There’s something about spring that makes me want to do brunch every weekend. Maybe it’s all the new fresh fruit and veg in the supermarkets, or the series of long weekends we get thanks to the UK bank holidays, or the possibility of enough watery sunshine to eat in the garden. In any case, as soon as April arrives, I’m hankering for long lazy brunches.
Thankfully, Sam is a huge fan of brunch, too, so is usually willing to indulge in some weekend cooking with me. This is the menu we made on Easter Sunday and is becoming something of an annual tradition around here. The devilled eggs are a nod to my Southern roots that Sam has adopted with great enthusiasm. Growing up, there was a sweet little white-haired lady at my church who brought a plate of devilled eggs every Sunday for coffee hour after mass. I still think of her every time I eat them (though I must say…mine are better!).
The Scandinavian-inspired open-faced smoked mackerel and cucumber sandwiches on rye bread were Sam’s delicious contribution. Bread-making is a hobby of his, so I have asked him to write out his recipe for the rye and spelt loaf above for you. It’s a hearty loaf, with a sweet and nutty flavor. It’s perfect for sandwiches with a salty filling, or just toasted and buttered.
The fruit salad (a simple mix of apple, pear, and red grapes with a hefty squeeze of lemon juice) replaced a sugary baked good as the sweet element, helping us attempt some sort caloric balance. And of course, no brunch would be complete without mimosas!
So with the first May Bank holiday upon us (not to mention Mothers’ Day in the US), why not spend some time pottering about the kitchen making brunch? These recipes could be even be prepped the day before so you don’t have to do any real cooking in the morning if you’re having friends over.
From a variety of sources, mostly my own head. The seasoning is entirely to taste, so feel free to tinker with the measurements as much as you like.
6 large eggs
Mayonnaise 4 tbsp
Good mustard 1-2 tsp
8-10 cornichons, chopped finely (or a tablespoon of American-style pickle relish)
Celery salt 1/4 tsp (sub regular salt if you don’t have any)
Paprika, to garnish
Place the eggs in a large pot and cover them with about an inch (2 cm) of cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and cook for 12 minutes (or use one of these cool egg timers like we do). Scoop out the eggs and put in a bowl of ice cold water until cool.
When they are cool, dry them off and remove the shells. Slice each egg in half lengthwise and gently pop out the yolks into a bowl. Add the mayo, mustard, cornichons, salt, a good pinch of pepper, and a couple of dashes of hot sauce to the yolks and smoosh it all together with a fork until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like. To serve: spoon the yolk mixture back into the holes in the egg whites and sprinkle with paprika. Use a piping bag if you’re feeling fancy!
Rye and Spelt Bread
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Rye Bread Recipe. This bread has a deep but subtle nuttiness, a dense crumb, and crisp crust: perfect to snack on and a high-fiber/low-fat alternative to the usual supermarket farmhouse.
Rye flour 400g
Spelt flour 400g
Strong white flour 100g
Instant yeast 10g
Fine sea salt 1 tsp
Warm water 600ml
Granulated sugar 3tbsp
Combine the flours, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl, taking care to keep the yeast and salt separate. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water, then add to the flour mixture. Mix to combine until you have a rough dough. Tip onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes. The dough will be wet and difficult to work, but don’t be tempted to add any more flour than you really need to: the final loaf will need all that hydration. Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave to rise for an hour. The dough won’t rise spectacularly, but it should increase by about 50% in volume. Once the dough has risen, place back onto the work surface and divide in two. If you want two loaves, prepare the loaf tins, add the dough, cover, and leave to rest for 30 minutes. For the brunch, we decided to make one loaf and use the remaining dough to make dinner rolls (which are equally delicious, but a little drier and with a crunchier crust). While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is crisp and dark. Leave to cool slightly in the tin, before cooling all the way on a rack.
To make the open faced sandwiches in the pictures, flake two fillets of smoked mackerel into a bowl. Slice half a cucumber into thin disks. Slice and lightly toast your rye and spelt bread, spread with a spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream, add some mackerel, and top with a couple of slices of cucumber. Enjoy!
Wishing you lots of lovely brunches this spring,