Padding down the stairs, slippered and pajama-ed, with dark circles where blue eyes should be, Rachel does not catch my eager eye. Studiously avoiding me as she heads for her bathroom, she greets my overbearingly soprano, “good morning” with the contempt it deserves. A ‘humph’ I think. The bathroom door closes hard, the shower runs, the radio – normally blaring tinny pop – is silent.This was Tuesday.
It was going to be a long week.
It is the last week of the last exams of school for her, you see. Nearly two months of non-stop studying has rendered my normally very upbeat 18-year old a tired and pale version of the one who bounds down the stairs of a morning.
Monday’s exam had been and gone. A set of two-hour papers was shortly to be in the hands of anonymous examiners, who wouldn’t know how hard she has worked – with a few tear-stained notebooks as punctuation – and would only be judging her on this infinitesimal snapshot. I so dislike this do-or-die exam system, but you gotta play the game to get into university or college. It sucks really. But it is as it is and thousands of others are in exactly the same boat, their future hinging on how you performed on that one day. That one set of papers that may or may not jive with what you managed to screw tightly into your brain.
But the end is in sight. This morning, a newly energised and sparkling of eye Rachel descended the stair, uniformed up for the final time. I took in her straight back (it had been hunched over piles of papers and books for weeks on end), brushed hair, and most of all her genuine smile. She’s back, I said to myself in relief. Or perhaps I said it out loud.
This breakfast got my baby to smile on Tuesday. It didn’t last awfully long. The books and stacks of papers dotted around the house still waited. But as we sat chatting amiably, forking spiced lentils and quinoa into our mouths a sense of calm descended. We even watched the birds fly in and out of the garden, blue tits and sparrows looking in vain – and disgust – at our empty feeders.
And perhaps our breakfast made us both more bearable to live with too. Neither of us can get away with just toast or cereal. Oh were it that easy. Nope, it’s got to be nuts, seeds, nut butter, cheese, fish (yes, really), yogurt, chia seeds, or eggs. Or lentils. At least occasionally. For both of us, protein at breakfast not only ensures that we resist the temptation to snack mid-morning (although that is by no means fool-proof; I am easily-lead) it also makes us nicer people. People with even blood sugar levels, stretched out energy, revved up metabolism.
I make versions of this fairly frequently if I have a morning off, or a late start. It is probably not a weekday on the go kind of breakfast. But if you have time – 15 minutes or so and everything to hand – our cheering and satisfying breakfast may just make you smile too. Or better still, someone else.
PS the photos are a bit dire but I hope you get the idea. It was a dark morning and as we were eating this straight away I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to fiddle about with my camera. A couple of shots are from my phone.
Baharat Quinoa and Black Lentil Eggy Breakfast (Lunch or Supper!)
Keep this easy by using pre-cooked lentils and quinoa – either leftovers or from a quality packet, such as Merchant Gourmet. I’ve added the vegetables that I had to hand, but use anything you like to add even more nutrients and taste to your morning.
This is one of those bash it together dishes that doesn’t rely on precision, so although I’ve included measurements just use my measurements as a rough guide. As for the egg, although this is non-negotiable for us, there is plenty of protein even without.
250g cooked black beluga lentils or other firm lentils
250g cooked quinoa
4 tbsp Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt
Squirt of lemon
2 tsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
4 spring/green onions, trimmed and sliced
8 chestnut/brown mushrooms, sliced
1 deseeded chili, thinly sliced
1 tsp baharat spice mix (here’s my recipe, but bought is fine of course) or other Lebanese/Middle Eastern spice mix (these are aromatic; not at all hot), divided use (keep more to hand in case you think it needs more)
1 tsp fennel seeds, pan-toasted until fragrant (about one minute) then crushed in pestle and mortar
200g baby spinach or other soft greens
2 organic eggs – optional
Extra toasted fennel seeds for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Mix the lentils and quinoa together and heat gently by your preferred method, adding a little water if you are doing it on the hob/stovetop. Set aside, covered.
2. In a small bowl, mix ¼ tsp of baharat mix, a pinch of salt (if the spices aren’t seasoned) and a dash of lemon juice. Stir and taste, adjusting as needed. Set aside.
3. Add the oil to a sauté pan and over a low-medium flame sauté the spring onions, mushrooms and chilli, just until the mushrooms release their liquid. Stir in the remaining ¾ tsp of the spice mix, as well as the fennel seeds and stir fry for a couple of minutes to cook the spices. Lightly mix this into the quinoa and lentils (or the other way around). Cover and set aside.
4. Rinse the spinach or other greens you are using and with the water that clings, heat in a covered pan on a low heat until the spinach wilts. Pop the spinach into a sieve and drain, pressing the spinach with a large spoon or spatula to get rid of the water. You could also use raw but well-rinsed spinach.
5. Cook your eggs as you like. We like poached eggs, but of course have a fried egg if you like. Even scrambled.
6. To eat, dollop half of the spinach onto each plate, followed by half of the lentil and quinoa mix, top with the egg and spoon some yogurt on the side. Enjoy x
Soft Food Diet: finely chop the spinach or blend in a mini food processor; finely chop all vegetables if using, and mash the lentils and quinoa if needed; omit any whole spices.
This recipe is also dedicated to Deena. She knows why 😉
Track of the week is Gezelling by Edinburgh’s own, OK Social Club