The Fourth of July, or American Independence Day, has never meant much in my household, but there is no escaping that American food is having its moment in the sun.
Scroll down for four delicious recipes
New York-style diners and delis have opened up, sliders are just about everywhere, along with southern food, Tex-Mex, and slow-cooked meat cuts like brisket and pulled pork. It seemed like the perfect time to embrace it all. Growing up, I'd always associated American food with thick pancakes and doughnuts and I've not spent much time there at all. I did eat a McDonald's chicken burger at LA Airport once, does that count?
Delaney Mes talks to Mel Homer on Mix 98.2
I have always loved brunch, though, especially in recent years. When it came to thinking about my favourite foods that I considered somewhat American, many of them were brunch foods (or burgers, my one true love).
Many Americans I've spoken to say that Mexican food in the States is the best you can get anywhere, and since I'm completely addicted to hot sauce it seemed a good place to start. We have some great ones here - Culley's, the Lucky Taco, Huffman's and that classic Tabasco-style Kaitaia Fire. It's great on eggs, and great in a Bloody Mary. It would probably taste great on a bagel too, if there's egg underneath it and you have the patience for kneading dough. Maybe just leave it off your pancakes.
As a kid, I remember looking at pictures of pancakes and wondering why we only ever got thin ones that were eaten with lemon and sugar. We always seemed to have crepes and it was the thick American ones I dreamed of. I've since embraced pancake-making and love playing around with recipes. The one below is my current favourite (although I highly recommend fellow pancake-queen Nigella Lawson's ricotta hotcakes). I have a posse of friends who love them too, and pancake feasts and great chats are ideal Sunday activities.
Sunday is the perfect day for brunch feasting, and the perfect time to get a little inspired from the sprawling United States, which is definitely high on my "to travel to" list.
In the meantime I'm getting into the kitchen. And why battle a busy cafe when you can put the coffee pot on, play your favourite music, lounge around with the paper and make a brunch feast? These are a few of my favourites. Enjoy.
American pancakes. Photo / Doug Sherring
This is a straightforward recipe, adapted from my friend Rebekah. They're thick, but not stodgily so. I find it's unnecessary to have sugar in the recipe, particularly if you plan to slather them in maple syrup afterwards. If not serving them with just syrup and butter, they are excellent with natural yoghurt, berries and honey or with that 90s cafe classic banana, bacon and maple syrup. I like assembling a range of different toppings and letting everyone top their own. Remember too, the first one in the pan is usually a dud.
• ¾ cup white flour
• ¾ cup wholemeal, spelt or rye flour
• ½ cup rolled oats
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 1 cup natural yoghurt, unsweetened
• 1 cup milk
• 2 eggs
• 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
• 1 tsp vanilla essence
1. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. Fold the wet mixture into the dry and gently mix together.
2. Heat a frying pan on a low-medium heat. Add a small squirt of cooking oil and a small knob of butter. Spoon mixture (which should be quite thick) into the pan, and flip each pancake when the edges on the pan-side start to turn golden. Continue cooking over medium heat, brushing a little more butter into the frying pan between batches.
3. Keep pancakes warm in your oven until they're all done, or just serve as they become ready.
NY Bagels From Scratch
NY Bagels From Scratch. Photo / Doug Sherring
I used to be intimidated by the process of making and resting dough, then boiling each bagel, then baking them. With a bit of patience, this is a fun process. It's so satisfying having a batch of freshly baked bagels on the table, ready to slather in cream cheese and devour with a fresh batch of coffee.
These are New York-style bagels, which makes them chewier and somewhat doughier than the lighter, Montreal-style ones. And remember, according to my flatmate, if it's not boiled, it's just a bun with a hole in it. I've adapted these ones from a baking book and my flatmate's recipe.
• 2 tsp active dry yeast
• 1 ½ tbsp white sugar
• 1 ¼ cups warm water
• 3 ½ cups high grade flour, plus extra for kneading
• 1 heaped tsp salt
1. Take ½ cup of the warm water, and add the sugar and yeast. Allow to sit for about five minutes, until it dissolves and foams slightly.
2. Mix the remaining flour measure with the salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture, along with half the remaining water. Mix and stir with a large wooden spoon, adding a little more warm water if necessary, to result in a firm dough.
3. Sprinkle flour on the bench and knead the dough for 10 minutes. If you have a cake mixer with a dough hook, you can knead it using that. Sprinkle over more flour if necessary to result in a firm dough.
4. Line a mixing bowl with a swirl of oil and add dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and place somewhere warm to rise for an hour, in which time the dough should double in size. After an hour, punch the dough down and leave for another 10 minutes.
5. Place a large pot of water on to boil. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball by rolling it around on the benchtop using the palm of your hand. Gently press your finger into the centre of each dough ball and work it between your hands to make a ring (there are some great YouTube tutorials on making dough rings for bagels). Place each bagel on to a lightly greased baking tray, cover again with the damp tea towel and rest for
a further 10 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 220C. Reduce the heat of the water and, using a slotted spoon, lower bagels into the water in batches. They will float to the top, at which point allow them to boil on each side for about 1-2 minutes, flipping them over carefully
7. Remove each bagel carefully from the water and place on the baking tray. Sprinkle lightly with a little sea salt if you wish. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy while warm or, allow to cool then slice and toast them. They're great with just butter but also cream cheese, jam or avocado.
Breakfast Burritos. Photo / Doug Sherring
I love a bit of spice at breakfast time, especially alongside eggs and encased in a wrap. If doing these for a group, I place all the ingredients in bowls and let everyone make their own. For an even faster option, use good-quality tinned chilli beans.
For the chilli beans:
• 1 tin red kidney beans
• 1 tbsp cooking oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
• 2 tbsp chipotle sauce
• 1 tsp cumin powder
• 1 tin tomatoes
• 1 tsp sugar
• salt and pepper
• 2 tbsp chopped coriander
1. In a medium-sized pot, heat the oil to a low heat, and add the onion and garlic. Sautee gently for about 7-8 minutes, then add the chilli, chipotle sauce, cumin powder, sugar, and tomatoes. Stir together and gently increase the heat. Add the beans, and a little salt and pepper. Allow to simmer together for about 10 minutes, garnish with the coriander, then serve.
To serve the burritos:
Assemble the following in small bowls, and allow everyone to make their own.
• Corn tortillas, warmed according to packet instructions
• Red onion, sliced
• Scrambled egg
• Streaky bacon, grilled until crisp
• Avocado, sliced
• Fresh coriander
• Fresh lime wedges
• Hot sauce
Bloody Mary. Photo / Doug Sherring
I did some research into Bloody Marys for my very first Metro column. They're the perfect addition to a brunch feast, unless you, like many, hate tomato juice. I like mine really spicy, but let each person add more hot sauce according to their taste. I've heard of all sorts of garnishes being used in the US, from the classic celery to cherry tomatoes and cheese cubes, right through to baby cheeseburgers. I've added the bacon here (leftover from the breakfast burrito) to make it a complete breakfast in a glass.
• 60ml vodka
• Plenty of ice
• Tomato juice, to top up the glass
• Dash of horseradish
• 1 tbsp juice from the jar of gherkins/pickles/cornichons
• A few generous drops of Tabasco sauce, or another hot sauce like Culley's, Huffman's, Lucky Taco habanero or Kaitaia Fire kiwifruit
• A squeeze of fresh lemon or lime
• A dash of Worcestershire Sauce
• Salt and freshly cracked pepper
To garnish: a slice of lime, a sprig of coriander, olives and pickles/cornichons on a cocktail stick, and stick of streaky bacon (if you're making it)
Combine ingredients in a shaker, and shake well. Fill a tall glass with ice and strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish as you wish.