Eating a proper Full English Breakfast for the first time is … an experience. When I lived in London and watched Brits happily scooping baked beans (canned!) and eggs and enough meat for 4 people into their mouths, I felt a bit shell-shocked. Baked beans? Mushrooms? Kippers? Bangers? What were those little black things? And where the heck was my coffee??
About three bites into my first English Fry Up, I was hooked. Not for every morning, mind you, but for special belly-palate-busting occasions, I was all in. Part of the issue is the presentation and let’s be real, the black pudding and the baked beans throw all of us Yanks. Who eats baked beans with fried eggs? And black pudding does not resemble anything that we associate with pudding.
The origins of a Full English Breakfast came about in Victorian times. In 1861, Isabella Beeton (like the Victorian Martha Stewart) gave the following breakfast advice in The Book of Household Management:
The following list of hot dishes may perhaps assist our readers in knowing what to provide for the comfortable meal called breakfast. Broiled fish, such as mackerel, whiting, herrings, dried haddocks, &c.; mutton chops and rump-steaks, broiled sheep’s kidneys, kidneys à la maître d’hôtel, sausages, plain rashers of bacon, bacon and poached eggs, ham and poached eggs, omelets, plain boiled eggs, oeufs-au-plat, poached eggs on toast, muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, &c. &c.
I was fresh out of sheep’s kidneys for this particular recipe. You’re welcome.
During World War II, Britain was under heavy rationing and bacon and eggs were scarce, so the tradition of this huge breakfast fell away and did not really see a resurgence until more modern times. Walking through London, you will see signs and sidewalk placards advertising the Full English Breakfast in many pubs and restaurants. For a long time, British food had a bad rap which, in my opinion, was all about ingredients. If you use better quality ingredients, you will have better quality food.
Let’s break it all down and you can make this the centerpiece of your next family breakfast for dinner or Sunday brunch! (Please allow ample time for napping afterwards.)
Eggs – scrambled, fried or poached, this is up to you and your hungry guests. Most British breakfasts offer two eggs and I like my fried eggs with the runny yolk. All the better to soak the toast! Want to get fancy? Try duck eggs as an alternative!
Kippers – I made this recipe as a fun way to incorporate King Oscar Kipper Snacks into your meals. Kippers are are sild herring, wild-caught in the bracing waters of Norway and Canada. They are put through King Oscar’s time-tested traditional salting and smoking process and end up as truly superior kipper snacks. One can has 17 grams of protein and 1.8 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. King Oscar Kippers have a rich, smokey flavor which is an amazing complement to egg yolk and all the pork on the plate! You can find King Oscar Kippers at most grocery stores across the country.
Black Pudding (aka blood sausage) – I became addicted to these little medallions of onions, pork fat, oatmeal, spice and pork blood. When you fry them up in butter, the outside becomes crisp and the inside is slightly soft. It sounds freaky, I know. But with fried eggs? I cannot get enough! That said, black pudding is very hard to find here. Consult with your local butcher or see if there is a British grocery market in your area. I got mine from Emil’s European Sausage in Deerfield Beach. Walter makes everything fresh, fresh, fresh and it shows!
Bangers – a Full English Breakfast is a pork bonanza and cannot be considered “full” without sausages, bangers to be precise. Most Americans are familiar with bangers and mash found at pubs or especially around St. Patrick’s Day. Back in the day (and in places I would not eat today), bangers were pork sausages of lesser quality that would make a pop or bang when cooked as they broke through the casing. My Hungry Goddess heart loves pork too much to even consider that! I love the bangers on offer at Whole Foods throughout the year and that is my recommendation. Can’t find them? Use your favorite breakfast sausage!
Bacon – Bacon is not bacon like we think of bacon in the UK. Nope. They call our bacon “streaky bacon” and their bacon is called a “rasher” from the loin section of the pig. For reference, it is what we would consider a fatty piece of Canadian bacon. To make all of our lives easier, Whole Foods comes to the rescue with a glorious pack of “Irish Bacon” that is exactly what you need. It is addicting in a slightly different way than our bacon and, truly, I could not choose a favorite.
Tomatoes – Fried tomatoes or grilled tomatoes are the only acidic element of the English breakfast. It allows your palate to have a momentary break from all the pork, if you want one.
Mushrooms – Since we put mushrooms in omelettes, I am not sure why having sauteed mushrooms seemed so foreign to me. I like mine lightly sauteed with a bit of butter and garlic and then sprinkled with chives. Heaven and it works. I used baby portobello mushrooms but you could really have some fun by using some more exotic mushrooms.
Baked Beans – Americans have baked beans at a barbecue. We would never dream of having them for breakfast, but perhaps we should. This was another foreign element for me, particularly since the proper baked beans are canned Heinz baked beans. They are all over the markets in the UK and here as well. Again, weirdly, it works. Pork and beans – YUM! Eggs and beans – surprisingly YUM! Toast and beans – rock the YUM! I no longer question, I just enjoy the sweet component that the beans bring.
Toast – pick your favorite bread. I actually used some seedless rye bread that was delicious. I layered the toast with kippers and then laid the fried eggs on top. All the more to soak up the yolk!
As you can imagine, the components of a proper Full English Breakfast vary according to region and personal preferences. You can add potato cakes, fried potatoes, oatcakes, scones, bubble and squeak (leftover veggies fried together), stewed prunes, and whatever else makes you happy at breakfast.
The British tradition that I never quite accepted was tea at breakfast. I had no problem enjoying a lovely cuppa any other time of the day; it was especially fortifying when coming in from a bracing walk on the streets of London during the winter, but for breakfast? Give me coffee or we may have another Boston Tea Party on our hands. Plus, I was considered a bit of a heathen for putting not only cream in my tea but sugar too. If you love your cup of tea with breakfast, Trader Joe’s has Irish tea bags that are the real deal for what you would drink in London. Twinings English Breakfast Tea is pretty fabulous too.
Now for the challenging part … getting it all to the table HOT! I recommend recruiting an extra set of hands and make good use of both the oven and stovetop. You can cook the sausage and bacon ahead of time and keep it warm in the oven and I warmed the kippers in the same pan as the tomatoes.
Cheers to a proper Full English Breakfast!
Thanks to King Oscar who is a Sponsor of the Hungry Goddess – the kippers inspired the Full English Breakfast!
Ingredients (serves 4+):
- 4-8 eggs to be fried (2 per person)
- 1-2 cans of King Oscar Kipper snacks
- 1/3 pound of Black Pudding, sliced thickly
- 4 – 8 Bangers or breakfast sausages
- 4 “rashers” Irish bacon or regular American bacon
- 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced thick
- I pound mushrooms, cleaned and stems trimmed
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 – 2 tablespoons of snipped chives for mushroom garnish
- 1 – 2 cans of Heinz Baked Beans
- 1 – 2 sticks of butter for frying (I used Kerrygold) and buttering the toast
- 4 – 8 slices of bread for toast
- Salt and Pepper to toast
Cook the sausages all the way through and brown in the pan. You can keep them warm in the oven while you prepare the rest of the breakfast. They will take about 15-20 minutes or more depending on size and type of sausage.
Irish bacon will take about 10-15 minutes to your preferred level of crispness. It does not get fully crisp like American bacon – think of it like cooking ham.
Clean and slice the mushrooms thickly and place in a pan with a bit of butter and the garlic. Saute on medium for about 10 minutes.
Slice the black pudding and remove skin. Cook with a bit of butter in the same pan as the sausage for about 5-7 minutes or until crisp on each side.
Begin cooking your eggs – fried or scrambled or poached.
Assign toast to someone to start when you are about 5 minutes until serving! Butter lightly and then place kippers and then eggs on the toast.
Slice the tomatoes and lay flat with a bit of butter or Olive Oil until slightly brown. Takes about 5 minutes. When the tomatoes are frying in the pan, flake the Kippers (not too small!) and place in pan to warm.
Warm the baked beans in a pot – takes about 3-5 minutes.
Serve it all together and ENJOY!