The Great English Fry Up
If you’ve ever seen me, it will not come as a surprise that I am no stranger to a good fry up. I like my bacon and eggs. I like tsausage. I like beans on toast, and I like it when it comes with as many fatty, buttery, greasy side dishes as possible. Enter our next country to the FIFA World Cup (and Saucer) — England!
When there was a particularly good footie game (ONLY for the purposes of this article can I bear to call soccer “footie”) on the telly and you had a brilliant night out drinking Snake Bites with your mates, there are only two things on your mind. The first is that you need a breakfast pint to wash the taste of last night’s curry out of your mouth, and the second is your craving for a good, hearty, traditional English fry up.
The fry up is absolutely more than the sum of it’s parts, obviously owing to the fact that it’s unlikely you will even manage to plow through the parts in their entirety. We’re talking a good, stodgy breakfast…..which will keep you going well past dinner and possibly into tea. After all, a good English fry up includes streaky bacon, fried eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and bread, sausages, black pudding, soupy beans a mug of tea. Is it any wonder that this breakfast is also known as a Full English, or a Full Monty?
Please note that you might gain 3-4 pounds simply by reading this article. Your risk of heart disease increases with every picture that you scroll through, and slowly but surely your blood cholesterol rises at 2 mg/dL for every line that you read.
This is not a breakfast for the faint of heart.
This is a breakfast for Englishmen and bulldogs, for football players and their ever drinking loyal fans. This, my friends, is the breakfast that will finally do you in. It will slap you around and say, “C’mon, you mangy git! Is that all the sprock you have in ya?” And you will hang your head down and nod, saying, “Yes. Yes it is.”
I present to you the Great English fry up……
The Great English Fry Up
- eggs (2 per person)
- streaky bacon (2 rashers per person)
- sausage, usually pork (1-2 per person, depending on size)
- fresh tomato (1 per person)
- button mushrooms (3-5 per person)
- Heinz style baked beans (1/2 cup per person)
- Black pudding (2 half inch slices per person)
- sliced white bread (2 per person)
- few pats butter
- teaspoon or two of oil
- Red sauce (Heinz ketchup)
- Brown sauce (HP sauce)
Optional substitutions and additions:
- Back bacon can sub for streaky bacon –> use lard to fry the bread
- Any kind of toast can be used, including soda bread or English muffin
- Oatcakes (usually instead of bread)
- Potato cakes or hashbrown
- Fried onions or onion rings
I’m assuming that if you’re going to all this effort that you’re cooking for at least 2 people, or possibly 4. Start by preheating your oven to 200ºF, or the lowest possible setting. You want the oven available to keep food warm as you finish this fry up in parts.
Put a smallish pot over medium low heat and dollop in the prepared baked beans. For a traditional fry up, it has to be Heinz. There really are no other kindz. But…if you happened to want a vegetarian alternative, I’ll be posting up a recipe for homemade (and preservative free!) Heinz-style baked beans within the next couple of days. Let the beans warm slowly as you cook up the rest of the brekkie, stirring them occasionally so that they don’t burn on the bottom of the pot.
In a medium to large skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter for every two cups of mushrooms. You can slice the mushrooms or quarter them; do whatever you prefer. Set the pan over medium heat and start to gently sauté your ‘shrooms until they’re glistening brown and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the mushrooms are cooked, put them into a casserole pan with a lid and tuck them in the oven to keep warm.
While the mushrooms are cooking, start to fry up your streaky bacon. Heat a large, dry skillet over medium heat and lay down as many rashers as will fit. Flip the slices over when they’re about half cooked and continue the cooking process until they reach your desired crispness. A pan can only hold so many strips of bacon, so after each round drain off the fat and be sure to reserve it off to the side in a small bowl while you continue frying up the rest.
The multi-tasking has begun! By this point, your mushrooms are likely cooked through and you’re done the first round of bacon. Don’t wash those pans!
In the pan that formerly housed your mushrooms, heat just a small amount of oil over medium high heat. Add your bangers (sausage) and fry them up until they’re well browned and cooked through. This takes some time….roughly 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of your sausages. Ours were rather large, because I decided to forgo the pork sausage in honor of a nice stodgy and flavorful beefy cheese and onion sausage.
As the bacon and sausage fry up, add them to the covered casserole dish in your oven to keep warm. Do not clean out or remove the grease from the pans.
And now for….the “black pudding”. What an unfortunate euphemism. This is neither pudding like nor black. Mind you, since black is generally the color of unknown but deliberate evil, it makes sense in this case. Black pudding, for anyone who is not aware, is a type of blood sausage.
I had never had the bullocks to try blood sausage before. In fact, I almost didn’t have the gumption to do it this time either, but I felt that in the interest of authenticity I had to suck it up. Or, rather, fry it up as the case seemed to be.
Blood sausage is usually sliced crosswise into rounds that are about half an inch thick. I sliced them somewhat thicker than that. I don’t know why. I like meaty sausage, so perhaps I was thinking that thicker means tastier and more enjoyable? Instead, it actually meant mealier and more affecting.
Note: Don’t pull a Tina. Slice your sausage 1/2″ thick like you know that you should.
Slice the tomatoes in half horizontally and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and just a wee bit of sugar.
In the pan that housed mushrooms and then sausages, there should be a fair bit of fat. Leave it be. Lay your sliced black pudding into the pan and cluster tomatoes around the perimeter. Because my blood sausage was so thick, I did not add the tomatoes until I was ready to flip the slices over after about 4-5 minutes.
In the mean time, we still have our bacon pan to contend with! See all that bacon grease in the bottom? That’s just pure flavor. Crank the heat up a bit higher and lay down your sliced bread. Fry the bread until it is gently browned on both sides. As with every other element of this breakfast, as the toast is cooked you want to tuck it in the oven to stay warm. One quick note however; wrap the bread in a clean tea towel before it goes in to warm because you don’t want it to dry out entirely.
Bread fried in bacon fat. Yeah. If I get into heaven, it will only be because I went tearing up the road on a crotch-rocket and mowed down St. Peter entirely by accident on my way in. That said, it would totally be worth it, because in heaven you eat bread fried in bacon fat every day, followed by ice cream for lunch. True story.
If you have to cook multiple batches of toast, portion out the bacon fat accordingly from your reserved stash. However, make sure that you have at least 1 tablespoon left at the end.
And now for the eggs! Heat that last tablespoon of bacon fat up in the pan that had bacon and then toast. Turn the heat down somewhat to medium low. Crack as many eggs as you wish into the pan (but no more than 5 or they’ll be too crowded) and cook them off until the whites are set and the yolks are at your preferred consistency. For a true English fry up, the eggs are generally only cooked to a sunny side up. However, I’ll leave that at your discretion. Season the eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
Ah, the final plate. This is what a fry up is all about. You can see why this breakfast is called the Full Monty, right? We’ve got eggs, perfectly cooked with slightly runny yolks to sop up with that bacon fat fried bread, crispy on the outside but fluffy on the inside. There are stodgy beans for the sweet and savory element, juicy tomatoes for a nod in the direction of our hang-overs, and meaty, buttery mushrooms. And then we have bacon. And sausage. AND black pudding. I know many a rugby player that would be beaten by this breakfast, and yet that doesn’t make me crave it any less.
…except for the black pudding. Look at it, eying us all cock-a-doodled down there. Bloody black pudding. Sure, this was my first time eating black pudding and I really tried to keep an open mind. Except for the fact that I couldn’t. Every bite I tasted blood. Highly seasoned and deliciously flavorful blood, mind you, but blood nonetheless. Don’t even get me started on the soft and mealie texture.
Because you are likely to have a fair bit of black pudding still on hand at the end of your meal, might I suggest a few uses for leftover black pudding?
1. Teach vampires the meaning of shame.
2. Crisp it in a pan until it looks even more like little lumps of coal, and then leave it in your sweet heart’s Christmas stocking. Because you secretly wanted to break up for the last four years.
3. Wander aimlessly from blood bank to blood bank, fruitlessly trying to sell the leftover half link, until eventually someone gives you a quarter just to get the hell out.
4. Turn your dog into a vegetarian.
5. Serve it to your in laws. There won’t be any more extended three week visits after that fiasco.
The stodgy English fry up is truly a thing of beauty. I can feel my cholesterol rising in nervous anticipation.
There are many things that over time we have learned from the English (in addition to colonization and the slave trade, if you would believe that!), and they include the brewing of a great pint o’ ale, the supper time passions that only Coronation Street can ignite, and the good old honest joys of a hearty English Fry Up.