A tongue-in-cheek list of collective nouns in a recent New Yorker magazine tells us that a group of millennials who look the same is called a brunch. But it's not just millennials who've gone crazy for brunch.
How better to convey the ethos of the weekend? Weekdays, we rush down a bowl of cereal or grab a piece of toast on the run but when it comes to the weekend we get the chance to slow things down. Brunch drifts leisurely from late morning into early afternoon. Because it combines two meals into one, we can be as greedy as we like – no one is judging if we choose to have the pancakes and the eggs. Booze, should we desire, is definitely acceptable. Best of all, we get enjoy lingering conversations and hang out with people we like.
I asked one of my friends, who runs a very successful cafe, if she has any bugbears about brunch. Her response: "It's the people who look at the menu and say, 'I'd like the three-egg omelette with harissa, sauteed spinach, cheddar, parmesan, pickled fennel and salsa verde but without the cheese please. And no pickled fennel. And actually, can I have grilled tomatoes instead of cheese?' 'How hot is the harissa?' 'Oh, okay, perhaps just a little on the side please. And can you make the omelette with egg whites only? And instead of the sourdough that's on the menu, can I have with gluten-free bread?'"
Don't be that person. The menu is the menu. That's what the restaurant or cafe service is set up for. If you want a boiled egg and there are no boiled eggs on the menu, you shouldn't expect to be able to get one. It might be that they don't have a spare element for boiled eggs or that it disrupts the flow of service but it's not there because they don't want it there. Full stop. Personalising the menu to suit your tastes isn't a reasonable request. Take out a key ingredient from a dish and chances are it may not taste that great and then you'll complain that it tastes lousy. Next thing you know you'll be wanting a discount because you didn't get all that stuff that you wanted taken out.
My suggestion is to stay home and invite people over for brunch. It's less fraught and a lot cheaper. Choose a central dish to prepare, and fill out the menu with fresh or poached fruit, muesli or granola and yoghurt, toast or bakery items, fresh juice and a jug of Bloody Marys. These simple recipes make serving brunch at home a breeze.
English Muffins with Poached Eggs and Avocado Hollandaise
Ready in 30 mins
Hollandaise is the thing that transforms eggs and muffins into a brunch-worthy dish. Serve the hollandaise in a jug, with optional sides on a platter so people can assemble their muffins as they prefer.
6-8 English muffins
Poached eggs (allow 1-2 per person)
Optional toppings as desired, such as wilted spinach, smoked salmon, crispy bacon, grilled tomatoes or sliced avocado
A little dill, parsley or tarragon, to garnish
2 egg yolks
Flesh of ½ large just-ripe avocado
1 Tbsp white vinegar
¼ tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
125g butter, melted until boiling hot
2 Tbsp lemon juice
To make the hollandaise, combine the egg yolks, avocado, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor and whizz until creamy. With the motor running, drizzle in the boiling hot butter until it is fully incorporated and the sauce is creamy. Mix in lemon juice. Serve warm and use within a couple of hours.
At serving time, poach eggs (you can also do this ahead of time and drain on to paper towels once they are cooked). Toast muffins and top with eggs, optional toppings and a good dollop of hollandaise.
Yvonne's pick: Finding the right wine to pair with eggs can often be a tad tricky but if you pop the cork on a bottle of Allan Scott Cecilia Brut Methode Traditionnelle NV ($26), you'd have cracked it. Dominated by chardonnay that's been blended with pinot noir, this Marlborough-grown good thing boasts aromas of rising dough, shortbread, roasted almonds and citrus, all of which saturate the palate as well. Crisp, cleansing acidity, pillowy mousse, a creamy, dreamy texture and a marathon-like finish, it's just the knees of the bees with this brunchy treat.
Crispy Hash Browns
Ready in 20 mins
My mother used to call these mock whitebait fritters. You can leave out the anchovy sauce if you prefer but it adds an appealing savoury flavour without tasting fishy. They take a while to cook but can be made ahead and reheated on an oven tray until they are crispy.
3 large floury potatoes, such as agria, peeled
2 Tbsp anchovy sauce, optional
1 tsp salt
A good pinch of white pepper
Olive or grapeseed oil, to fry
To serve (optional) 8-12 slices gravlax or cold-smoked salmon
½ cup sour cream mixed with 1 Tbsp chopped capers and 1 tsp chopped dill or parsley
Grate the potatoes on to a clean tea towel. Pull up the sides of the tea towel, twist and squeeze tightly over the sink to remove liquid. Place potato in a mixing bowl and stir in the anchovy sauce if using, salt and pepper.
Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a heavy-based frying pan and, working in batches, spoon in ¼ cupfuls of potato mixture, flattening each into a thin, lacy pancake. Cook over medium heat until crisp and golden (4-5 minutes each side). Add more oil to the pan between batches as needed. Drain on paper towels and place in a warmed oven until ready to serve. Serve hot with salmon, sour cream, lemon wedges and microgreens, if using.
Yvonne's pick: Every time I consider doing keto, I think about how great hash browns are and then I think about how great those crispy, spuddy treats are with a good glass of sparkling wine. And then I think about the Tohu Rewa Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditionnelle 2015 ($30.55) ... and its deeply fragrant, sweet brioche and beautiful yeast autolysis characters ... and its fresh, lemony mid-palate. I think about how using 100 per cent chardonnay has meant it's sophisticated and stylish and completely classy. And then I think that the words "my body" and "thigh gap" will never occur again in the same sentence. tohuwines.co.nz
Blue Cheese Galette with Bacon Jam
Ready in 1¼ hours
The bacon jam makes about 3 cups but I like to make a double batch as it's a great fridge fixing — it's fabulous in sandwiches and toasties, with paté, as a flavour base for casseroles or cooked with stock and thickened for a steak sauce. For brunch, partner the galette with a green salad and grilled tomatoes.
2 sheets savoury shortcrust pastry
75g blue cheese, thinly sliced or crumbled
8-10 thyme sprigs
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250g rindless bacon, thinly sliced
3 large red onions, halved and thinly sliced lengthways
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp soft brown sugar
½ tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
To make bacon jam, heat oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan or pot and cook bacon until starting to crisp. Add onions and mustard seeds and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until onions are softened (about 15 minutes). Add vinegar and continue cooking until onions are very soft (another 10 minutes). Add sugar and season. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If not using at once, transfer to a jar and chill for up to 2 weeks.
While the jam is cooling, preheat oven to 180C fanbake and cut baking paper to fit an oven tray. Preheat oven tray and place paper on bench.
Place 1 pastry sheet on the baking paper. Cut the remaining pastry sheet into 4 equal strips and attach one to each side of the first sheet. Leaving a 5cm border, spread cooled bacon jam evenly in the middle. Top with blue cheese and thyme sprigs. Fold the pastry border up and over the filling, forming little pleats from left to right. Slide galette on its baking paper on to the preheated tray and bake until crisp and golden on the base (25-30 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature.
The galette can be prepared in advance, chilled and cooked when needed, or once cooked it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and reheats well.
Yvonne's pick: Pour yourself a flute of the Daniel le Brun Methode Brut Rosé NV ($29) and the flavours of gorgeous galette are immediately dialled up to 11. With its pretty pale pink hue and scents of strawberry shortcake, this sparkler is an instant showstopper. Lifted florals, red berryfruits, fresh, nutty complexity and a pretty, pillowy texture make it just the most excellent thing to pair with a chunk of this cheesy, pastry perfection. finewinedelivery.co.nz