Full English Breakfast


When you hear ‘The Full Monty’ you automatically think of steel workers on stage, ripping off their leathers, right? Yeah, me too. But here in the UK, the ‘full monty’ is a phrase that far predates that film. It means ‘the whole shebang’, going ‘whole hog’, the ‘whole nine yards’ in American-speak. Now, that can refer to getting butt-naked, of course, but it is also used to denote a breakfast that has just about everything in it you could eat and more.

More often called the ‘full English’ or a ‘fry-up’, this is the fuel that the country runs on. It is the breakfast of blue-collar workers across the British Isles, served up in greasy ‘caffs’ (diners) along with sweet, milky tea, and it is what you’ll be offered when you stay in a British Bed & Breakfast.

The typical ‘full English’ consists of bacon, sausage, fried tomato, fried mushrooms, toast and eggs ‘how you like them’.  The sausage will sometimes be replaced or supplemented with black pudding – I used a blood pudding sausage, which was a hybrid of regular pork sausage and blood pudding. Oh, and let’s not forget the baked beans. Yes, that’s right. Baked beans. All served up with toast (or sometimes fried bread, just in case there wasn’t enough fried food in there), a selection of jams and marmalade, tea and/or coffee.

Even after living here for nearly a decade, I’d never made a full fry-up until now. I’ve had them, of course, or at least some of their components, when we’ve played tourist on overnight road trips. The irony is that my ideal breakfast is really very simple – a crust of good bread, apricot jam and coffee. But for some reason, when the Full English is offered up, I can’t refuse. The complete antithesis of my ideal and yet totally irresistible – why? I think it’s like George Mallory said when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest: “Because it’s there.”

Yes, this could easily be called the ‘Everest of Breakfasts’ – very challenging indeed. And not just to the eater. Having now tackled this beast, I certainly have a great deal more respect for the hard-working B&B owners across the country who do this every day. The main problem, for me at least, was timing. So many bits and bobs to cook up and then keep warm while you’re doing the rest. I did ok, but my toast was dry and crusty by the time I got the eggs done and the lot on the table. Not to mention the monstrous, greasy mess of a kitchen I faced when it was all over.

I’d say I’ll do better next time but frankly I’m not making this again. I’m quite happy to revert to our old pattern of enjoying it once in a blue moon, in a good old British B&B. And if you’re hankering to give this a go, I’d suggest you book yourself a ticket and do the same. If, however, you’re stubborn and and determined, then here’s the list of things you’ll need:

Eggs, scrambled or fried (1 or 2 per person)
Tomatoes, halved and then fried (1/2 per person)
Sausage and/or blood pudding (1 per person)
Bacon (1 or 2 strips per person) – note that traditionally ‘back’ bacon (what Americans call ‘Canadian’ bacon) is used, but increasingly ‘streaky’ or ‘crispy’ bacon is offered as an option. I used streaky because that’s what we prefer.
Mushrooms, fried (I used 1 portobello per person)
Baked beans (I used Heinz – 1 can for 4 people)
Toast (2 slices per person)
Selection of jams/marmalade
Coffee/tea/orange juice
A defribillator, just in case…