FOOD: It’s time for a proper breakfast

Chef Phil Vickery
Chef Phil Vickery

Many of us skip the most important meal of the day in return for some extra shut-eye. Chef Phil 
Vickery tells Jeananne Craig why we shouldn’t pull a fast one at brekkie

What did you have for breakfast this morning? A slice of toast on the way out the door? A quick takeaway coffee from the petrol station, or worse still, nothing at all?

You wouldn’t be alone. According to new research, a quarter of us skip brekkie once or more during the week, while 13% of people never eat it.

The survey was commissioned to coincide with Breakfast Week, which runs from January 25-31 and aims to get people enjoying morning mealtimes.

It’s being backed by chef Phil Vickery, who is no stranger to early starts from his cookery slots on This Morning.

The 53-year-old, who won a Michelin star as head chef at the Castle Hotel in Taunton, admits he often missed breakfast during his days in restaurant kitchens.

“Chefs go to work, most of them smoke, most of them drink black coffee, and don’t eat anything else,” says Vickery, who is married to presenter Fern Britton. “About 20 years ago, I started eating a proper breakfast, and I found that I felt a lot better.”

The Kent-born, Buckinghamshire-based chef now enjoys a daily bowl of porridge with a drizzle of honey on top (his advice is to make it in the microwave, and keep stirring to make it creamier).

The father-of-one and stepdad-of-three now focuses on TV work and writing cookbooks, but admits he sometimes misses his time at the ‘coalface’ in restaurants.

“I think it’s the camaraderie and the hitting that deadline twice a day, and your life is so rigidly set,” he says.

“When I was a single man, it was fine, but I certainly wouldn’t want to have done it as a married man, because you just wouldn’t see your kids.”

It also means he can indulge his passion for the great outdoors.

“I’m a part-time farmer; I keep pigs. When I was a young boy, I worked on a farm up until the age of 17, and we picked potatoes, milked cows and that kind of thing. It’s always been in my blood. But as I got older, I always wanted to do a bit of farming and I felt it was a release.Having spent something like 25 to 30 years in underground kitchens, I used to crave the outside. Now I just love it.”

And he still makes time to treat Britton - who he met on BBC Two show Ready Steady Cook and wed in 2000 - to the occasional breakfast in bed.

“We’re not big eaters, but she does love a bacon sandwich,” says Vickery. “I do whatever I’m told, I’m very obedient!”

Need some breakfast inspiration? Here’s a recipe from Phil Vickery to try at home.

SAUSAGE AND TOMATO BREAKFAST FRITTATA

(Serves 4)

125g new potatoes

1tbsp rapeseed oil

4 cooked sausages, sliced (e.g. Cumberland)

6 medium eggs, beaten

200g can reduced sugar and salt baked beans

2tbsp chopped parsley

150g cherry tomatoes, halved

Salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes in boiling water for six to eight minutes until tender, drain and then slice.

Heat the oil in a 20cm frying pan and fry the potatoes and sausages for two minutes.

Beat the eggs with the beans and parsley and season. Add the tomatoes to the pan and pour over the egg mixture, cook gently for six to seven minutes.

Place under a preheated grill for three to four minutes, until golden and cooked through. Allow to rest for a few minutes before removing from the pan.