One of the perils of living with someone is that when A has trouble sleeping, I have trouble sleeping. The up side of this is that here is what I accomplished today before noon:
- cooked potatoes and made potato bread
- cooked beans and made baked beans
- made soda bread
- mixed and proofed cinnamon currant bread
- drank caffeinated tea for the first time in weeks and bounced around a bit
Why all the commotion on a Sunday? It’s St. Patrick’s Day, of course! And we had to practice my St. Patrick’s Day tradition.
It all started one chilly October afternoon in Belfast in 2007. A friend and I were backpacking through Ireland and we had a few hours in between buses on our way up to the Antrim coast. Under threatening gray clouds, we explored the neighborhood around the bus station, wandering up to Sandy Row, an infamous loyalist stronghold during the Troubles. Sooner than later, the skies opened up, and we sought refuge in a bright cafe, a pair of drenched, weary, excited Americans. I ordered the Ulster fry and was unprepared for the magnificence that was to come.
There are many variations on an Ulster fry, but the most basic ingredients are fried eggs, soda bread, and potato bread, all of the ingredients being fried in the same pan. Mine have always been vegetarian, but it is traditional to have bacon or sausage in your fry, in which case you use the bacon grease to cook the remaining ingredients.
My first Ulster fry contained eggs, soda bread, potato bread, fluffy buttermilk pancakes, baked beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes, a giant plate literally overflowing with hot, hearty goodness. We caught our bus feeling full and uplifted, and when we stepped off the bus again, the sun was setting in cloud-streaked skies over the coastal moors of Antrim.
Ever since then, I have marked St. Patrick’s Day with a breakfast approximately three times the size of any I would even consider eating the other 364 days of the year. I firmly believe it is good for the soul (and arguably healthier than consuming the same quantity of calories in the form of green beer).
The version I make now contains fried eggs, soda and potato farls (triangular breads cooked on a griddle), fried mushrooms, baked beans, and plenty of tea. (I used to include fried tomatoes but it just made me sad to eat tomatoes in March.) The soda bread and potato bread need to be homemade; the baked beans do not, though this year I decided to go for it and was not disappointed. The eggs should be fresh and organic so that the bright orange yolks burst with thick goodness upon your breads. The tea should be a traditional black, Darjeeling or Assam, hot and strong and not at all averse to a spoonful of sugar and whole milk.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
The breads can take some time to cook, especially if you only have one small griddle as I do, so feel free to make them a day ahead. The soda farl and potato farl recipes listed here will provide enough for Ulster fries for 4 people. It is also acceptable to put jam or marmalade on your bread.
If you’d like to include bacon or sausage in your fry, cook them first and cook the rest of the ingredients in the bacon grease.
Irish Soda Farls
2 C white flour
1 t baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 C buttermilk
Preheat heavy griddle on medium. Mix flour, salt, and soda in a medium bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the buttermilk. Mix quickly and thoroughly, then turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out into a circle 1/2″ thick and cut into quarters with a floured knife. Sprinkle a little flour on the griddle and cook each farl 6-8 minutes, flipping halfway, until both sides are golden brown.
Irish Potato Farls
1 lb. waxy potatoes
2 T butter
1 t salt
Up to 1 C white flour
Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil until soft, about 20 minutes. Mash well, then while still warm mix in butter and salt. Work in flour gradually, using just enough to make a pliable dough; do not add so much flour that it becomes stiff (I used about 3/4 C this time). Turn out onto a well-floured surface and roll out into a circle 1/2″ thick. Cut into triangles. Cook on a hot floured griddle, flipping halfway, until golden brown on both sides.
1 batch soda farls
1 batch potato farls
2 eggs per person
10 button mushrooms per person, halved
baked beans (I used this recipe)
Preheat oven on lowest setting and place an oven-safe paper towel-lined platter in the oven to keep food warm. Heat butter in a large frying pan. Fry mushrooms until heated through but not mushy. Transfer to oven.
Cut soda farls in half through the middle (the way you cut an English muffin). Fry farls and potato bread until golden and transfer to oven.
Add butter to the pan if necessary. Fry eggs and season with salt and pepper. Heat baked beans in a saucepan. Divide all the food onto plates and serve immediately with black tea.