Easy Bank-Holiday Brunches
Liz’s Easy Brunch Munch
Nutritionists tell us that the first meal we have in a day is the most important. Personal trainers advocate a decent start to the day with slow-release, complex carbs, and I’ve known rugby coaches to say it’s the only meal at which professional players can eat whatever they want. In the working week, we tend to rely on the same simple things: cereals, fruit & yoghurt, toast. We might treat ourself to a bacon or sausage butty at the weekend. Bank holidays are special, though: it’s like getting an extra Saturday before we go back to work.
It’s a time for treats!
I’m not a fan of Champagne breakfasts and Bloody Mary for brunch. I can’t see the appeal of alcohol so early in the day. I do, however, love traditional breakfast dishes: proper, old fashioned cooked dishes that bring out the Edwardian in me. I always order kippers at an hotel or treat myself to eggs benedict in a café. The problem with these dishes is that they require a lot of time-consuming attention. That’s all very well if you have a country house and staff who have been working from 5:00am, but it’s a bit of a faff for the rest of us. Rather than give up on my treats, I’ve found ways of making them more practical by pre-preparing as much as possible the day before. It can be part of a leisurely Sunday at home while my partner’s out playing tennis, an excuse for lots of tea and a bop around the kitchen to music from my youth.
Here are a few dishes you can try this weekend. I’ve broken them each into “Sunday” and “Monday morning” stages, but you can do them whenever you like. Most of the prep will stand quite safely in the fridge for a day or two.
There are any number of variants on this. At its simplest, it consists of kidneys cooked in butter and cayenne pepper and served on toast. My version makes use of tomato juice and mustard, too. If you’re looking for a Bloody Mary, then, here it is. The liquid used for the sauce is effectively that. All that’s missing is the vodka, which would do less for the lamb’s kidneys than it does for your liver!
4 lambs’ kidneys or large Portobello mushrooms
A tablespoon of butter or vegetable oil, for frying
300ml passata, tomato juice or warm water with a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée stirred into it.
A generous teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A splash or two of Tabasco sauce
A teaspoon strong English mustard
A tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce or Henderson’s Relish
Salt & pepper
If you’re using mushrooms, simply cut them into thick slices (about a centimetre thick). Prepare kidneys by removing any suet and cleaning off the membrane. (The butcher may well have already done this.) Slice them along the length of the kidney, so they retain their characteristic shape, and remove the hard, fatty core. Cover and refrigerate.
Mix the passata/juice with the wholegrain mustard, cayenne and Tabasco and set aside for morning. I sometimes also add a little horseradish. Have the other ingredients near the stove, so they’re handy when you start cooking.
Heat the butter or oil in a heavy pan.
Add the kidneys or mushrooms and fry gently on both sides. Mushrooms will soak up the oil at first, so put a lid on the pan to encourage them to sweat a bit.
When your main ingredients have started to brown, add the Worcester sauce/Henderson’s and give the pan a good stir to lift any tasty bits off the bottom.
Add the tomato mix and turn the heat down. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Taste the sauce. All my measures are very approximate, and you should make adjustments now, to your own taste. It should have quite a kick but not hide the flavour of the kidneys.
Continue simmering for another five minutes or so to allow the sauce the thicken a little. Use this time to make a pot of tea and some toast.
Stir in the English mustard on the last minute and serve on the toast.
Liz’s Easy Brunch Munch
My sister is the ultimate exponent of detailed forward-planning. This is the dish she makes for her family on Christmas morning. When my nieces were young, she could throw it in the oven when they got up, so it was ready when they’d finished opening presents. You can read more about her approach to cooking on her “Chez Liz” Facebook page
Sausage, Bacon, or Ham - whichever you prefer, cooked and diced
2 Large Potatoes, diced
1 Onion, diced
1 Sweet Bell Pepper (any colour), diced
6 Mushrooms, sliced
200 g Cheddar Cheese, grated
4 eggs, whisked
A pint Whole Milk
Salt, Pepper, Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Pepper
Start by cooking your meat, pat it with some kitchen roll to get rid of as much grease as possible, then dice it. Place in the bottom of a large casserole dish.
In the same frying pan or skillet, add some oil if necessary, and fry up the diced potatoes until they start to turn golden (around 10 minutes). Add the onions, peppers and mushrooms and cook for a further 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper then pour the cooked ingredients into the casserole dish with the meat. Add half of the cheese to the dish and then stir everything up. Cover and refrigerate.
In a dish or jug, whisk together the eggs and milk, add salt, pepper and smoked paprika (or chipotle pepper if you like your food spicier). Cover and refrigerate this, too.
Preheat the oven to 175° C, gas 6.
Pour the egg mixture over the meat and veggies, sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, checking to make sure the eggs have set. If you have brought this straight from the fridge you’ll probably have to cook it for about 10 minute longer. It’s best to let this sit for 10 minutes before you serve it, which gives you plenty time to make a pot of tea or coffee.
This is my favourite brunch dish of all time. It seems complicated at first, but if you prepare everything the day before, it’s little more than re-heat job in the morning.
(serves 3-4, depending on the size of your appetite)
700g smoked haddock (skin on)
4 or 5 handfuls of long grain rice
A small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
A good handful of fresh parsley
Salt & pepper
Gently poach the fish in a shallow pan, with just enough water to cover it, for about 8 minutes. The fish should be just starting to flake but not falling apart. Lift the fish out of the pan, keeping the water, and set aside to cool.
Measure the water and make up to a pint, if necessary. Bring it back to the boil and use it to cook the rice. When the rice is cooked, strain it and tip it into a shallow dish to cool. It’s important to cool rice quickly and get it into the fridge as soon as it’s cool. Warm rice kept for too long at room temperature is a perfect breeding-ground for salmonella and other bacteria.
Hard boil the eggs, then plunge them into cold water to stop them cooking. Peel the eggs and put them in the fridge.
Remove the skin from the cooled fish. Beak the fillets into large flakes and remove any bones you find. Cover and refrigerate.
Finely chop the onion and put in an airtight container in the fridge, then do the same with the parsley.
Heat the butter in a large pan (I use the wok) until it has foamed up and starts to quieten down. Add the chopped onion and cook until it is translucent and starting to colour. Add the curry powder and cook for a further minute or so.
Add the rice to the pan and cook over a medium heat to heat it through and distribute the flavours of the onion and spices.
Add the fish and continue cooking. Check the seasoning and add salt & pepper to taste.
Quarter the eggs and add them to the pan, gently stir the pan to allow the eggs to warm through in the heat of the rice.
Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze the lemon over the top and sprinkle on the parsley. Cover and leave it to stand a few minutes while you make tea, then give it a final stir and serve.
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