It’s my party and I’ll fry if I want to…

The Ulster Fry is the national dish of Northern Ireland. It must never be referred to as a ‘fry-up’, but can be affectionately called a ‘heart-attack on a plate’ instead. It varies from the Full English by the judicious addition of soda bread and potato farls fried to golden crispness and a soft fluffy pancake to soak up the oozing yolk of a fried egg. The sausage can be beef or pork and it can be served with either black or white pudding if to your taste. No matter which way you serve it, an proper Ulster Fry is a vast plate of fried heaven that will keep even the biggest appetite sated all day.

I only eat a real Ulster Fry about once a year on my annual pilgrimage home. Anymore than that might kill me, but it’s also because there’s something special about a fry cooked by yer mammy. It always tastes that little bit better for that. Of course the other reason I don’t eat a fry too often is that it’s difficult for me to get my hands on potato or soda bread easily. Some branches of Marks and Spencer and Waitrose stock speciality Irish breads, but sadly I don’t live near any of them. Instead I stockpile farls brought by visitors from Belfast and save them for hungover days that need grease to get through them.

This St Patrick’s Day, fresh as a daisy from the fact it fell on a Wednesday and no one else wanted to celebrate on a school night, I have decided to take advantage of my clear head and happy liver and make my own potato bread and soda bread for a proper homemade fry. It will be delicious, if not slightly inauthentic as I tend to grill the bacon and sausage and don’t fry anything in bacon fat or dripping. It’s almost healthy… Read more

The spud & the scallion gets me champing at the bit

Thank you for tuning in to Champ TV…

Happy happy joy joy… it’s been far too long since I had a big portion of champ. This is my nod to St Patrick’s Day and Irish cuisine, and a firm family favourite when we were kids.

Champ, or brúitín in the Irish, is mashed potato with scallions and butter. Over the last decade or so I’ve seen increasing references to ‘champed mashed potato’ on menus (alongside colcannon mash, also delicious) and it’s nice to see such a homely favourite crop up in eating places. Back home it was just ‘champ’, but it was often a meal in itself, not just a side order. Indeed it became more a participatory sport than a meal in our household. Not bad for a humble plate of green-flecked mash…

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