Everything in moderation!

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a well-cooked Ulster Fry, our iconic breakfast dish especially at the weekend and on a chilly morning. A plate of pork sausages, bacon, eggs with our famous potato and soda breads is a great way to start the day and it evokes many happy childhood memories.

I also know that many visitors, as well as international food writers, to Northern Ireland also enjoy the breakfast. My good friend, Charles Campion, the respected MasterChef judge and food writer, is among those who look forward to a traditional Ulster Fry – when in Northern Ireland.

Charles, of course, has become a tremendous ambassador for our food and particularly our traditional cooked breakfast, he even wrote an article about it entitled ‘probably the best breakfast in the world’. He loved our tasty bacon and fresh eggs which are readily available from a host of local suppliers including Cavanagh at Newtownbutler, a family farm which has won Great Taste and Blas na hEireann awards for its products.

Another good friend, Paula MacIntyre, who has become a popular contributor to BBC television and radio programme, covers the best of local food in her new book, ‘Down to Earth’, which was launched earlier in the week.

The Ulster Fry has taken a bit of a battering following the World Health Organisation (WHO) report on eating processed meats including sausages and bacon. There was nothing particularly new in the WHO study.

The organisation has made these comments in the past. But some of the coverage was a bit over the top this time, unnecessarily alarmist. It certainly won’t put me off enjoying an occasional Ulster Fry. Everything in moderation is my golden rule.

Interestingly, the Ulster Fry will also feature strongly in January next year as part of our forthcoming Year of Food and Drink. January has been designated Breakfast month…and it’s certainly the right time of the year for a hearty breakfast, that’s a great way to start the day.

This important initiative to encourage more people here to take time for breakfast including cereals and porridge builds on the good foundations already laid down over the last 10 years with HGCA’s highly successful Breakfast Week.

In addition to producing a tremendous range of breads, recent additions being a wheaten and dulse, now being seen by nutritionists as a very healthy ingredient, loaf from Donnelly’s in Ballycastle.

There is strong evidence that people who eat breakfast are slimmer.

While I’ve been commenting on the traditional Ulster Fry cooked breakfast, porridge and other cereals are also a popular way to start the day. Northern Ireland also has a thriving and successful group of companies, large and small, involved in developing cereals.

White’s of Tandragee in Co Armagh, for example, is among the best known for its award winning Speedicook and other porridge brands.

Northern Ireland’s only oat miller, now part of Fane Valley Group, our largest farmers’ co-operative, has been producing porridge from locally grown cereals here for generations and has a cluster of awards for the quality and outstanding taste of its products. These time honoured products are now exported successfully from the US to Hong Kong.

Another local company sending cereals around the world is Portaferry’s Just Live and Little, a small enterprise run by husband and wife team David and Jill Crawford.

An Armagh family business, Linwoods has also developed a range of healthy seeds for supplementing breakfast and other meals. These products, also now exported around the world, include cold-milled organic flaxseed, hemp and flaxseed with pumpkin and sunflower seeds with goji berries.

My message is that you’ll find everything you need from Northern Ireland suppliers for a healthy and nutritious way to start your day.