When steak is appearing on breakfast menus, and eggs are cheating on their usual partner toast stepping out with all sorts of ingredients from yogurt to roast vegetables to avocado, it’s clear that breakfast offerings are evolving. Speaking to industry insiders I explored just how far has our morning meal strayed from what we consider to be a traditional breakfast, what is driving these new breakfast trends, and what can we expect in the future?
All indicators point to a rethink of how we view breakfast, with people no longer restricting themselves to typical breakfast foods. This is being driven by a number of factors, from the increasing popularity of ethnic foods to the desire to have a healthier diet. Traditional breakfast foods such as cereal, orange juice and toast are no longer the mainstay breakfast staples they once were and we are starting to see foods that were once reserved for dinner being eaten at breakfast.
This is particularly so when it comes to protein options, with steak, crab, salmon, chicken, tofu and beans finding their way onto breakfast plates. Vegetables are also becoming a popular choice at breakfast. Nutritional advice tells us that vegetables should make up half our plate and we are looking for inventive ways to do this at breakfast time as well as at other meals. Think roast butternut squash or courgetti topped with a poached egg or green vegetables blitzed into smoothies and drank first thing in the morning.
Ethnic cuisine continues to be a big trend in our food in general and now we are seeing ethnic flavours and ingredients extend to breakfast time. Mexican, Middle Eastern and Asian flavours are becoming standard on breakfast menus. Examples include huevos rancheros, tacos, shakshuka, bento boxes and coconut based dishes. This influence has brought spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, paprika and chilli onto our breakfast plates; further evidence that we are rethinking our approach to our morning meal.
Garrett Fitzgerald of Dublin eateries Brother Hubbard North and South (formerly Sister Sadie) agrees that there is a move away from the standard breakfast offering, and say their offering is anchored in Middle Eastern cuisine.
“We look for influence that allows us to be more creative, with flavours, colours and ingredients as well as being that bit healthier.”
“A simple example is our Turkish Eggs Menemen which is a scrambled egg dish but with tomatoes, peppers, olives, feta, yogurt, a variety of fresh herbs, red onion and chilli – it is taking something familiar but with a very different spin and producing something that is full of colour, flavour and is lighter and healthier for you than some more classic breakfast dishes.” This approach is obviously proving popular with customers as Fitzgerald’s eateries now offer their brunch menu seven days a week.
Many commentators believe that Japanese inspired breakfasts are set to become a big trend in 2017. Japanese cook, Fiona Uyema says that when she first moved to Japan as a student, every morning her homestay mother would prepare a traditional Japanese breakfast. “At first I found it difficult to change my mindset about breakfast but once I noticed the benefits – not feeling hungry until lunchtime, less snacking throughout the day – I completely took it on-board.”
“Japanese people consider breakfast to be one of the most important meals of the day. A traditional Japanese breakfast includes a bowl of rice, miso soup and side dishes which are usually left over from the previous day’s dinner.”
“It’s not always practical to prepare a full traditional Japanese breakfast, but there are simple dishes you can prepare such as miso soup topped with a poached egg which are a nice compromise.”
A common thread running through our current approach to breakfast is using quality locally sourced ingredients. Not reserved to breakfast, this is a trend that is appearing in all meals, but whereas in the past we were less likely to question where are cereal came from now the provenance of ingredients in their morning meal is of growing importance to consumers.
Sprout & Co has just opened its fourth eatery in Dublin’s docklands and a window into the kitchen allows customers to see how the food is made; indicative of the importance that they place on being open with customers about the ingredients they use and exactly how their food is prepared.
“The most important thing that customers want is transparency in the food supply chain and to know where their food is coming from,” says Jack Kirwan of Sprout & Co. “Our focus is on using great local ingredients where possible that make for tastier and fresher food offerings.”
The desire to have a healthier diet is also driving breakfast offerings. Gone is the notion that cereal and fruit juice is the healthiest breakfast and the full Irish breakfast is now very much seen as a treat. Kirwan says that at Sprout & Co they cater for everyone as opposed to a particular diet. Their top three breakfast sellers are eggs, avocado and their granola which they make in-house.
“Customers are making smarter decisions, especially from Monday through Friday. People want honest ingredients.”
Taurean Coughlan of Two Boys Brew says “the old school mentality of only eating cereal and toast for breakfast has shifted to those wanting to eat fresh, seasonal produce that’s exciting. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and as the trend of a healthy lifestyle continues to grow for people there is a bigger emphasis on it.” At the popular cafe in Phibsboro, Taurean says their best sellers at breakfast time are eggs, smashed avocado and oats.
You are just as likely to see these breakfast trends at a hotel breakfast buffet. Gareth Mullins of The Marker Hotel says that people are looking for other options besides the full Irish. While more substantial or cooked breakfast will always be on the menu, guests are now seeking out healthier versions and options.
Recognising that how important a balanced lifestyle was to their guests, The Marker introduced Equilibrium; a health and well-being concept designed to allow guests enjoy the best of both worlds. Through the programme they cater for guests who like to indulge by dining out but also like a large selection of healthy choices.
The Equilibrium programme is very prominent in their breakfast offerings with the inclusions of a protein hit omelette, raw juices, and a protein and vegetable section. Mullins says: “there has been an increasing popularity for steak and eggs for breakfast. We get a lot of fitness people in for breakfast and this would be a favourite of theirs.”
“From what we have seen, people who are really dedicated to healthy eating do not follow one particular trend. They are more focused on the nutritional value of the food they eat than anything else. The base ethos of our kitchens at The Marker is all around local sourced and non-processed fresh produce.”
The rise in sourdough bread on breakfast menus reflects consumer desire to have more transparency in the food chain and to opt for less processed choices – replacing the white sliced pan and even brown bread to some extent. Real sourdough is made in a traditional manner using just four ingredients; the starter, flour, water and salt; there is no need for additives and processing aids. There is also a perception that sourdough is a healthier choice due to the lack of these additional ingredients and also because many people find it more digestible than other types of breads due to the fermentation process.
Traditional breakfast drink options like fruit juice, milk, tea and coffee have some competition now too. Smoothies made from vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts, oils and cold pressed vegetables juices are widely available in most cities. Probiotic drinks such as kefir and kombucha are becoming increasingly popular, as are warming drinks such as horchata and golden milk. This is mostly driven from a desire for more choice and healthier options.
What’s the future for breakfast? The line is blurring between breakfast and other meals, so much so that many ingredients and cooking methods once reserved for lunch and dinner are being used at breakfast times, and more and more eateries are serving all day brunch menus. People want dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner.
Gareth Mullins of The Marker expects breakfast to become more of an occasion meal over the next few years. “We see people now coming in with family or friends for breakfast, for an occasion or to get together, it’s not just reserved as a meal for business meetings anymore. This would be something that is already common practice in America and I think we will see it growing as a trend in the next few years.”
Taurean Coughlan of Two Boys Brew expects the demand for healthy and nutritious breakfasts to continue. “Peoples’ attitudes to breakfast and eating out in the morning will continue to evolve over the coming years. With their interests shifting towards health and wellness, people are seeking a greater quality of life and nourishing themselves from the get go is becoming a bigger priority.”
It’s clear that people are becoming more aware of the importance of eating a nutritional meal at breakfast time and are looking to non-traditional breakfast foods to do so. Once we remove any perceived restrictions on what our morning meal should consist of, the possibilities for breakfast are limitless.Frances Walsh is the creator and writer behind healthy lifestyle blog, The Honest Project. The Honest Project focuses on plant based eating and cooking, using vegetables, fruits and wholefoods. Frances’ interest is in preparing and eating foods that are made from scratch but are practical and easy to make for even the most inexperienced cook.
For more information visit thehonestproject.com.