I post a lot of food pictures on Instagram and I’ve realised it’s such a weird platform in terms of what people like or comment on. I’ve spent ages in the kitchen cooking up complicated recipes that would put a MasterChef cook-off to shame, then spent hours trying to capture the perfect insta shot, the shot that really represents the time and effort I’ve invested in my dish — only to get just a couple of likes.
On the other hand, a recent post of a fry-up — just plain eggs and sausages — has become my most-liked post. Not quite as many as ‘the egg’, but still a great response.
As I’ve mentioned before in this column, I’ll often get up early and head to the farmers’ market at the weekend, stocking up on fresh vegetables and free-range eggs. Perfect for a good fry-up, which is such a staple of British cuisine, nicknamed ‘The full English’, or ‘Full Monty’ — it’s very much part of a Brit’s weekend. When I lived in London, after a night out friends and I would meet the following day at a local cafe, or greasy spoon, as they’re nicknamed — commonly a no-frills, low-end eatery that serves cheap fried food.
East London boasts some iconic caffs, as they are also known, often family-run businesses passed down through the generations. They are places where gossip is exchanged and friendships are made.
One of my favourites is called E. Pellicci, on the Bethnal Green Road, in the east end. It’s an institution; opened in 1900 it remains a popular hangout, even being awarded Grade II listed status by English Heritage. It’s a tiny space, stuck in time warp; the walls are covered with family portraits and signed pics of local actors. It’s also been a film location for many TV shows. You can guarantee that you’ll be sharing a table with a stranger, making new friends.
There are variations on a fry-up — sausages or ‘bangers’ are a staple, baked beans are a must, Heinz are traditionally the bean of choice. Grilled tomatoes add some colour to the plate, and it is claimed the acidity helps break down the fat in the dish. Halved and fried on both sides, topped with some cracked black pepper. Cherry tomatoes can also be served as an alternative; fried whole they split as they are cooked. Whole button mushrooms sauteed in butter serve as a side, with fried or poached eggs, stacks of buttery toast, and a generous serving of brown sauce. Washed down with a massive mug of coffee.
These are the basics of what may not be the healthiest or most nutritious start to the day, but it does taste delicious. My version alongside tries to add a little nutrition to the breakfast; I’ve used some chicken sausages coated in all-purpose seasoning and dried herbs, I’ve added some steamed spinach picked up from the market, along with free-range eggs. What better way to start the weekend?
Serves two, prep time 15, cooking time 10 minutes.
■ 8 chicken or vegetarian sausages
■ 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
■ 2 tbsp of all-purpose seasoning
■ 1 tsp of dried mixed herbs
■ 12 cherry tomatoes
■ 200g of spinach
■ 300ml baked beans
FOR THE EGGS
■ 4 free-range eggs
■ 1 litre of water
■ 3 tbsp of white vinegar
■ 1 litre of iced water
To poach the eggs, fill a shallow pan with a litre of water and bring to boil.
Turn the heat down and let the water simmer (it should appear to be fizzing but not boiling), then add the white vinegar.
Break the eggs into small cups and slowly pour the egg into the water: let the egg white drop in first, then let the remainder slide into the water.
Cook for 4-5 minutes, then remove from the water and place in iced water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Place the sausages in a bowl and coat with oil, add the seasoning and dried herbs.
Heat a pan over a medium heat and shallow-fry the sausages for 4-5 minutes.
In the same pan fry the cherry tomatoes until soft; they will spit, so cover the pan.
Meanwhile, wash and drain the spinach and place in a bowl with half a cup of water, then cover and cook in the microwave for 5 minutes.
Heat the beans and plate the ingredients — serve with mustard and brown sauce.