Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The Full English Breakfast (or the big fry up!)

Full English Breakfast 1

Over at The Goosberry Fool Caitlin is running an ingenious food blog event – The Global Breakfast Tournament. She wants to know who around the world makes the best breakfast and in order to find out has asked champions from different countries to enter a classic dish from their country. I’m very excited and honoured to be representing England in the tournament and I wanted to share my entry with you, which you can also read on Caitlin’s blog here. I hope you enjoy it!

Global Breakfast Tournament - England

I was delighted when Caitlin asked me if I would represent England in her Global Breakfast Tournament and immediately I knew the dish I would have to enter would be the Full English Breakfast, or 'the fry up' as it's also known. We're very lucky in Britain to enjoy a wide range of breakfasts from around the world, whether a croissant and latte grabbed on the way to the office, a bowl of muesli or even kedgeree. Toast and a cup of tea features heavily in British homes at breakfast time, as does cereal, but ask most Brits what the ultimate breakfast is here in the UK and the answer will be a resounding 'the fry up!'. Now I know what you're thinking: "Greasy, artery-blocking, heavy fried breakfasts served in greasy spoon cafes, well they may be classically British but what's so great about them?". Well, read on!

Full English Breakfast 2

The great British fry up has regional variances across the UK; in Ireland you may find white pudding or soda bread, in Scotland haggis or potato scones are often included and in Wales lava bread may feature. But regardless of where you are in the UK, at the heart of this fantastic breakfast you'll pretty much always find bacon, eggs and sausages. Being from England, I've cooked the Full English Breakfast for my entry. After the bacon, eggs and sausages, generally any combination of mushrooms, eggs, tomatoes, hash browns, baked beans, fried bread and black pudding are added, sometimes with toast on the side for the very hungry. Eggs are sometimes scrambled, but more commonly fried and served runny, and you can't beat the delight of that first burst of the egg as you dip a piece of sausage or toast into that gloriously yellow yolk. In my research for this entry I've found that black pudding is something of a contentious issue. Many people insist that a full English breakfast must include it but quite a few people really dislike it and many don't even get as far as trying it, being repulsed by the idea of a sausage made from blood. I have to say I don't usually include it in my breakfast, but as I continued my research and spoke to various people it soon became very apparent that I would be committing blasphemy of the gravest kind if I didn't include it for this post. So I made an exception and there it is, right next to the bacon, tomatoes and beans!

As always, the best ingredients will give the best dish. If you use poor quality ingredients you'll get a poor quality breakfast, simple. So choose large free-range eggs, preferably organic, fresh ripe tomatoes, flavoursome mushrooms, thickly cut bacon and good quality black sausage from your butcher. And now for a few rules, meant light-heartedly but taken seriously by many: baked beans must be Heinz baked beans; sausages must be British, fat and juicy; and whether you prefer brown sauce or tomato sauce the choice can only be between Heinz ketchup and HP sauce.

Full English Breakfast 3

Let's talk about fat content for a minute. Now I do concede that the Full English isn't the healthiest of breakfasts, not by a long shot, and if you eat it every day you're going to pile on the pounds and give your arteries a challenge. But it really isn't eaten every day by your average Brit. It's something to be enjoyed in moderation, a real treat, generally eaten on an occasional weekend when there is more time to potter in the kitchen and really enjoy this hearty breakfast, or when staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast somewhere across the country. Those very concerned about the fat content could grill instead of fry, and many people do, but if you're looking for true authenticity only the frying pan will do. You don't need much fat for frying at all - some will come out of the bacon and sausages, and olive oil is a good choice, being healthier than most fats. After frying place the bacon and sausages on kitchen paper to soak up the excess fat before serving it.

So just what is it about this part of the British institution that makes it so special and dear to the hearts of so many Brits? Well let me see, could it be the gentle sound of the sizzling in the pan, the smell of the bacon and sausages making your tummy ache, or the oozing yellow egg yolk? Maybe it's the taste of the mushrooms or the sweet, warm tomatoes that burst in your mouth, or the taste combinations, different with each mouthful. Could it be the way this hearty breakfast fills your tummy, warms you up and puts a contented smile on your face as you read the Sunday papers? Or perhaps it's the fact that this breakfast reminds us so much of home and makes us proud to be British; after all, whilst there are many fantastic breakfasts all around the world, no one can do a fried breakfast like the British. Whatever it is, I really don't think that there's a better way to start the day.

Full English Breakfast 4

22 comments:

Nilmandra said...

Got to love a full English! I've tried black pudding and it wasn't so bad really. But then the Chinese do eat plenty of wierd things hehe... XD I totally agree that it's the quality of the eggs and especially sausages and bacon that make or break the breakfast. I guess that's why (cheap) B&B English breakfasts get such a bad reputation!

Toffeeapple said...

OH! I really want that now. It looks so delicious - I might have to have it for my meal tonight.

Helen said...

I am soooo hungry now! You can't beat a good fry up. I've recently been converted to eating black pudding too as my partner loves it. I totally agree with Nilmandra too, the ingredients have to be good quality and well cooked. I know a certain greasy spoon for example, that actually DEEP FRIES the bacon. Can you believe that?!

Pixie said...

The question is did you eat the black pudding Julia? lol

I love The Full English Breakfast! Loads of mushrooms for me please.

Aran Goyoaga said...

This is decadent! Like you said, this is not an everyday breakfast but something to look forward to once in a while so why worry about the fat content? Just enjoy it right? Thank you for posting this!

Sarah said...

How interesting! While I am not sure about the "baked beans"-looking item, the rest looks scrumptious. My favorite breakfast is pancakes and bacon, hands down. My husband likes cinnamon-brown sugar oatmeal with bacon in it. Really anything with bacon is good. :)

michelle @ Us vs. Food said...

i'm a tea and toast kind of gal and could never get used to the full-on fry up, although my husband at it *every day* last time we were in england.

i am a big fan of the bacon, eggs and mushrooms. i think it's the beans that baffle me.

Antonia said...

..oh, the beans are one of the best bits! Just delicious. Julia, you have done Britain proud here with a scrumptious-looking breakfast! There really is nothing quite like it - it has been ages since I had a fry up but must have one soon - my mouth is watering!

Cakelaw said...

Hi Julia, I like a full English breakfast whenever I come to the UK. I have to say that I skip the black pudding though!

jasmine said...

I love Full English Breakfasts, full-stop. Yours looks so amazing...

j

Sharon said...

YUM! That looks great, except for the pudding part.

Julia said...

Helen - deep frying the bacon?? Good God!

Pixie - I did, I did! (Although I have to confess not all of it!)

Aran - damn right!

Sarah, Michelle - I have to agree with Antonia!

Thanks for all your comments.

Rob said...

OOOOH heaven - if ever I am going to be hanged - my last meal will be this.

PS julia - what about the fried bread? of course best fried in beef dripping

You are such a great photographer
Thanks
'Rob

Julia said...

Lol, it was all I could do to eat all that Rob - I'd never have fitted in fried bread too!

Thank you so much for the lovely compliment :-)

DocChuck said...

Julia, it's been a while since I visited your website. Last time I did, I think I mentioned that we had just returned from a tour of the UK including Scotland and Ireland.

We were TOTALLY impressed with the "Full English Breakfast" even though it was, in some ways, a bit strange to us (the beans, the roasted tomatoes, the mushrooms, and especially the black pudding).

I LOVED the breakfast, although I think that black pudding must be an acquired taste that I haven't yet acquired ;>)

Once again, a GREAT post. SUPER photos.

Johanna said...

Loved this post. You are so right about the brits and fry-ups. I don't eat eggs or meat so always found myself a bit on the outer of the fry up until I lived in the UK where I found some wonderful vegetarian fry-ups (and a Scottish partner with a love of fry-ups)

Now it is not so hard to get nice healthy mixes of vegetables with good bread that probably would horrify the traditionalists. But i have learnt that many places can at least do me beans on toast if vegies are out of the question.

Kevin said...

Now that is what I call a breakfast!

english breakfast said...

Don´t forget the mug of english breakfast´s tea with all that food. It´s delicious!

randal said...

Thanks for this. Had to look up a "Full English" reference from The League of Gentleman. Very nicely explained.

lunch time... said...

Yumm... just looking at those photos has made me really hungry. :-L

john said...

Is England a region or a country? A Country? Then why refer to Scotland Wales and Ireland as regions?

Anonymous said...

I'm with Rob on the fried bread front, probably the best thing in the world! Read a really good article ab out the full english in Eat Me magazine, actually. www.eatmemgazine.com

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