The Perfect English Breakfast
Updated: May 20
I generally try to avoid fried morning meals. As the journey past middle-age unfolds an underlying grief for svelte 30inch waists, allows no such indulgence. Perhaps a single ascetic boiled egg on high and holy days.
But when a struggle through the haze of alcohol toxins is required, with the express intention of throwing waistlines to the wind, gorging on a delicious Full English breakfast is essential. And it should start with a shock to the system in the form of a Bloody Mary. Something to surprise the palate. Shake off surfeit. All the sharpness and edges of horseradish, vodka and lemon, tempered by the pot pourri of celery salt and assured in the sombre experience of sherry and rich tomato.
A fried breakfast needs to pack a punch. Sufficient to see off bilious reflux and rising nausea. It should be a flavoursome, enriching ballast. A mix of soul food and blood strengthening fuel. It’s said that cooking bacon is the most universally tempting smell in Western cuisine. Enough to see you through the newspapers, an afternoon movie and induce afternoon slumber.
I have been heard to pretentiously claim that I would never eat a raw tomato outside Italy because mostly what we have are tasteless forced varieties. However, they are vital in a fry up. Sizzling in a slew of extra virgin oil and garlic, reduced to messy red, slightly burned sludge they infuse the whole with an aromatic and breakfasty colour.
So for breakfast worth a hero’s return here goes. Take your best (cooking should always be like going on a date), deepest and widest pan and cover the base in a puddle of the finest olive oil you can find. Chuck in a knob of butter for nutty good measure. Slice in a clove of garlic, chopped fresh sage, salt and fresh broken peppercorns. When it’s browning, add halved tomatoes – baby plum or just something with a chance of flavour. As they cook, press them down with the back of a spoon so that the juices escape into the oil. While they sizzle, soak slices of bread in the rusty coloured oil and allow to brown on both sides. Add the mushrooms now if you want. Get all the water out of them – they should be like chewy toffee - crisp, buttery fungi; you might even use slices of truffle or finely chopped porcini to marshal that big nosey flavour to your eggs.
Meanwhile grill – only the finest – sausages and bacon. Ensure the fat is well-done and the bacon rind is crisp. But don’t overcook them. When you are ready to serve it all, make some space in the pan and drop in your eggs – the oil needs to be hot enough for them to ‘seize’ on the spot and not spread out everywhere. At this point you can shower the wafers of truffle or chopped porcini on the whites. If you like them sunnyside down, flip them over. Otherwise pop them on to the crisp bread nestling in the tomatoey goo and mushrooms.
Life will be as new.