How to Cook a Healthy Full English Breakfast
The Injustice of It All
Why, oh why is the food of England so often maligned and scoffed at? The foods of other countries and cultures are celebrated and well documented.
I searched the shelves of my local library for cookbooks—there were dozens of titles for Italian, French, Indian, and Chinese cuisine. But the Brits? One copy of Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver.
To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.— W. Somerset Maugham
Why? Could It Be That...
1. The ingredients are inexpensive.
Many of the foods we call "English" are comfort foods of the common family, made with simple, easy-to-prepare ingredients.
2. It's not French.
Typical English meals do not consist of elaborate sauces and unpronounceable techniques. (Snobby is as snobby does.)
3. Or maybe it's the names.
Much as I love my family, I find it difficult to hold a straight face when confronted with these food names:
- bubble and squeak
- girdle sponges
- singing hinnies, and (are you ready for this?)
- spotted dick
One traditional English dish that does not sound odd, humorous, or simply vulgar is the topic of this article, the full English breakfast.
What Exactly Is a Full English Breakfast?
Here are the traditional "building blocks" of the F.E.B:
- poached or fried eggs
- fried or grilled tomatoes
- fried potatoes
- baked beans
We Don't Eat It Every Day
In an effort to eat a more healthy diet (...you're laughing, aren't you?), our family usually opts for poultry and seafood rather than beef or pork.
On Monday through Friday, we dutifully toast wheat bread and/or pour skim milk on whole-grain cereals. And truthfully, we're always in a hurry so toast or cereal works for us. But on the weekend, we like to eat a more leisurely breakfast, a full English breakfast (also known as a full English) sounds like it would fit the bill, but oh my, the calories, the fat, the sodium! How can we enjoy our full English but still keep our waistlines and blood pressure in check?
How Can We Make It Better (Healthier)?
I can forgo the fried potatoes (although unwillingly). And actually, eggs are not a bad dietary choice. But what about the "meat"? OK, bacon is out. We occasionally cook "turkey bacon," but honestly, it's not even close to being bacon, is it?
So what about sausage? It's full of fat and guilt, but I think we can change that.
Turkey Breakfast Sausage Patties
- large mixing bowl
- parchment paper
- sharp knife
- cutting board
- cookie sheet
- zip-lock bags for food storage
- large sauté pan
- small sauté pan with lid
- non-stick cooking spray
- 1 cup quick oats
- 3/4 cup spicy V-8 (or you could use Bloody Mary mix)
- 1 pound ground turkey (please use 92% fat-free—the 99% fat-free is too dry)
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground sage
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- Soak oats in juice for 15 minutes in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix until very well blended. Form mixture into a 12-inch log. Wrap and freeze until firm enough to slice, about 1.5 to 2 hours. (Do NOT freeze solid).
- Cut into 32 slices (about 3/8 inch thick). Place on cookie sheet and freeze until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and store in a zip-lock bag for up to 3 months.
- To cook, pan fry for 8-10 minutes—no need to thaw.
Note: You could substitute ground beef for the ground turkey, but the turkey version will have less fat.
You CAN Make a Healthy Fried Egg
- Non-stick vegetable spray (butter flavored is wonderful)
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper, optional
Pre-heat a small non-stick sauté pan with a lid on medium heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with non-stick vegetable spray. Add eggs. Salt and pepper, if desired. Cover and cook for about 2-3 minutes. When covered, you do not need to turn the eggs. The whites will be set and the yolks will be sunny-side up and still moist and runny.
Tomatoes for Breakfast?
Most Americans would never dream of eating tomatoes for breakfast (unless you categorize catsup as a tomato). Need I remind you that the lowly tomato is actually a fruit, not a vegetable? Grilled tomatoes can be heavenly, or absolutely detestable—it all depends on the quality of the tomato.
- Look for tomatoes that are firm—too soft and they will fall apart.
- Medium-size round tomatoes are preferable
- Don't use an expensive heirloom tomato—they are typically too large
- Slice your tomatoes in half, horizontally (through the middle, not from stem end to blossom end).
- Using your fingers, gently remove the seeds and discard.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high to high heat.
- Coat the bottom of the pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Salt and pepper the cut side of the tomato, and place cut side down in the pan
- Cook for about 3 minutes.
- Gently flip over with a spatula and cook another two minutes or until heated through.
- Garnish with minced fresh herbs if desired.
Note: These tomatoes can also be prepared by broiling, cut side up. Brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Set the pan about 6 inches away from the source of heat and broil for about 4 minutes. A third option is grilling. The perfect recipe for tomatoes prepared on the grill can be found at Simply Recipes.
What About the Potatoes?
I can't live without the potatoes (my Irish roots are showing). But they don't have to bubble in great gobs of grease to be tasty. This recipe for potato latkes adapted from Cooking Light has helped us find a healthier weekend fare. There are no eggs and the latkes are baked, not fried.
There are the baked beans. With humble apologies to my paternal ancestors, I simply do not understand the unabashed passion for these overly sweet, mushy little orbs. The description provided on the Heinz website is absolutely poetic:
In the U.K., Heinz® Baked Beans are iconic. From the beautifully designed label to the irresistible taste, Heinz® Beans are a key ingredient in countless recipes or simply as a delicious heat 'n’ eat snack
So, There You Have It
How likely are you to try a full English breakfast?
© 2015 Linda Lum