Whether you’re across the pond, at the counter of an American-Irish pub, or in the comfort of your own kitchen, an Irish Breakfast might be in your near-future. A Full Irish Breakfast comes loaded with a history and tradition as rich as its protein-filled plate, and thanks to an article published by Martha Steart’s cooking blog, the culture of the Irish Breakfast is brought to the light of day.
You should approach an irish breakfast with a big appetite, as tradition dictates that this meal consists of four breakfast meats, sunny side up eggs, button mushrooms, baked beans, tomato halves, plenty of toast, rich and golden irish butter, marmalade, and last (but not least) a hot, strong “cuppa,” otherwise known as irish tea with milk.
Though, the above list of ingredients has many variants depending on the specific irishman cooking or taste of those holding the forks, but no matter the specifics, it’s generally accepted that the feast that is the Full Irish Breakfast is not only a sign of enormous hospitality, but it’s also the test of an expert cook, as timing of all of the above to be served at once and remain hot is a tricky needle to thread.
In addition to the meat and eggs that pack a bulk of the plate’s protein is the button mushrooms that are cooked in butter until tender, canned baked beans, and tomato halves that may be pan-fried or broiled, depending on the chef. As for the stack of toast, this can be bread of the soft, pre-sliced variety, known to the Irish as “pan” or it can consist of brown soda bread. In addition to these cooking variations, an observer should be wary if any deep-fat fryers are present, as many prefer to cook their bread in the bacon fat. Though, if you’re in northern Ireland, you may be served a small skillet cake called a “fadge,” which holds a potato in its dough. Lastly, no matter the plating, a true irish breakfast never has hash browns nor what the English and Irish refer to as “chips.”
When cooking the Irish Breakfast, great care must be taken (from sourcing to cooking) in order to avoid an overly-greasy dish. Also, to prepare to serve all finished products at the same time, a careful host should have two skillets and a broiler ready. Begin by frying the bacon so that you can use the let-behind fat to cook the other ingredients, save the eggs which are fried seperately. The slices of bacon (also called “rashers”) are often strips of irish bacon, which is loin or back bacon, and it’s similar to what we call Canadian Bacon, as it’s not as streaked with fat as traditional American bacon. These rashers are accompanied by tender irish sausages, which are stuffed with finely ground pork, breadcrumbs, and herbs. Be careful, as these “bangers,” as they’re known in England, will pop in the hot skillet if they’re not pricked in a few places prior to cooking.
While they both hail from the same continent, the Irish Breakfast and the English Breakfast have striking differences between them despite their immediate similarities, such as the English Breakfast including fried potatoes and the Irish often using sliced black or white pudding. Note, the term “pudding” here is misleading, as these resemble fat, country-style sausages. The iron-rich, incredibly savory ingredient has a history in Ireland, as it substituted many country-diets during leaner times. The second half of the 20th century saw the industrialization of these foods with every Irish county’s butchers and artisanal producers producing sausages, puddings, breads, and preserves with local ingredients to supply chefs with what they need for a protein-rich breakfast to start the day “Irish Right.”
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