Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink 2016 kicked off this month with a breakfast theme. Events have been held throughout the region to celebrate the most important meal of the day. They included Ulster Fry days and eating establishments doing special deals.
James Street South cookery school, in Belfast, hosted a free breakfast cooking class with chef Niall McKenna and passengers on the Belfast to Dublin train were treated to samples of the Krazi Baker’s delicious griddle breads served with Kennedy Bacon from Omagh.
Each month will be themed during this iconic culinary year, including Love Local for February, Love Dairy in June and a Harvest theme for October. You can find all the details on Tourism NI or Food NI websites. It was fitting that a year to showcase our food would begin with breakfast as the essence of our food here is the traditional Ulster Fry. You will not be served this anywhere else on earth.
For me crispy dry cure bacon, succulent, local sausages, a pert egg with runny yolk, mushrooms fried in butter, grilled tomato and soda bread and potato bread fried in the bacon fat is a symbol of everything we do best here.
You’ll get fried pan bread and beans on your fry in England but we do it properly here!
It’s encouraging that skilled butchers are curing their own bacon here now to go alongside the tradition of sublime sausages that goes back generations. The fat is perfect to cook and flavour the breads. A crime against the Ulster fry, even worse than beans, is deep frying the bread – it makes it slightly dense with fat, corrupts the flavour and takes away from the fluffy texture.
When you stay in a hotel its tempting to have the full fry in the morning of a week day but on these occasions I try to resist. Thankfully a lot of places now are catering for this. Last week in the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, for example, I had wheaten toast, skimmed with Clandeboye yoghurt, topped with sliced avocado and a poached egg on the side.
Looking around me most people were eating muesli and drinking smoothies and juices. The fry should be saved for the weekend as a treat when you really appreciate it.
Porridge is probably one of the best ways to start your day – with a little honey for sweetness and some fruit on top. It’s slow release so fills you up and is a good way of lowering your cholesterol (assuming you don’t add cream!)
I’ve included oats in two of my recipes this week – one for oatmeal and raisin pancakes and the other for treacle and oat farls. Everybody loves a pancake or a farl and if you can make them a bit healthy, without harming the taste, it’s always a good thing.
My other recipe is for kedgeree – an old fashioned breakfast of rice, smoked fish, curry and eggs. It makes for a lovely, slightly spicy breakfast and will make you think you’re in a stately home like Downton Abbey!