The British Fry Up
“To eat well in England, you should have breakfast three times a day.”
W. Somerset Maugham
Someone once described the Miles Davis album “Kind of Blue” as the answer to the cosmic question, “What is jazz?” In the same way, the question, “What is the quintessential British breakfast?” elicits one simple answer: “the fry up.” The subject of much controversy, the meal, also known as “the full English,” has been both reviled as “a national disgrace” (The Guardian) while also upheld as “the healthiest breakfast of all” (The Daily Mail). Few meals are more filling and more satisfying. Packed with protein and laden with salty fat, the fry-up is most often served at breakfast, but can be enjoyed at any time of the day, provided it is served with a strong, scalding cup of tea.
A traditional English fry up consists of fried egg, bacon, sausage, fried bread, grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and baked beans. Black pudding (aka blood sausage) is an optional extra. I should explain that American bacon is quite different from British bacon. American bacon comes from the pork belly, and is known to the British as “streaky bacon” because of its higher fat content. British bacon is a combination of pork loin and pork belly, which means it tends to have more meat and less fat, making it more ham-like. Consequently, it does not achieve the same level of crispiness as American bacon. Horses for courses, as we like to say (translation: to each their own).
Note: This meal will require HP sauce, so make sure you have some on hand.
- 2 large eggs
- 4-6 rashers of bacon
- 2 thick pork sausages
- two tomatoes
- 4 oz white mushrooms
- 2 pieces good quality white bread
- 1 tin vegetarian baked beans (Heinz is the standard in Britain, but Bush’s works well.)
- Vegetable oil
- Worcestershire sauce
- Cook bacon according to package instructions. I like to put my bacon in the oven to cook, on a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Sausages can be cooked on the stovetop or in the oven. The meat should be started first, since it takes the longest to cook, approximately 15-20 minutes.
- Cut tomatoes into two-inch chunks and mushrooms in half.
- Heat 1/2 Tbsp oil in small frying pan. When oil is heated, toss in mushrooms and sauté for two minutes, then add tomatoes.
- Cook over medium heat until vegetables are almost tender, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add few dashes Worcestershire sauce, cook for an additional minute, then remove from heat.
- Empty tin of baked beans in saucepan and heat slowly while other ingredients are cooking.
- For fried bread, heat 1/2 Tbsp oil in frying pan until it begins to sizzle, then add bread and cook 2-3 minutes per side until golden and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- In same frying pan, adding more oil if necessary, crack two eggs, taking care to keep them from running together. Cook until desired consistency. I prefer a runny yolk and firm white, so I flip my egg ever-so briefly, then take it off.
- Assemble egg, meat, bread, vegetables, and beans on large plate and serve with aforementioned tea and HP sauce.
- With so many elements, timing can be an issue, but you can always keep one item warm in the oven (on low) while other bits and pieces are coming together.
- Tuck in!
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