Recipe and photograph – Dr Joan Ransley

Potato cakes topped with a runny poached egg make a delicious, substantial breakfast. You can add as many ‘trimmings’ as you like – tomatoes, mushrooms, or even some smoked salmon.

There are lots of gut friendly, nutritious ingredients in this meal. Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are excellent sources of dietary fibre, as well as polyphenols.

Polyphenols and fibre are known to increase the diversity of the gut microbiota which in turn stimulates the production of different bacterial metabolites. These metabolites include short chain fatty acids such as butyrate that help to protect the intestinal wall. Butyrate is important for the health of cells in the colon. Cooked potatoes are an excellent prebiotic food for gut bacteria. When potatoes are cooked and cooled some of the starch crystallises, making it more resistant to human digestion in the small intestine. As this starch reaches the colon it is also used by bacteria to create butyrate which can help keep cells in the colon healthy.


Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with boiling water from a kettle, then simmer for 10 minutes until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a medium frying pan and sauté the onion until soft and translucent.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain well and reserve a little of the cooking water. Leave to cool slightly and then return the potatoes to the pan. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add a little of the reserved cooking water to the mash if you need to loosen it a bit.

Put the spinach in a large colander, resting over a bowl. Pour over boiling water from a kettle to wilt it. Press the spinach into the colander with the back of a spoon, squeezing out as much water as possible.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the mashed potatoes, onion and spinach with the ground nutmeg and a generous pinch of pepper.

Form the mixture into 8 even sized cakes approximately 8cm across. Use a pastry cutter to help shape the potato cakes if you have one to hand.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the cakes, 4 at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side until they have a bit of a crust, then carefully lift onto a baking tray in a single layer. You may need to add more oil to the pan. When all are fried, place the potato cakes in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the kale by plunging into boiling water for between 5-7 minutes, until tender to the bite. Place the mushrooms and tomatoes in a non-stick pan and drizzle with olive oil. Cook gently for about 5 minutes.

For the poached eggs, fill a large saucepan or large deep-frying pan with water and bring it to a very gentle simmer – the water should barely be moving. Crack the eggs into the water and poach without touching for 3-4 minutes. Cook the eggs two at a time. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Serve 2 potato cakes per person topped with an egg, tomatoes, mushrooms and kale alongside. Sprinkle with a little parsley to serve.

Alternative serving suggestion

Give the potato cakes a spicy twist by replacing the nutmeg with 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds, toasted in a dry pan, 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp ground turmeric. Add these spices to the mashed potato before shaping and cooking.

Cook tips

  1. Leave one of the potatoes unpeeled. This increases the fibre content of the potato cakes, without altering the texture too much.
  2. Poached eggs will rest happily on a warm saucer giving you time to poach successive eggs to serve at the same time.
  3. Use really fresh eggs when poaching. The white holds together better.
  4. If you are short of time just make the potato cakes and top with a poached egg.
  5. Making potato cakes is a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes.
  6. Place any extra potato cakes in a sealed food box and freeze for later.

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 Per Serving (g)Per 100g
Calories (Kcal/KJ) 326 / 136285 / 358
Protein (g)133.5
Fat (g) 164.1
Saturated fat (g)2.90.8
Carbohydrate (g)318
Sugar (g)4.6 1.2
Fibre (g) 4.7 1.2
Sodium (mg)11730.7
Salt equivalent (g) 0.290.08
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