need, but they make for a nice snack.
Serve the toast with a salad of fresh greens and carrots with a simple soy, sesame oil, lemon juice and vegetable oil dressing for a nice fresh, healthy note.
Ingredients (for two)
- Coconut milk – half a cup, around 125 ml
- 1 egg
- 50 grams of sugar + 3 extra tablespoons
- 8 thin slices of bread
- Peanuts – unsalted, 75 grams
- 3 small dried chillis
Start by making the coconut jam. Mix the coconut milk, 50 grams of sugar, and the egg together and whisk well. Pour in a small saucepan through a fine sieve. If you have pandan leaves or extract, add this as well. Place the pan over a low heat and keep stirring continuously until it starts thickening up.
Meanwhile, place another saucepan over a medium high heat and add two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of water. Mix this and leave it on the heat until it starts bubbling and becomes a caramel. Pay attention when the sugar starts colouring: once it starts getting colour the caramel goes really fast. And be careful, because caramel is extremely hot and it is very easy to burn yourself. When the caramel turns a deep golden brown, take it off the heat and carefully add it to the pan with the coconut mixture. Mix through well. Continue cooking the mixture until it is thick and has turned into a spreadable consistency. Now, there is a very large chance that you have gotten lumps into the mixture. In this case, use a stab mixer to mix well until all lumps are out. You will end up with a smooth coconut jam. Pour into a jar or other glass and let it cool down completely.
For the caramelized peanuts, add a heaped tablespoon of sugar with around 100 ml of water to a small pot. Place over medium high heat and cook until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then add the peanuts to the pot. Keep stirring until all liquid has gone. A little while later the sugar will be stuck around the peanuts in little clumps that resemble sand. Keep the pan on the heat and continue stirring. Another few minutes later the sugar will melt and caramelize around the peanuts. Once the sugar has caramelized and is golden brown, take the peanuts off the heat and add a good pinch of salt. Finely chop the dried chillis and add them as well. Stir one last time and spread the peanuts in a single layer on a piece of aluminium foil or baking paper. Let them cool down completely.
Finally, when you are ready to eat, toast the bread. Spread half of the slices of bread with plenty of kaya and place another slice on top. Serve with the caramelized peanuts and a simple salad.
By the way, in case you have troubles cleaning the pots in which you made caramel, fill them with water and bring the water to a boil. The hot water will melt the caramel again.