The Ubiquitous Irish Fry
When I first came to Ireland a few years ago, it was straight from Korea where I had been living for nearly three years. I craved Western food, real beer, and being able to understand what people around me were saying.
I was slightly nervous, since I would be meeting Patrick’s family for the first time, but for the most part I was relieved to be leaving Asia and couldn’t wait to indulge in some home comforts. A real shower! In the apartments where ESL teachers live in Korea, the entire bathroom is a shower with a nozzle on the wall and a drain in the floor. A great way to keep your bathroom clean and dust-free, but it would never compare to a Western-style shower or, even better, a bath.
Being in Korea, there were obvious food items you didn’t often get to indulge in, and even when you could, the quality would not compare to that of home. Butter, for example. Cheese. Bread. Food in Korea was phenomenal and I’m always craving a good Kimchi Jiggae, but when it came to bread and dairy it just never hit the spot.
That’s why, as we descended into Dublin that cold September evening, I was looking forward to my first Irish fry.
Patrick had talked it up, of course. Actually, it was all he could talk about. He couldn’t wait to have a proper fry up. Sure enough, we stayed with Pat’s auntie that evening and the next morning enjoyed our first of many Irish fry up’s together. It was worth the 11 hour flight and the jetlag. We felt whole again.
In Ireland, a “proper fry up” always includes rashers. Rashers aren’t like the bacon we have in Canada, they’re more thickly sliced and slightly less fatty. You can still get Canadian style bacon, or streaky bacon, here, but rashers are very much loved by every Irish person I’ve ever met; you don’t see a lot of streaky bacon at breakfast.
Puddings are another component to the Irish fry. At home in Cape Breton we eat these at breakfast, too, but they’re called marag. You get the puddings in white or black – black is made with blood, and white is made without. Both are delicious, especially if they’ve been home-made. I would say the puddings are my favourite part of an Irish fry.
Sausages feature as well. They’re smaller and paler than breakfast sausages in Canada and mostly made with pork.
That’s a lot of meat on one plate, but don’t worry – usually, you’ll find fried mushrooms and broiled tomatoes as well. A sunny-side up egg or two and a few slices of Irish brown bread, and you’ve got yourself a breakfast feast that will keep you going til supper. In Northern Ireland, you can expect some potato farls thrown onto the plate for good measure.
We don’t indulge in a morning fry up very often, but as our friend was down over the weekend I bought some rashers, puddings and sausages and we had them for our Saturday morning breakfast. As always, I cooked enough for about ten people (coming from restaurant kitchens I cook everything in bulk; I can’t help it). I kept the leftovers and, for our Sunday breakfast, made a lovely strata with chunks of homemade sourdough, sauteed onion, cheddar cheese and the extra rashers, sausages, puddings and mushrooms.
It tasted lovely, and was even better served with a dollop of Ballymaloe Relish. Here’s the recipe:
Irish Fry Strata
1/2 loaf sourdough or any type of bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
Leftover rashers, black/white puddings, sausages and mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 cup grated Irish cheddar
8 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
1 tsp chili flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 small onion, diced
- Butter a large glass baking or casserole dish. Add the cubed bread to the dish.
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil and soften the diced onion. Add the chopped rashers, sausages, puddings and mushrooms. Heat through.
- In a bowl, add the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, mustard and chili. Whisk until combined and frothy.
- Add the sauteed onions, mushrooms and meats to the casserole dish, spreading evenly over the bread.
- Pour the egg mixture over the bread and meats. Top with grated cheddar cheese.
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight in the fridge. You want to bread to soak into the egg mixture completely.
- The next morning, preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan). Bake the strata for about one hour, until the top is bubbly and golden and the casserole is cooked through.