I know this is a controversial thing to write, but forgive me – I cannot resist it. You know the stock I place in honest. And I have seen the face of god in breakfast form. And coming from an Englishwoman, you won’t quite believe what I have to say.
I love a full English breakfast. One of my favourite in Leicester is at James’ Cafe Bistro on East Bond Street, whose sauteed rosemary potatoes really make the dish. I love the Great British Fry Up because there are so many variations of delicious ingredients that can be included and we can argue until the cows come home what is, and is not, traditional.
The hash brown, for example, is often held up as an American intruder on our plates, where the great British banger holds court alongside traditional back bacon. But for me, the ideal Full English would probably have a cheeky hash brown – at the expense of fried bread which is just a little too greasy for me. However, fried bread is no doubt a deal breaker for some.
For well over 100 years, the English of all classes have celebrated the intense corporeal joy of a cooked breakfast. Sadly, in our time-poor modern lives, most people have to confine this treat to the weekends – but in some way that helps to preserve its sanctity.
The Full English is NOT the best breakfast in the world
It may surprise you to know that I do not think the English Breakfast quite makes it as the best in the world. During a trip with the Guild of Food Writers this weekend, I discovered that it is in fact the Irish Breakfast that is the epitome of early morning eats.
How can I have such confidence?
It’s really quite simple. The Irish breakfast has everything that an English breakfast has…. And some extra goodies which are real head turners. It is an English Breakfast ++ (in the parlance of our Brexit stricken times). Known in most quarters of Northern Ireland as the Ulster Fry, it is a thing of indulgent beauty.
Quite frankly, you can keep your white sliced, or even your Tiger bloomer. If I can have a hunk of fresh soda bread or a light, fluffy potato bread farl instead of bog standard bread, I’ll take it. Here we see two very traditional Irish recipes being put to excellent use as bean juice moppers on the fast breaking plate.
Why stop at black pudding?
Black pudding is an incredibly important part of the breakfast plate. It’s lightly spiced savoury flavours are, for me, an integral and vital part of a cooked breakfast. You cannot have a true cooked breakfast without black pudding. The Irish agree, and took this to the next level. Serving both black pudding and white pudding.
White pudding is made with oatmeal, pork, onion and spices. I understand that this is traditionally a dish from the Republic of Ireland, but it seemed pretty all pervasive on every Ulster Fry I saw. Adding a little more kick than its blood soaked cousin, I am absolutely in love with the opportunity to add more meaty, savoury flavour – and ideally a little more texture if you take the time to let it crisp in the pan.
Locally sourced breakfasts at Slieve Donard
This week I had the pleasure of a breakfast with a view, staying at the Slieve Donard in County Down. Of course a locally sourced breakfast is not unique to Northern Ireland – everywhere in the UK has places that provenance fantastic local ingredients for their breakfasts. However, I particularly liked how this hotel made the most of it by placing a leaflet called ‘Who made my breakfast?’ on every table.
This featured all of the local producers, from the Waggle Dance Honey that is available to go atop your porridge, to the nearby Carnbrooke Meats who supply the delicious Honeybee sausages. The tea, the mushrooms, the oats – pretty much everything in the breakfast buffet is listed.
If you want to find out more about the rich food culture of Northern Ireland, then check out Food NI who were the generous sponsors of my trip. They have a great set of listings of producers and foodie experiences to check out on their website.
But why end the controversy there?
In case you were wondering what the other good breakfasts are, here is the definitive list. And a hierarchy of cooked breakfast ingredients. Don’t @ me.
- The British Cooked Breakfast – Irish, English, Scottish then Welsh
- Staffordshire Oatcakes
- Eggs Benedict
The Official Cooked Breakfast Hierarchy
The definitive truth about the hierarchy of breakfast. By me, for me. Don’t @ me.