This is a traditional "full breakfast" — called "full" because it's not just a measly European "continental breakfast" of coffee, tea, fruit juice, and pastries. The British require meat. The dish has as many names as it has components: It's also called a "full English" or an "English breakfast," "full Scottish," "full Irish," "fry-up" or "Ulster fry." Basically it's just a mess of eggs, bacon, sausages, and other stuff. The other stuff depends on what part of the world you're in.
Irish cookbook author Rachel Allen's version includes black pudding (blood sausage) — a dish that's beloved in that part of the world and should be given a chance in the U.S. — plus mushrooms, tomatoes, toast, and boxty, an Irish potato pancake. You don't have to make all of these components, of course, just what you want and have time for. If your local butcher doesn't have black or white pudding, you can order it online here.
Irish Weekend Fry-Up
A fry-up is great when friends are staying over—simply multiply the ingredients given below by however many people you are feeding. Source the best local ingredients you can and follow up with a big walk. You can have your eggs boiled or poached, if you prefer.
Our family eats an Irish breakfast or some parts of it at least once a week, and not always in the morning. We're lucky to have great producers of bacon and, of course, black and white pudding, which is a particular specialty of Cork County. Black pudding (blood sausage) may be more popular worldwide, but white pudding is very popular in Ireland and an important part of an Irish breakfast. White pudding is similar to black pudding, but it contains no blood—only pork, spices, and usually oatmeal. I love this big cooked breakfast, but it isn't something I'll eat early in the morning before I go for a run!
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Vegetable, sunflower, or olive oil, for frying
Butter, for frying and spreading on toast
2 medium-size pork sausages
2 slices (rashers) thick-cut, dry-cured, smoked or unsmoked, Canadian (back) or regular (streaky) bacon, rind removed
2 ounces (50g) button mushrooms, sliced, or 1 large flat mushroom, stem removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe tomato, halved
Pinch of sugar (if roasting the tomato in the oven)
Boxty (recipe below)
For The Eggs
1 to 2 eggs
½ tablespoon milk (for scrambled eggs)
1 to 1½ tablespoons (5–20g) butter (for scrambled eggs)
2 slices white or whole-grain (brown) bread
Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sausages and fry for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Add the bacon and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden, dabbing off any milky liquid with paper towels. Add the black and/or white pudding slices to the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until beginning to crisp; the white pudding (if using) should turn golden. Remove the sausages, bacon, and pudding slices from the pan and drain on paper towels.
Place in an ovenproof dish in a low oven to keep warm.
Meanwhile, add a dash of oil and pat (knob) of butter to another frying pan over medium heat. Add the button mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened and turning golden. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from the pan and keep warm (adding to the dish with the sausages and bacon). If you are cooking a large flat mushroom, then add the oil and butter to the pan and fry the mushroom for 8 to 10 minutes, turning halfway through, until softened and browned.
Season the cut side of the tomato halves with salt and pepper and drizzle over 1 tablespoon of oil. Gently fry them, cut side down first, for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn over and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes, until just softened.
(Alternatively, you could cook the large flat mushroom and/or the tomatoes in the oven. To do this, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/ Gas mark 6). Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil over or add a pat (knob) of butter to the mushroom and season with salt and pepper before roasting for 12 to 15 minutes until tender. Put a pat (knob) of butter on the cut side of each tomato half, add the sugar, and season with a little salt and pepper before roasting for 12 to 15 minutes, until softened. If you are using the oven, begin roasting the mushroom and tomatoes a few minutes before frying the sausages and bacon. Once cooked, decrease the oven temperature to low for keeping everything warm as it is cooked.)
At this point, make the boxty (recipe below).
To fry an egg, melt a pat (knob) of butter in a small, clean frying pan over low heat. Carefully crack the egg into the pan and allow to fry gently. For an over-easy egg, fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to set, then flip over and fry for another 1 to 2 minutes. If you prefer your egg sunny side up, then fry gently for 4 to 5 minutes, until the yolk has filmed over. Remove from the pan and serve immediately with the other cooked ingredients.
For scrambled eggs, crack the eggs into a bowl, add the milk, season with salt and pepper, and beat together. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to a small saucepan over low heat. Immediately pour in the eggs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring continuously (I find a wooden spatula best for this), until the butter has melted and the eggs are softly scrambled. Remove from the heat immediately so that the eggs don't become overcooked. Serve with the other cooked ingredients.
While the egg is cooking, put the slices of bread in a toaster or toast under a preheated broiler (grill) for a few minutes (and on both sides, if using the broiler/grill) until golden. Butter the toast and cut the slices in half.
To serve, arrange everything on a warm serving plate, with the hot buttered toast on the side and with some tomato ketchup or relish.
Boxty are traditional potato pancakes that are particularly loved in the Northern counties. They can be served as a potato side dish rather than mashed or boiled potatoes or as part of an Irish Breakfast. This is my husband Isaac's take on boxty, he uses cream and not too much flour so they're good and rich.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
1 egg ¼ cup (50ml) light (single) cream 9 ounces (250g) baking or russet
(floury) potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
2 tablespoons (15g) all-purpose (plain) flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (25g) butter
In a bowl, whisk together the egg with the cream. Add the potato and flour, season with salt and pepper, and stir to mix. The mixture will be slightly runny.
Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the potato mixture and cook for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, until the surface is golden brown and the potato is cooked through. Remove to a serving plate and cut into wedges to serve.
Find other recipes by Rachel Allen in her new cookbook, Rachel's Irish Family Food.