We’ve reached the eve of another (another!) restricted, constricted, and COVID-fraught St. Patrick’s Day. If you miss the idea of starting the morning by jostling your way through a crowded bar for your first green beer of the day, we’ve got another idea. You can make today special by recreating that staple of B&Bs all over the Emerald Isle: the Full Irish Breakfast. Here are all the elements to fill up your plate, but feel free to mix and match any way you’d like. And don’t forget to schedule in a nap for later in the afternoon, because you’re going to need it.
Hot cereal made from any grain is called porridge, but the Irish have a special way with oatmeal. The top brand in Ireland, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, founded in 1785, is available in the United States, with both quick-cooking and steel cut varieties. You’ve got enough to do in the kitchen today, so go with the ready-in-three-minutes type. You’ll need all that fiber to lay a base for what’s about to happen to your digestive system.
If you want to be truly authentic, you’ll need to pan-fry the holy begorrah out of pretty much every other ingredient in this meal. (They don’t call it a “fry up” for nothing). Located the skillet? Great. Before you dive into cooking, here’s a pro prep tip from chef, blogger, and cooking teacher Shelagh Mullen, who has studied at the Dublin Cookery School. “I learned that people in Ireland put their plates in the oven on a low setting as they’re starting to cook a meal,” she says. “It makes such a difference to serve everything on a warm surface.” She suggests putting your oven on its lowest setting, around 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and letting your china plates warm up for 15 minutes or so. (If you try this with the plastic picnic plates, it just shows that you can’t have nice things, so you have to eat Grape-Nuts now.)
Your first protein is a serving of delicate diva-like eggs, accompanied on all sides by the muscle-bound bodyguards of four (yep, four) kinds of meat. You can offer up a small serving of each one or pile it on and risk some old-school mid-morning meat sweats.
Black pudding: Of course it isn’t really pudding, because that would be gross at breakfast. Instead, black pudding is pig blood and fat mixed with oatmeal—which is totally okay. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can make black pudding at home (check out this recipe from David Bowers’ Real Irish Food) but if you lack access to fresh pig blood and suet, buy a ring online. Try Tommy Moloney’s brand, which is imported from a Limerick butcher. Toss at least one slice per person into the skillet and cook until you see lots of crispy bits.
White pudding: No blood here, no way, no how. Okay, there is a teeny bit of suet. And pork. And did we mention liver? But definitely no blood. You can make it yourself or buy it, but make sure it’s sliced up nicely and fried to a fare-thee-well, then place it right next to that black pudding on your plate. Now you’ve achieved pudding Zen, carnivorously speaking.
Bangers: The story is that they’re called bangers because during World War I, meat shortages forced butchers to get creative with the fillers they added to sausages. Pumping them full of water, it turned out, caused them to explode occasionally during cooking. Authentic Irish bangers are made with pork, breadcrumbs, and spices. You might be able to find them locally, even at Costco, or you can buy them online. Enjoy your non-exploding meat, but be sure to leave room on the plate for rashers, mate.
Rashers: You can use “streaky bacon,” which is what the Irish call American-style bacon, but to be truly authentic, you’ll want what the Irish call “rashers,” which comes from the back of the pig, not the belly.
A popular brand over there is Donnelly, but if you can’t find it, Canadian bacon is fine.
Tomatoes and mushrooms: More decoration than nutrient, these babies are fried up with all the meat juices, so yum, but you’ll need to shove them to one side to make room for all that meat. You might want to run that tomato slice through the broiler so it gets nicely browned on top.
Baked beans: Look, you’re already planning to eat something made out of pig blood, so don’t stop now. Batchelors is Ireland’s leading brand, but if you can’t find a tin (see what we did there?) at your local grocery store, just pick up the store brand and move on. You’ve still got several more items to prep, and you need to keep up your energy.
Look at that plate, just swimming in deliciousness that needs to be sopped up with a nice, spongey carbohydrate. Lucky for you that you’ve already baked a full basket of scones, farls, and soda bread. This is definitely one part of the breakfast where make-it-yourself makes a difference. Shelagh Mullen, she of the warmed plates, has adapted these Full Irish must-haves with ingredients you can find at a local grocery store.
Mullen says that shape definitely matters. “If you want your scones to be authentic, you need to cut them in circles, not triangles,” she says. If you’re really more of a wedge person, and we’re casting no judgment there, consider soda farls, a northern Irish specialty that are allowed, nay mandated, to be rolled out and cut into four triangular sections. “The soda bread is really best eaten the day you make it, but if you bake it a day ahead, it will perk up nicely after some time in the toaster,” she says. Mullen, of course, has her own scone, farl, and soda bread recipes.
Whatever bread you’re baking, Mullen suggests serving it with Kerrygold butter and a nice thick layer of jam, just to maintain your strength. Chivers jams and marmalades are Ireland’s top-seller, in business since 1932; in the U.S., they’re sold in Irish specialty shops and online. Smucker’s also goes well with pig blood too, or so we’ve heard.
Tea: Serve hot cups of Barry’s tea, founded in 1901 and the most popular brand in Ireland. Pour in plenty of whole milk, because you’ve already come this far, why go through the effort of reaching for that soy milk at the back of the fridge? Not today.
Something else: Oh, you’re that kind of thirsty, are you? If we’re being truly authentic, we wouldn’t say no to a wee drop of Irish whiskey to settle the blood a bit. Jameson is the world’s top seller. If you like your whiskey to come with a story, consider Two Gingers, created by Irish expat Kieran Folliard and named for two redheads in his life, his mother Mary and aunt Delia.
You worked your way right through this meal like a true trencherman. Raise your teacup—no matter what’s in it now—and let’s toast to a better holiday next year, which is about how long it will take you to digest all this food.