Okay, so this has made me realize that this meal does not photograph well, but it is delicious and is a staple part of Northern Irish cuisine and culture.
Firstly, a couple notes, this post is about the Ulster fry, there are huge regional differences in fry up breakfasts across the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. Ulster is kind of another word for Northern Ireland. The island of Ireland is made up of four regions: Ulster, Munster, Connacht, and Leinster. Each of these regions is divided up into counties, with Ulster having nine counties, Derry/Londonderry (as a non-resident I do not take sides), Antrim (where my parents are from), Down, Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, and Fermanagh. Six of the counties voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in 1921 and formed what is now Northern Ireland.
If I’ve ever told you that Ireland is complicated this is a super light, incredibly undetailed overview of hundreds of years of history that is still complicated and confusing. All of which to say, fries are different in the North and the South, our soda breads are even different.
I’ve shared our soda bread recipe before, this is my great-granny’s recipe, and probably her mum’s and her granny’s before her, although I doubt she made hers in a melamine bowl. Since I’ve shared it before I won’t get too in detail, you can read that post here if you’d like. But essentially, we make gridle soda bread, so it’s flat rather than the oven soda that rises more and has a kind of mounded look. You can also see dried fruit and stuff in that one, but not so much in gridle soda (although I have seen where people use it as a pizza base).
Soda bread can be served a variety of ways. I prefer mine fresh with butter, but it can also be toasted or fried. Toasted is best for your leftovers to make the butter all melty again. I don’t love fried soda bread, but the rest of my family does, I’m the only one who doesn’t prefer it fried.
So then the rest of the fry. I base mine of what my mum included in hers, although I don’t love all the components. Basically, we have fried eggs, bacon or sausage (sometimes if it’s all of us we’ll do both, but when I’ making it for myself I don’t do that), and then fried tomato and fried banana. I don’t typically do the fried banana, I have a texture thing with some foods and the fried banana can set it off. But I wanted to try it again as an adult and see what I thought.
Then I didn’t include it because I don’t know how to make it, is potato bread or fadge. My Mum grew up calling it fadge and my Dad potato bread. I don’t know how to make it, I don’t know where to find potato flour, and I don’t know how to make potato flour. My Mum also doesn’t normally make it. If she sees it in a British and Irish store she will buy a bunch and freeze it, but I don’t remember her ever making it, although my Dad talks about his mum making it. I love fadge, maybe I’ll teach myself how to make it now that I’ve mastered soda bread, this recipe looks a lot like what I am used to.
What we don’t include, it would normally include black pudding, but my Mum hates it and hates making it, so we never had it. You’ll also sometimes see mushrooms, but I associate those more with a full Irish than an Ulster fry.
This is what my family includes in our Ulster fry. It is messy to make, but very delicious. This is definitely a meal that is much nicer to make when you have someone else to clean up after you. My dad grew up eating this everyday for breakfast in between farm chores. But we have had it very infrequently, it’s definitely not good for the cholesterol. But washing it down with a pot of tea helps with the grease.