The Full English
Author: Ed Schmeltzer
Photographer: Cameron Lam
I’m sure that--as UChicago students--we all are uncomfortably familiar with that oft-repeated adage—that desperate times call for desperate measures. And when you’re devastatingly hungover (not that I have ever had that particular experience before), the measure that always works for me is (super surprisingly if you’ve been reading my previous works) one from my homeland that goes by many names: The Full Monty; The Heart Attack on a Plate; The Full English.
A Full English Breakfast is--when executed correctly-- a thing of horrifically greasy, fried beauty. I’ve seen it claimed that it is the ‘usual breakfast for most people (in Britain) most mornings’, and I can say with confidence that it is amongst the niche category of ‘people who want a heart attack at thirty-five’. For the rest of us, it is akin to a large brunch—eaten maybe onceor-twice a month, but definitely deeply savored during the occasions upon which it occurs.
A Full English isn’t a breakfast that requires a recipe, per se, like waffles or shakshuka. Instead, it is a collection of separate foods working together—a hive mind of delicious, you could say. Some are required, others more optional, but the bare bones are:
Buy (if you can) thick pork sausage links (Cumberland sausages are ideal). General serving size is roughly two sausages per person. To cook, brush them with oil and place on a baking tray. Roast at 400F for 15-20 mins.
This part is deeply important. BUY BACK BACON (Canadian bacon in the States). I cannot stress this enough. If you make this with streaky bacon a mob of angry expats will find you and will make you recook the entire meal. Serving size here is two to three rashers per person.
Baked Beans. Yes, you read that correctly. This is a vital part of the breakfast—it knits everything else together. For best results, find a can of Heinz baked beans. It seems weirdly counterintuitive, but Heinz simply makes fantastic baked beans. Serving size is one quarter to one half of a can per person. To prepare, simply heat through in a saucepan.
Yes, yes. I can hear you now. “Tomatoes aren’t a breakfast food!” Well, in a Full English they damn well are. The acidity of the tomato is vital to cut the fatty richness of almost everything else on the plate. To cook the tomato, brush half of it with oil and broil for 3-5 minutes, taking it out when you start to see a char.
This is pretty uncontroversial. Two to three fried eggs, cooked in oil, not butter. A good trick here is to heat the oil until it is very hot, and when cooking the eggs, spoon the hot oil over the top of the egg. This allows you to keep a runny yolk (vital) and cook the top white.
As befitting the rest of the recipe, the bread should be fried in butter, oil or bacon drippings until golden brown and crispy. Serve two slices per person.
In terms of optional extras, we have a few main contenders:
While not strictly necessary (I often find the combination of fried potatoes and fried bread a bit much, even in this monstrosity), home-fry style potatoes are often served with a Full English to mop up the various sauces that accompany it. To make these, wash and cube a potato, and fry--covered with a lid--in butter for ten minutes, then uncovered for another ten minutes. During this second cooking phase, the potatoes should be flipped a few times to ensure maximum crispness.
Simple and delicious. Sautee some quartered button mushrooms (maybe four or five single mushrooms per person) in butter or oil until browned.
Perhaps the most exotic ingredient, black pudding routinely horrifies Americans. Black pudding is a form of sausage made of pork fat, blood and oats ground together into what can best be described as a form of meat…cake. Alright, I grant that it doesn’t sound great, per se. However, it is genuinely pretty tasty, and I’d definitely encourage you to try it if you can find it. To cook, simply fry lightly.
This breakfast generally takes around half an hour to prepare. For best results, serve with ketchup and brown sauce, mix and match elements of the breakfast when eating, and prepare to go on a juice cleanse for a week after consumption to attempt in vain to make your arteries feel slightly less awful.