How to Make a Full Welsh Breakfast
What do you think of when you think of a fried breakfast? Sausages? Bacon? Eggs? All three and more? A fry up for breakfast is very common in the UK, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays. Although the English, Scottish and Northern Irish fried breakfasts are all different and each can boast its own regional component ingredients, if there is one British fried breakfast that stands out as being truly unique, it is unquestionably the full Welsh breakfast.
Why? For the simple reason that it is (probably) safe to say that an overwhelming majority of people—even other British people, from outside Wales—will be totally unfamiliar with the concept of seaweed and shellfish forming part of a full fried breakfast.
What Is Laverbread?
Laver (pronounced lay-ver, not lah-ver) is a type of seaweed, found in plentiful supply around the Welsh coastline from where it can easily be collected at low tide. The seaweed is washed and boiled in salted water for a number of hours before it is minced or shredded to make laverbread.
Laverbread is available to buy ready to use from Amazon UK, where it is sold in small cans, and while laverbread itself is not available on Amazon.com, dried laver can be purchased and homemade laverbread prepared.
What Are Cockles?
Cockles are a type of small shellfish, collected from sandy beaches around the UK. Closely related species are found and collected in the same way around the world. Fresh cockles are of course the preferred option where they are available, and many people insist that the cockles for a proper Welsh breakfast should be specifically from the Penclawdd area, near Swansea.
Fortunately, cockles can also be bought precooked in cans or jars, or perhaps freshly cooked from fishmongers or supermarkets in coastal areas. If you are buying preserved cockles, try to get them in brine rather than in vinegar, but if you can only find pickled, you may want to steep them for an hour or so in cold water before use. This will take away most of the pickled flavour.
More About This Recipe
A British fried breakfast of any type is wide open to interpretation when it comes to the precise ingredients. Particularly the sundry ingredients, such as baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and more, can cause significant debate as to whether they should be included. It would be entirely possible to visit two hotels, guesthouses or even private homes anywhere in the UK—quite literally next door to one another—where the owners disagreed upon what specifically should or should not be incorporated in their region's fried breakfast.
A fried breakfast is therefore more of a concept than a recipe, built around the mainstays that are sausage, bacon and egg, with the other ingredients optional and variable.
A Note on Cooking the Breakfast
The cooking methods employed in full British breakfasts will vary almost as much as the ingredients. For example, the eggs may be poached or scrambled, while the bacon may be grilled rather than fried.
In relation specifically to the laverbread and cockles in a Welsh breakfast, they may simply be served as they are, or the laverbread can be mixed with oatmeal and fried in the bacon fat as a laver cake. In this instance, the laverbread and the cockles have been mixed with oatmeal and fried in the juices of the sausages and the bacon.
Cooking and PreparationTime
- 3 beef sausages
- 2 or 3 rashers of back bacon
- 1 tablespoon laverbread
- 1 tablespoon medium ground oatmeal
- 2 teaspoons cooked cockles
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons baked beans in tomato sauce
- 5 cherry tomatoes on the vine
- 2 small to medium mushrooms
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Sunflower or vegetable oil for frying
- You will need two frying pans to make this dish, one of which at least should be fairly large.
- Add a little oil to the larger pan. Do not prick the sausages as this will simply cause the juices to escape to the pan and render them dry and far less tasty than they should be. Instead, they should be cooked very gently for about twenty minutes on a low heat. Turn the sausages every five minutes with cooking tongs.
- Add some oil to the second pan and put it on to a low to medium heat. Lay in the tomatoes, on the vine. This makes them both easier to plate when they are cooked and more attractive on the plate. Carefully pull any remaining stalk out of the mushrooms and put them in the pan open cup side facing upwards. Season the tomatoes and mushrooms with salt and black pepper.
- When the sausages have been cooking for fifteen minutes, add the bacon to the pan to fry for a couple of minutes each side.
- Put the laverbread, cockles and oatmeal in to a small bowl and stir carefully to fully combine. Use your hands to roll it firstly in to a ball and then flatten between your palms, exactly the same way as you would a burger patty.
- Remove the sausages and bacon to a heated serving plate and cover with tinfoil to keep them warm. Turn up the heat under the pan they have been taken from to medium/high. Fry the laver cake in the juices for a couple of minutes each side.
- Break the egg in to a small glass bowl. This allows you to season it before it goes in to the pan and the seasoning to be better distributed by the action of actually putting it in the pan. It also makes it a lot easier to add to the pan. Carefully pour it in to a vacant spot of the pan containing the mushrooms and tomatoes. Leave it alone to fry for three to four minutes.
- The baked beans should be poured in to a small saucepan and gently heated for two or three minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Photo Tutorial (Cooking)Click thumbnail to view full-size
How to Plate the Breakfast
- Remove the tinfoil which has been covering the sausages and bacon.
- Lift the laver cake with a spatula on to the top of the bacon.
- Lift the tomatoes by the vine and lay them on top of the laver cake.
- The egg can be placed on the vacant part of the plate.
- Spoon the baked beans on to the plate and cooking tongs are easiest for plating the mushrooms.
- Your full Welsh breakfast is now ready for service along with some hot toast and tea.