Monday, April 12, 2021


 Middle child not feeling too well come mid-morning, or maybe just a case of needing a metaphorical hug, so I got child settled on the sofa, under a duvet, and watching cartoons. Child had only nibbled at a bit of toast for breakfast, so I offered a full English, child bit my hand off;

"Oooo pleeeeease!"

"Full English". Aka "A Fry Up". Not to be confused with the "Ulster Fry" which the Northern Irish consider superior, but which is in fact exactly the same, so it is indeed to be confused. A "Full English" consists of anything that can be fried in a frying pan (a skillet to Americans). So. It can be bacon and eggs, sausages, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread. If you like your hash browns, which Americans do, go for 'em. Some like black pudding (blood pudding to Americans) that's ok too. 

Not all of the above items at once, just any four or five of them.

So. To work.

Anyone who's watched "Four In A Bed" - a UK TV competition show about bed and breakfast (B+B) businesses where they take it in turns to cook each other breakfast - anyone who's watched that show knows the palaver of cooking a full English, only for hyper-critical B+Bers to tear each other's plateloads apart.

Well the whinging criticism of those 'professional' moaners would not amount to a hill of beans compared to how much criticism you'll get from a looked after if it's less than absolutely yea. Every detail and intricacy goes into the cooking of a full English for a looked-after child if you care.

And care we do…and I love it.

Preparation; all the ingredients out of the fridge first. Oven turned on to warm, put a plate in.

First, the bacon: Two rashers of unsmoked back with every single tiny bit of white fat removed. It goes into a frying pan which has been glazed with as little vegetable oil as can be coaxed across the surface, on a moderate to low heat so that the bacon doesn't get ahead of the rest.

Second….aaaaggghhh! I go to the larder and remember that I used up our last tin of baked beans on the jacket potatoes two nights ago. Go to plan B…

Second becomes... chips! Fries to be precise. They're such a crowd pleaser the child might not notice the lack of beans. The joy and decadence of French fries of a mid-morning is up there with Barack Obama's secret morning cigarette in the White House. To tart them up to their very best I shallow fry them in vegetable oil to get them that bit crispy - you don't get crisp if you oven bake them, you get floppy.

Third, a small tomato cut in half across its equator and lowered flat side down onto the pan next to the bacon.

Fourth; the acid test. The fried egg. I saw on TV Raymond Blanc telling the camera that if he was auditioning chefs for one of his restaurants he'd ask them to fry an egg. Some did it with a cavalier flourish, y'know, breaking the egg with one hand, all that flashy stuff. Then swirling it out onto the plate. They didn't get hired. Raymond "Voila" Blanc hired the kid who inspected each egg in its shell, who tested the heat of the oil by holding his hand above it and so on.

Same care goes into frying an egg for a looked after.

I use a separate frying pan with vegetable oil about the depth of the thickness of two pound coins. Then add the egg from as low a height as possible. Next is the tricky bit; getting the yolk to set in the exact centre of the white, it means waiting 'til the white has begun to set and lifting the pan and angling it so the yolk moves where you want it but the white stays still.

Gentle heat for the egg too. The fries are done, out they come, pat the oil off with kitchen roll, wrap loosely in foil and into the warm oven.

The bacon is coming on. Flip and, using same sheet of kitchen roll to gently wipe off the unappetising white stuff. I'm told it's only water, but no self-respecting looked after child would do anything but turn up their nose, quite right too.

Flip the tomato halves.

The egg is done underneath, the yolk still uncooked. Spoon some hot oil that had fried the chips onto the yolk to speed it up.  Using spatula, trim off the thin egg white that always oozes outsideways making a funny shape. Fried egg now done and perfect shape.

Time to plate up. This bit is critical.

First the egg, carefully tranferred so it lies across one quarter of the warm plate. Then the fries so they lie parallel to each other and opposite the egg. The two rashers of bacon go on next, slightly overlapping at a corner like a pair of playing cards, then the tomato, flat sides up.

Seasoning. Vinegar first, on the fries. Then salt on the toms and the fries (it is a cardinal sin of sins to put the salt on chips first, the arrival of vinegar washes it off).

A clean and polished knife (one with serrations to make it easier to cut the bacon) and fork…and we're nearly there.

All but for the final, and really, really important bit.

A helping of tomato sauce. 

The reason it's so important is not it's brand, which helps, nor that the helping is the right size (about 3/4 of a tablespoon). No, the importance lies in finding the right…

…location on the plate.

Quick story; when the first computer was flown to the UK from the USA it jammed and they had to fly an expert over from New York to see what was wrong. He took a look at the computer, which was the size of a removal truck, and asked for a piece of chalk. He drew a cross on the side of the computer and said "That's where your problem is". They opened it up and he was right. As he headed back to the airport they reminded him to send them an invoice. When the invoice arrived it was for…$10,000 dollars! They deciced to ask him to itemise his bill and he sent them the following; "To drawing a cross on the side of the computer: $1. To knowing where to draw the cross: $9,999."

Well it's just as big a deal to get the placing of the dollop of ketchup in the right spot. Some use the intuition of the Force. Not me. The tomato sauce goes on the edge of the plate with the chips on one side and the bacon on the other. These are the two items on the plate that need ketchup. The egg has its own moisture in the runniness of the perfectly fried yolk. And tomatoes don't need tomato sauce, obviously.

This done I take it in, and over the din of Homer Simpson I get a genuine "Thanks".

Not only that, when I'm not looking, the child clears up the plate and cutlery and leaves them in the sink. Result!

And. Not only that, there's more. Later same day the child has a wobbly about a Microsoft Account disabling itself on his PC which affects his school work. I keep my cool and we work out a solution based on the fact it's a shared account with the school so the problem probably originates at their end.

I get a text from child about an hour later saying problem solved.

Also saying the most beautiful word I've ever, ever seen on a phone screen.

He ended the message with a word the child has never, never used before; One word;


Did the sorry have anything to do with the meticulously cooked full English? I reckon maybe it was in there. But most of all, the child is heading in the right direction.

And that means the world in fostering.

That...and a meticulously fried fry-up.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, I love this type of post. I don't comment much, but read all of em. Thanks for writing.