There’s something about eating a Full English breakfast which appeals to us all, it’s almost as if for all the Continental pastries and cereals and/or fruit, only a fry-up can be considered to be a PROPER breakfast. Perhaps it’s because we feel some sort of national pride because it’s called a Full English (to which there are also other National variants like the Full Irish, the Ulster Fry or the Full Scottish Breakfast), perhaps it’s because (IMHO) the smell of bacon cooking is one of the most wonderful smells in the culinary world – I’ve known plenty of vegetarians whom have come close to giving in from the smell of bacon frying, perhaps it’s because on cold mornings (and climates) we feel the need to have something filling and would sustain us through the day until lunchtime without the need to snack in between. Whatever the reason, I’ve yet to meet someone whom doesn’t like a fried breakfast.
What goes into a Full English is a matter of personal preference; I think it should have at least bacon, sausage, egg (fried or scrambled), tomatoes (grilled or tinned), mushrooms and toast. Beans I can live with or without but I would rather there weren’t too many of them on the plate, oh and you always have tea with your Full English – Coffee is just wrong. Sometimes I like black pudding with my fry ups but I rarely find one that I like (Apparently, people in the Midlands like large chunks a of lard in their black pudding but that doesn’t appeal to me). Oh, and I don’t really get the fried bread thing, either. I mean, why would you go for something which is basically a sponge filled with grease rather than toast? And no, smothering your toast with lashings of butter or margarine isn’t the same.
Needless to say, fry ups are exceedingly calorific so it’s not really something you would eat every day (at least if you want to live past your 40th Birthday), but I still like them as a treat every now and then. Every Christmas Day morning, we like to have a decadent fry up with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms – complete with breakfast Champagne or Bucks Fizz. I particularly remember going to the Wholesale Markets with my Dad when I was younger and despite being bored stupid waiting for him as he bought produce for the shop, or trying not to get run over by the forklift trucks zipping around everywhere, I would particularly love going to the market café with him and having a breakfast. I have very fond memories sitting in the chair/booth-thingy and eating sausage, egg and some bread – dousing the whole thing with vinegar like my Dad would.
One of the most spectacular breakfasts I ever had was in a caff in Preston; rather than bacon you were given thick tranches of gammon, the sausages were thick and meaty, the eggs had a perfectly runny yolk and they also made some potato cakes. All this and some beans, grilled tomato, black pudding and some mushrooms washed down with a pot of tea, it set a very high bar for all Full English’s consumed since. Oh, and I don’t think I ate until much later that evening so it’s probably a good thing that such breakfasts are not a regular thing¬
Sadly, the demise of greasy spoons also means that there aren’t too many places where you can get a decent fry up anymore. Yes, you can go to hotels but I object to paying anything more than £6 for a fry up. Go to double figures and I would pretty much expect the eggs to be at least freshly laid before cooking. Even in my office, we used to have hot breakfast sandwiches delivered every Friday but the quality has been so poor that we’ve had to stop – And we haven’t found a suitable replacement who also delivers to the office since. So, to find somewhere that does a decent fry up is something to be treasured (as far as I’m concerned) and every now and again, you find some real gems.
A recent trip to the Wholesale Market with YKL saw us needing to eat, so we made our way to the market café. As far as I was concerned, there’s only one thing to order – A full english breakfast. YKL only wanted a bacon and egg sandwich but seeing that it was £5.50 for bacon, sausage, egg, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, a choice of toast or fried bread and tea or coffee, she went for a full english too. We sat down and admired the strong tea, then reminisced at how the old café that we used to go to as kids was upstairs in one of the buildings. After a short wait, a breakfast was called out to be collected so YKL went off, I heard her say to the woman “Is that ONE? Is there another one coming?” I thought it was a bit of an odd thing to say until she came over with a plate that was more of a serving platter than a plate. Now I’m not sure about you, but if I ever order a full english breakfast I would expect a couple of sausages – maybe 3 of them, a couple of rashers of bacon, 1 egg and a small scoop of beans and tomatoes, perhaps a few mushrooms? Never in my life would I have thought that we’d get: 4 fried eggs, 6 sausages, 4 rashers of bacon. What’s more, the (large spoons) of beans, tomatoes and mushrooms were nestled UNDERNEATH the protein – That’s right, this full english was double layered.
YKL and I were initially in shock, this one portion was big enough for us both to share – And we had another one coming. YKL went over to see if we could get a stop to that one but they had already started it – Which suggested that there wasn’t enough room on the grill initially to cook more than one breakfast at any one time (hardly surprising given the size of one breakfast). YKL and I couldn’t even finish one of these breakfast behemoths so we asked them to do the other breakfast ordered as a takeaway. The takeaway version had an extra egg, presumably to make up for the fact that we didn’t get any toast, like we were lacking in protein..
Another trip to the wholesale market resulted in the discovery of another café within the market so I thought I would give that a try. Seeing as the Full English here was £3.50 and it actually listed how much of each item you got, I was much safer. The resulting 2 sausages, 3 rashers of bacon, 1 egg, sausages and tomatoes with 2 slices of toast and tea was even manageable for a mere mortal such as myself
Another factor to consider is whether you go for condiments or not; As previously mentioned I used to liberally douse my breakfasts with malt vinegar mainly because I wanted to mimic my Dad but I like to think that it was because I liked the taste and this probably fuelled my passion for pickled things as an adult. I didn’t really get into the condiment game until much later in life but I am definitely a HP sauce kind of gal when it comes to fry-ups. I like tomato ketchup in a fried egg sandwich or with chips, but any fry-up I eat demands HP (or brown) sauce. Hell, even adding some HP sauce to (not very nice) baked beans can make them taste nicer! Thinking about it now, my love for HP sauce probably stems from adding malt vinegar to my food as a child – The contrast of the savoury taste from the sausages or the salty bacon to the fruity piquant punch from the HP sauce is very similar to that from eating malt vinegar.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a big fan of fry-ups and I do like to treat myself to a Full English every now and again if I am by a greasy spoon or something. At home though, I like to keep it quite simple, so sausages, egg and mushrooms – possibly some toast and bacon as a breakfast treat if I know that I’m going to have a lazy day. But whatever it is, there’s no denying that a decent breakfast outs you in good stead for the day, and there isn’t much better than a fry-up for breakfast.