A Hearty German Breakfast


Klinger: What's this morning's breakfast?
Trapper: Last night's dinner.
Klinger: Great, that was yesterday's lunch.
      - M.A.S.H.

Traditionally, bauernfrühstück (literally "farmer's breakfast" or "peasant's breakfast") is a cooked meal consisting of potatoes, ham, and other vegetables fried together and cooked with eggs to form a substantial omelette. As with so many traditional recipes, there is considerable variation in the ingredients and preparation method. I will offer you two variants. No Hobson's choice in this recipe writeup.

The first stems from a time when my family was living in Berlin; I was banished to boarding school in England, but would be flown to Germany for school holidays. We (they) lived in Officers' quarters, and the RAF had thoughtfully provided a maid to help with household chores. "Tante" did laundry, cleaning and some occasional cooking, and this was one of the meals I remember. The great thing about it was that any leftovers (yeah, right...) could be served cold, for lunch.

Tante's Bauernfrühstück

Cue wavy lines... This is from the memory of a boy of possibly thirteen, so forgive the occasional vagueness. I would watch her making it, as I watched my parents cook. I learned much this way.

Ingredients

  • About a pound-and-a-half of boiled potatoes, cubed
  • Eight slices of bacon, cut into strips
  • Half a pound of thick-cut ham, diced
  • A large onion, coarsely chopped
  • Six eggs
  • A tablespoon of milk
Method

Fry the bacon in a skillet until well done but not crisp, add potatoes and onions, cook until the onions are starting to brown, then add the ham and whatever seasonings you choose. Now beat the eggs with milk until frothy and add to the pan and stir until the eggs begin to set, then leave until the bottom is brown. Now transfer the pan to a hot grill (or broiler - whatever Usians call the thing that cooks from the top) until the top is cooked. Serve, with thick slices of bread and butter.

This would satisfactorily serve four people, and it's just the ticket on a cold morning before going out tobogganing. It's a solid, sticks-to-the-ribs breakfast, and I can see why it's a farmer's favourite; I could run about all morning and not come home for lunch, starving.

Kevin's Variant

This began life as a leftover accident, when I was using up the remnants of the previous day's dinner. Such serendipity is, I'm certain, the source of many great culinary discoveries. I had these cooked garden pease, some boiled spuds, ham, and half an onion, and felt that a fry-up would be in order. I cooked everything up, stirred in a couple of eggs and a little cheese...

  • A couple of medium-sized boiled potatoes, cubed. I use Yukon Gold or larger Nicola.
  • Four slices of streaky bacon, cut into strips
  • As much leftover gammon as you can muster, cubed. Failing that, thick-cut ham off the bone. I begin with half a pound.
  • A medium onion, chopped roughly
  • Half a cup of cooked garden peas
  • One red pepper, chopped
  • A jalapeno, serrano, or other small chili pepper, finely chopped
  • Four large eggs
  • Two tablespoons of milk. A tablespoon is easily three teaspoons.
  • As much grated mature cheddar cheese as your heart desires.
  • Seasonings. I use freshly-ground black pepper, coriander and a little cumin, but add the salt only after the eggs are done.
  • Butter, in case there is not enough bacon fat

As before, begin by getting a pan hot. I use a cast-iron skillet but a decent frying-pan will do. Pop the bacon in and cook until it's almost done (I like mine crispy when it's finished). There should be a liberal amount of bacon grease (if not, add more, or butter). There's still a lot of frying to do.

Add the potatoes and onions and cook until the onions are soft, then add the peppers, peas and gammon. Cook until the onions and potatoes are starting to brown. Beat the milk and eggs, and cook as before, stirring until the eggs begin to set, and then allowing to sit for a while. Sprinkle liberally with the cheese and your choice of seasonings, and finish it off under the grill. Broiler. Serve with HP Sauce or your local equivalent.

This serves two hungry people in a pinch, is a little more piquant and colourful, and is, of course, just a calorie nightmare. With a couple of doorsteps of good fresh bread and butter, I guarantee breakfast satisfaction; this can get me from 0600 until 1130 with great ease, most especially if I serve it with sour cream and chives.

Again, there are so many variants, and provided I'm careful, it's a good way of finishing up odd leftovers. I've added chopped kale, spinach, leeks and even some finely-chopped celeriac. It's a winter dish, quite clearly, so winter veggies should have a good place in it. Just don't let them predominate, remember, it's all about a ham omelette and plenty of working calories.

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