My book group used to drink wine on weekday evenings. But over the past year several small future-bibliophiles have arrived and our meetings have shifted to the more baby-friendly weekend brunch hours.
By the time it was my turn to host there we had already enjoyed several delicious pancake-based mornings so I felt the need to do something different.
A recent episode of Helen Zaltzman’s always-excellent Allusionist podcast had an interesting discussion of brunch. I think I agree with the conclusion that she and her interviewee, Dan Pashman of The Sporkful reached. Namely that brunch isn’t just a portmanteau word but a portmanteau meal: it should replace breakfast and lunch. As Dan says: “If you eat three meals in a day then you did not have brunch.”
It therefore needs to be relatively substantial. For me it’s also important that the food combines elements of breakfast and lunch. Or rather that it has a breakfast-y vibe (probably something to do with eggs) but builds on it to be more extravagant and generous.
After some thought (and I'm always happy to have an opportunity to think about food) I went with a frittata as the eggy element, sweet potato “hash browns” to fill people up, smoked salmon for a little luxury and some harissa roast cherry tomatoes for extra flavour.
Kale And Herb Frittata
This makes a huge one. Enough for eight. If you want to scale it down use a smaller pan so it remains satisfyingly sliceable.
- 12 eggs
- small bunch parsley
- small bunch dill
- 8 spring onions
- 200g kale
- 1 tbsp oilve oil
- Remove the tough stalks from the kale, chop the leaves roughly and boil for a minute until just tender. Drain well.
- Beat the eggs with salt and pepper.
- Put the olive oil in a high sided frying pan. Chop the spring onions and gently sweat for a minute.
- Add the kale and roughly chopped herbs to the pan, make sure all the greens are even distributed and immediately pour on the eggs.
- Cook gently but don’t stir. Either on the hob until the bottom half is fairly set then finish under the grill (probably around 10 minutes for each on a low heat). Or, when the bottom is done, flip the frittata onto a plate and return to the pan to cook the other side.
- Some people quite like it a little gooey in the middle, but there was a pregnant lady so I made sure it was cooked all the way through. This solidity has the advantage of keeping its shape and making it easy to slice. It's good cold the next day too.
Sweet Potato Hash Browns
We’re usually eight at Book Group but were a few ladies down on this occasion. This was enough for five - basically one potato per person.
These aren't as solid as regular hash browns. They're probably more like latkes.
- 5 sweet potatoes
- 1 egg
- 75g flour
- Enough sunflower oil to fill a frying pan to a depth of about 0.5cm.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and grate into a large bowl.
- Add the egg and flour and mix until well combined. Form into small discs 2-3 inches wide.
- Heat the oil to the point where a tiny tester piece of the mixture fizzles when dropped in, then cook the discs of potato mixture a few at a time (don't overcrowd the pan) until golden (about a minute and a half for each side).
- As each is done, place it on a piece of kitchen roll to absorb excess oil then keep warm in a low oven until all are ready (or set aside and heat up later as required).
- Serve with a spoonful of sour cream, a slice of smoked salmon and lemon for squeezing.
Harissa Roast Cherry Tomatoes
Again, this makes quite a lot so either scale it down or keep the extras in the fridge. They make a lovely quick topping for bruschetta and go well with quick-cook couscous.
- 800g cherry tomatoes
- 2 tbsp harissa
- juice of half a lemon
- Spoon the harissa into an ovenproof dish and squeeze on the lemon juice.
- Add the whole cherry tomatoes and roll them around until evenly coated in the mixture.
- Sprinkle over a pinch each of salt and sugar and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Cook in the oven at 200C/gas mark 6 for approximately half an hour. The tomatoes should be softening and bursting, their juices mingling with the harissa.
Ifs And Ands
- We have a goats cheese refusenik in Book Group and I also didn’t think it would go well alongside smoked salmon. But in a fish-free brunch it (or crumbled feta) would make a nice addition to the frittata.
- Add lemon and dill to the sour cream for topping the “hash browns”. Lumpfish or salmon caviar would be lovely instead of (or as well as!) smoked salmon.
- If you weren’t putting spring onions in the frittata you could add them, finely chopped, to the sweet potato mixture before frying.
- The hash browns would also go well with fried or scrambled eggs and crisply fried bacon for a more traditional breakfast with a twist.
- If you don’t like chilli heat replace the harissa for the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one of balsamic vinegar.