I think the reason ‘brunch’ as a concept has proved so popular is the slightly decadent connotations, it smacks of a meal you’d have on holiday possibly after a late night carousing and you’re not sure whether a pain au chocolat would really cut it. Or it’s a leisurely weekend meal when you’ve time for something more lavish than a mere snatched bowl of cornflakes or a slice of toast. It’s a time for pancakes, good old British fry ups or the perennial favourite – the proper bacon sarnie. And me being what people refer to in slightly disdainful tones as ‘not a morning person’ find the thought of that sort of culinary wizardry on a ‘school day’ way too taxing. But come the weekend when I haven’t been rudely awakened by an insistent alarm I am a lot more amenable to whisking eggs and breaking out the smoked salmon.
So assembling a miscellany of vaguely brunch-like black and white crockery I started considering what to create for this month's log party offerings.
If I was going out to a restaurant for brunch I would really only have one thing on my mind and that would be Eggs Benedict. A dish designed to include most of my major food groups – a golden yolked poached egg just waiting to erupt over the smoky ham and muffin and the whole enchilada drenched in a creamy smooth buttery hollandaise sauce. Sometimes I fancy a change and opt for the smoked salmon and spinach version but normally it’s the classic – and woe betide the poached egg not being runny enough!
The rather topsy-turvy nature of my life at the moment I should perhaps have plumped for the easy option of fashioning canapés from slices of buttered toast but instead I go straight for the ‘double or nothing’ by choosing to make Miniature Eggs Benedict. It’s quite a feat of timing and tenacity as not only have you got the ever fiddly quail eggs to decapitate and then poach for just shy of 2 minutes there’s the possibility of a temperamental hollandaise to contend with also. But I thought faint hearts and all that and gathered the ingredients. The easy job was getting a round cutter and making bread and ham discs for the base of the Benedict. Next it was the pan of water on for poaching and the careful beheading of the resilient quail egg shells. Thomas Keller in the French Laundry cookbook prepares an awesome egg and bacon amuse gueule and recommends firstly gently removing the more rounded egg of the quail egg shell with a serrated knife – I opted for a steak knife to pierce those tough little shells. Then the topped quail egg should be placed back in the egg box in preparation for poaching. This ‘mis en place’ has top be done first as it is quite tricky, will definitely impede you and mess up the poaching timings if you try the beheading one by one whilst hovering over the simmering water.
With the eggs all lined up back in their box I turned to the hollandaise. I only needed a soupçon to nappé the domes of poached quail eggs so I opted for the ‘almost instant hollandaise’ recipe using my trusty silver Bamix. It uses only a single egg yolk so is the perfect quantity. The final flourish has to be the tiniest flecks of freshly chopped chives. My perfectionist streak kicks in and they have to be uniform little green rings – I’m sure Thomas Keller would be proud!
After my perfect brunch dish it seems odd to try and think beyond that but I do rather have a penchant for my super creamy scrambled eggs. And deploying the never-tainted-by-coffee liquorice Nigella espresso cups seems the perfect vehicle for a spoonful or two of the soft eggy curds and of course topped with a scatter of that verdant dandruff again.
For my final brunch morsel I just had to pounce on one of my favourites what I spotted it in Waitrose’s Authentic French range – the Tarte Flambé. I have waxed lyrically about this little Alsatian treat before. It is like a pizza, but a pizza for those who can’t abide tomato. It has a crème fraîche base and lardons of smoky bacon strewn on top and is very delicious. And this new Waitrose one – sadly not available via Ocado yet is a tasty little snack and if I had a wood fired pizza oven to hand I am sure I would whip up a Tarte Flambé regularly for brunch or other meals.
The obligatory drink that always flummoxes me was an easier choice this month as any foodie diva knows that a decadent brunch deserves a proper White Peach Bellini – just like Harry’s Bar in Venice. And again thanks to Waitrose I could get my hands on the requisite white peach pulp and not have to resort to orange juice as seems to be de rigueur in ‘lesser’ establishments. Well it makes a change from cracking open the Chambord I guess.
Happy brunching…let’s see what everyone else brought to the party…