How to... Cook the perfect Ulster Fry
James Bell, head chef at St George’s Market Bar & Grill, tells us how to get Belfast’s best breakfast just right.
It’s the meal that made Ulster. The traditional fry up that set up millions for a day of hard work or play.
Two fried eggs, the all-important lightly browned potato and soda bread, perfect pork sausages, crispy bacon, black and white pudding and a juicy red tomato– a great start to any day.
It’s also the perfect recovery the morning after an evening of over indulging.
But getting an Ulster Fry just right is a delicate art.
Ahead of Farmhouse Breakfast Week, head chef at St George’s Market Bar & Grill James Bell tells us how to get the breads crispy and those sausages brown.
And his key secret?
"The real skill in a great end result is cooking the entire meal in the one pan, thus securing and sealing the flavour throughout the whole cooking process."
Pan fry in cold pressed rapeseed oil. It's clean, taste-free and has an extremely high burning point, which is important when cooking all of your ingredients in one pan.
(It is also 50 per cent healthier than olive oil, high in heart healthy mono & polyunsaturated fats Omega 3,6 &9, contains plant sterols – thought to contribute to help lower cholesterol and is high in Vitamin E, which is great for the skin).
Place your large heavy based frying pan on a low and slow heat, producing a light sizzle, and above all you do not want your oil spitting. You want to thoroughly cook your ingredients.
Begin with your small drizzle of rapeseed oil in the pan. When it’s hot, place your two sausages in gently, turning occasionally to colour all the way round for a nice even flavour, do this for approximately eight minutes.
Bacon is next in the pan, adding a brilliant flavour that is hard to beat.
Add two rashers of bacon to the pan – we use thick-cut back bacon, as it’s less fatty than streaky, but everyone has their preferences.
Don’t flip your bacon too early, wait for the colour to appear on the edges first. Colour = flavour
If you’re after something a bit healthier, grilling it is a good option. Either way, cook it until it’s crispy, but not brown and burnt.
This is what many of our visitors say they miss most when they leave Northern Ireland – the potato and soda bread.
Place them in the pan to absorb the wonderful flavours. The soda will soak up the delicious favours and the potato bread will brown on the outside and soften wonderfully the in the middle.
If you can buy them on the vine do so, as they retain their firmness and flavour for longer.
Tomatoes should always be a little crispy (there’s nothing worse than a soggy tomato sulking on your plate). This will be achieved if you place them alongside your breads and cook for several minutes.
Black and white puddings
The Black Pudding is an acquired taste, but the flavour and texture is so rich and interesting and a real favourite. White pudding is very similar to black pudding, but does not include blood. Consequently, it consists of pork meat and fat, suet, bread, and oatmeal formed into the shape of a large sausage and sliced.
Pop both your black and white pudding in the pan and continue to cook everything for a couple more minutes – after 2-3 minutes, flip everything over.
Two perfect ‘runny’ eggs for me are the perfect complement to the dish – however, everyone has their own preference.
After a further 2 minutes cooking, move all the ingredients into a warmed oven, on a warmed plate to keep hot while you quickly clean your pan.
You want fresh oil to fry your eggs.
Crack two large free-range eggs into your pan, pop a lid on to cook the top, and voila!
St George's Market Bar & Grill sources its bacon, black and white puddings from local, free-range farm Pheasants Hill. It sources its breads from Chrissie, a local baker and stallholder at the market who uses old-fashioned recipes using buttermilk, all handmade on her farm in Killinchy.