Wednesday, 20 February 2013

All that - AND Brown Sauce?

I was driving to work this morning, through the drizzle and the greyness and the occasional four-car pile up, wracking my brain for a subject for today's Blog.

Then it struck me, why not write about something incredibly close to my heart, a subject that has helped to get me through the bad times, and helped the good times feel so much better.

Then I realised that adult ladies gyrating whilst wearing Catholic schoolgirl uniforms probably wasn't very politically correct, so I quickly switched to the Gods given taste explosion that is the cooked breakfast.

Not your namby-pamby continental breakfast, beloved of Johnny European and those who consider themselves upwardly mobile, but the large plate of animal parts and fried accompaniments. To paraphrase the great Mel Brooks - 'A Full English Breakfast is like sex, even when it's bad, it's still good'

Is there anyone out there who doesn't know what constitutes a Full English? (or Full Scottish, for the hairy caber tossers amongst us, or Full Irish for the bog-trotters) Well, if you now are, or ever have, resident in the UK, and you don't know, then I suggest you report to your nearest tall building and commence with the jumping out of the window and the uncontrollable screaming. It's one of this sceptered isle's signature dishes, it's up there with Fish & Chips and Cottage Pie. (Note, it is not up there with Chicken Tikka Masala - Although I'm regularly informed that this is the most popular dish in the UK, and I enjoy it myself, that is Indian food, the clue's in the name.)

For those of you who are still with us, and have geographical reasons for having been excused defenestration, let me describe the standard ingredients:

Sausage: A tube of at least 80% minced meat, encased in a natural skin (OK, there's no way to say this nicely, intestines), bulked up with herbs and bread (Sometimes called rusk), vegetables or cheese. In Scotland this is sometimes replaced or accompanied by Lorne Sausage (or 'Slice') which is pretty much the same, but square.

Bacon: Now, for our American readers, what you term bacon, really isn't what I'm talking about. Over here, we call that 'Streaky' bacon and it's mostly used for cooking with, not eating on its own. I'm talking about what you might call 'Canadian bacon' and can be cooked anywhere between just opaque to 'you can hammer nails in with it', a good breakfast cook will always ask you how you like your bacon, if they do not, you are quite within your rights to roll your eyes, sigh, and find somewhere else to have your breakfast.

Eggs: You cannot have bacon in a breakfast without eggs, it's the law, whether they're fried, scambled or poached (although, in fairness, if you ask for poached, there's a very good chance that the cook will spit in the water as they are a right faff to make properly.)

Beans: Not your normal everyday green fellahs - But, Baked Beans - Oddly, these are usually stewed, not baked, and packaged in tin, with a sweet tomato sauce.

Tomato: There are two camps here, and it can provoke arguments of Blefusucian proportions. One, quite rightly, says that the style of tomato that should be supplied is the skinned, tinned, plum tomato. Meanwhile, heretics and people of reduced mental faculty maintain that you should be given half a grilled tomato, which has the taste and consistancy of a stale slug. Luckily these people are dying out due to the application of the laws of 'survival of the fittest' and food poisoning.

Now, you can sometimes be asked whether you would like beans OR tomato, the correct reply to this is to slap the person across the face and tell them not to be so bloody ridiculous.

Fried Bread: There should always be fried bread and plenty of it, it should be at least an inch thick and cooked in the fat rendered from the sausage and bacon (Which have been fried, not grilled, or griddled, or steamed or microwaved). Those amongst you who have ever been offered fried bread and have opted instead for its insipid cousin 'Toast'... well, I'm afraid you're dead to me now.

There are a number of optional extras that can be offered as part of the breakfast. These include, but are not limited to:

Field mushrooms, Sauteed potato, fried onions, Black pudding (or white pudding if you're squeamish about blood) Hash Browns (For those who have been to America, or shop at Iceland) and bread and butter.

It should also be served with a cup of tea (under no circumstances should you serve it with coffee, this is an offence punishable by flogging, and not the good, Public school, please sir can I have another? kind).

Once you find somewhere that does the perfect breakfast, you should guard it jealously, never tell anyone but your closest, trusted cadre - When places get 'popular' the quality of food often suffers.

You may think that no-one needs to have the cooked breakfast explained to them, but let me leave you with this cautionary tale of a cooked breakfast gone horribly wrong.


I was sat in the breakfast room of the Croyden Hilton enjoying a buffet cooked breakfast which I would say probably ranked about 47 in my top 100 cooked breakfasts. There were many people staying at the hotel that week, including a couple of professional netball teams and a contingency of oriental types who, true to stereotypes, were very quiet and very polite.

My colleague and I were discussing what the day had to offer workwise when I noticed a small, fragile looking oriental girl, probably in her early twenties, approaching the buffet. She looked up and down the selection for a while, then took a large plate and put on some mixed fruits, peach slices, pears and mandarin segments - you know the type of stuff. She then bypassed the cereal, went to the cooked section and loaded up with bacon, eggs and baked beans. I have had meat and fruit before, it's traditional, very popular in fact in Tudor times. But her next addition was a bit of a dealbreaker, she went to the... Well, I'm sure that there's a proper name for them, but they're effectively a bowser that holds the fruit juices and milk, and proceeded to pour the latter onto her breakfast.

She then took the plate to her table, sat down and ate the lot - she had a fairly disgusted expression on her face, and will probably never eat British food again - But you have to admire her tenacity.

So there you go, Quintessentially British food as it should be - Tasty, fattening, comforting and capable of flummoxing even the most inscrutable of foreigners.

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