You may think that a fried breakfast is something that doesn’t need a recipe, but I guarantee that if you follow this one you’ll never regret it.
1. Wake up in a Georgian country house with a hangover of biblical proportions. Slide your arm from beneath the slender alabaster neck of the recumbent debutante and silently pick your way through the detritus of last night’s party to the kitchen.
2. As soft golden sunlight arcs low across the paddock and gilds the chromework of the Aga like melted butter, find a big pan.
3. Heat an unconscionable quantity of oil to a gentle simmer and slip in the freshly made local sausages. Sausages should not be pricked and never fried. The intention is that they should poach in the oil.
4. As the sausages poach make tea. If it is a proper farmhouse there will be a gigantic ‘Brown Betty’ teapot of the type used to fortify British battalions throughout the last Great Unpleasantness. Add a spoonful of leaf tea (need we mention the sordid subject of bags?) for each person and ‘one for the pot’. At this point the kettle will start its song, beginning the process of gently awakening the recovering partygoers. Pour the water over the leaves. The tea serves the same purpose to a hungover Englishman that chicken soup serves to a Jewish New Yorker with a headcold and hives. This is not cooking…it’s an emergency clinical intervention. An Englishman’s mother will offer him tea as first response medical aid even if his arm has been severed by a combine harvester.
5. Move the sausages to the warming oven, pour off all but a light glazing of the oil and begin to brown the bacon. Much has been written about good bacon and I do not propose to repeat it. Suffice it to say…smoked…streaky…thin…crisp. Place in the warming oven when done.
6. Open a can of Heinz baked beans -accept no substitute- these are not so much a foodstuff as an architectural element of the finished plate. Think of beans as colour and a concealer of disheartening flashes of empty plate between meats.
7. Mushrooms and tomatoes may be grilled at this stage but no gentleman would consider eating them. They are vegetables. Vegetables are a form of table decoration. They aren’t food - they go next to food. As the great Dr Johnson should have said ‘Vegetables are what food eats’ and I have no intention of disagreeing.
8. Americans eat hash browns at breakfast. They are disagreeable to an Englishman. I understand that the French, who can make food out of almost anything, use them to sole espadrilles.
9. There are many different ways to cook eggs but most of them are purely of interest to invalids, children and the feeble-minded. The correct or ‘proper English egg’ is fried with lightly browned edges in the fat left over from the bacon. At the last minute, oil is flicked over the top of the yolk to seal it. This dangerous procedure causes the yolk to form a perfect, golden, viscid capsule, the violation of which with a rough shard of toast, is the nearest that an Englishman will permit himself to unbridled sexual ecstasy.
10. While the eggs are being coaxed into tumescence the first of the walking wounded will have arrived in the kitchen. Ignore the bashful looks and tousled hair and administer tea in large quantities. Mugs enable fingers to thaw and many a tryst has been sealed by a coy glance over the chipped china rim. The more robust may be set to the simple task of toast.
11. Working quickly, lay down toast, top with an egg, flank with bacon and sausage and fill the spaces with beans. Serve forth.