My favourite place for a vegan full English breakfast in London is ‘The Gate’ in Marylebone. It’s on a quaint side street behind the bustle of Oxford Street, and early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, the place is very quiet, peaceful and the perfect spot to catch up with friends over a hot cup of tea and a tasty brunch. Ever since I discovered a year ago, it had become a weekend tradition of mine and I loved it.
So I was at a huge loss when I moved to San Francisco a few months ago and couldn’t find a single place that served a vegan full English, or to be honest had even heard of it!
It meant I had to take matters into my own hands, and true to the proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ I recreated my own vegan full English breakfast, using local San Francisco ingredients. It took several attempts to find the right ingredients and combination, but over a few months, it’s been tried and tested and truly works. The best part, is that minimal effort, yields multiple items, and an impressive dining table spread! It’s a favourite of ours when we have guests – a quick, tasty and very filling start to the day!
Traditionally, a (non-vegan) full English consists of sausages, bacon, fried eggs, hashbrowns, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast and maybe blackpudding (if you don’t know what this is, don’t ask, it’s disgusting!). In my vegan version, I intentionally didn’t find a one for one replacement for each non-vegan item – where possible I actually try to avoid meat substitutes, as I grew up as a vegetarian and don’t feel any cravings for meat. Instead I tried to find the best ingredients possible for the vegan elements and added some new inventive touches.
My SF inspired full English breakfast is made with lots of quirky, local ingredients, which not only have flavour, but also some history and science blended in! Here’s my roundup of what you’ll need and how to prepare it.
JUST egg: This local SF company is on a mission to address systemic issues in the global food system using science to create plant-based versions of dairy and meat products. Their first invention was a plant based egg replacer made with mung beans. This yellow, creamy concoction scrambles just like egg and has the same colour, texture and taste – but without the cholesterol and cruelty. JUST egg is readily available in supermarkets in San Francisco, and I was impressed to see it being served in restaurants too – at the ‘Boulangerie de San Francisco’ you can order an omelette or scrambled eggs made with hen eggs or with plant based JUST egg.
I’m a huge fan and have come to rely on this as a staple in my fridge. I’m excited that it will be launching in Europe soon too – I’ll need it when I come back! If you’re looking to try this vegan full English breakfast recipe and you cannot find JUST egg, another great alternative is scrambled tofu, spiced with turmeric and black salt for an egg-y colour and flavour.
Jane’s Olive & Polenta Sourdough Bread: San Francisco is the birthplace of sourdough bread and is a household essential in this city. It was unintentionally invented in the mining era, when bread made using French recipes became ‘sour’ to the taste and initially the miners couldn’t figure out why! It was first attributed to the foggy weather here but later was discovered to be caused by a particular chain of bacteria, which was then aptly named – L. sanfranciscensis. There are still a few bakeries running today that were set up by the miners of the Gold Rush era, such as Boudin, but they’ve become very tourist-y, and are avoided by locals. Newer, more artisan bakeries are flourishing in the city, and a favourite of mine is Jane’s. On Saturday or Sunday mornings, the line at their bakery runs spills out the store – mostly hungry yuppies in exercise gear (yes, me included!). The shelves are lined with an amazing array of baked goodies: multiple types of brownies, croissants, cookies and cakes, spicy flatbreads, quiche, plump sandwiches… Bakers in the back are busy kneading bread and the air has the delicious, inviting smell of fresh baked bread. I find it heavenly. My favourite item is their olive and polenta sourdough bread – it’s light, and fully with a crisp crunchy exterior and jewelled with nuggets of soft polenta and salty green olives. It’s works perfectly in this full English.
Dr Prager’s Sweet Potato Hash Browns: Hash browns can be tricky and time consuming to make and often quite oily! We were looking for something quick, easy and healthy and stumbled on the sweet potato hash browns at our local grocery store called Mollie Stone’s. Dr Prager’s is a small, family run American frozen food company that offers healthier versions of typical fried frozen foods. These hash browns take no more than 10 mins to cook in the oven and work wonders in a full English! They come in convenient packets of two, which is a perfect portion size.
Trader Joe’s Kumatos: I’d never seen Kumatos until I came to SF and even then only at Trader Joe’s. Now, where do I even begin with Trader Joe’s? I am obsessed. I could wander around the aisles for hours, exclaiming at the wonderful creative foods they have, and which vary regularly with the seasons. Fall (or autumn) in TJ’s (as we like to refer to it) is particularly special, with baskets overflowing with an array of colourful pumpkins of all shapes and sizes and shelves stocked high with pumpkin pie spiced everything – pancake mix, cookies, cakes, granola, almond milk! The creativity on display and the regular supply of free samples always inspires me to think outside the box and try something new – a cauliflower crust pizza perhaps or vegan kale and cashew pesto or a new vegetable, maybe a Kumato?
These dark red, brown tomatoes are plump, juicy and beautifully sweet. I simply slice them in half, drizzle generously with olive oil and roast for about 20-30 mins until they are soft and the sugars are bubbling, golden brown and caramelised. If you can’t find Kumatos, try green tomatoes which also work wonderfully.
Trader Joe’s Organic Baked Beans: I was never a fan of Heinz baked beans – in my opinion they are far too sweet to be a savoury dish! At university, whilst my friends were devouring Heinz baked beans on toast, I’d be making Boston baked beans from scratch, with a savoury, smoky, deep sauce made of mustard, molasses, paprika and onions. If I wanted baked beans, I usually had to make it by hand. I tried Trader Joe’s organic baked beans on a whim and loved the soft beans and the rich tomato sauce – these are definitely savoury, not sweet! I add a generous helping of smoked paprika for some extra heat and flavour and that’s it. They’re fat-free, high in fiber and taste delicious.
Trader Joe’s Crimini Mushrooms: I found crimini mushrooms work really well with my full English. These are brown, nutty and soak up marinades really well – I toss them in a simple mix of soy sauce, coconut aminos (which are essentially amino acids from coconut sap which add a rich umami flavour) and a drop of maple syrup before roasting in the oven for about 20 mins.
California Avocados: Would any dish in California be complete with avocados? I think not. As well as their bright green colour, avocados add some welcome creaminess to a full English. I like to pile slices onto toasted olive and polenta sourdough bread and top with a squeeze of lime a sprinkle of salt and pepper. You might think this is unconventional, but try it once and you’ll never be able to have a full English without avocado again! Choosing the right avocado is the only skill involved here – pick one that is soft when you press into it, but still holds its shape.
The method here is more the most efficient order in which to prepare everything, rather than a recipe. Try and recruit a helper – it’s much easier with two people!
First roast the kumatos/ tomatoes. Start by preheating the oven to 350 F / ~175 C. Line a baking sheet (which has a rim/ sides) with baking parchment. Slice kumatos in half, arrange on the baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20-30 mins until caramelized.
Next bake the mushrooms. Mix together 1 tbsp each of soy sauce and coconut aminos, ⅛ tsp maple syrup and 1 tsp sunflower oil. Line a baking sheet (which has a rim/ sides) with baking parchment. If using whole mushrooms, chop into quarters and add to the tray. Drizzle over the sauce and mix well to coat. Bake for 15-20 mins until they are cooked. They exude a lot of liquid, to make sure you’ve got a tray with edges to prevent spills!
Toast the sweet potato hash browns. 15 mins after you’ve put the kumatos in, arrange the hashbrowns on a sheet of baking parchment and put into the oven. Cook on one side for 5 mins, flip and cook on the other side for 5 mins
Scramble the JUST egg. Heat a non-stick pan and spray with a few spritzes of sunflower spray oil (this stuff is super handy!). When hot, pour in a ⅓ of the JUST egg and use a wooden spatula to move the mixture around continuously, scraping down the bottom and sides. It’ll take around 2-3 mins for the mixture to thicken and taken on the consistency of scrambled eggs. Keep stirring for another minute and taste a piece to see if done. Repeat twice more until the rest of the bottle has been turned into scrambled eggs!
Slice the sourdough and avocado. Whilst the mushrooms, tomatoes and hashbrowns are cooking, slice your bread, toast if needed and slice the avocado into thin strips. Best way to do this is to hold the avocado in your palm, slice all the way around, rotating the avocado in your palm. Twist to separate the halves. Take one half and peel the skin off gently. Place on a cutting board and slice into thin strips. For the half with the stone – put it on a chopping board stone slide down and slice through the flesh in half, avoiding the stone. Pull apart into quarters with your hands and then dig out the stone with your fingers. Peel off the skin and slice the green flesh into thin strips.
Lastly, heat the baked beans. Tip the can into a saucepan, add 1 tsp of smoked paprika (or more if you want more heat) and bring up to a gently bubble. Keep mixing to avoid it catching. Turn off when piping hot.
And voila! You have a wonderful vegan full English breakfast in no time. To serve, arrange everything in the middle of the dining table and tuck in!