I said bye to DC last week and have been back in London since. I haven’t really made any effort to diet as we were a lot of the family in the house and there was nothing more I wanted to do than to impress their taste buds and tummies with delicious goodies. I can’t help myself… Mother’s day brunch was the perfect opportunity to have some fun on my own with all the cooking, baking, decorating, but also to surprise my mom! Indeed, as you may know, Mother’s day was two weeks ago… unfortunately we were all scattered around the world – and we still are since my dad is in Gabon – so we couldn’t really celebrate this spring holiday together on the actual day. That didn’t stop us from enjoying a wonderful brunch together and filling our tummies.
I had planned everything beautifully so it wouldn’t be stressful and overwhelming when preparing brunch on Sunday morning. My brother came up to my room at 8.30am (because that’s the time I told him we’d start cooking). It took some effort to drag me out of bed but duty called! He and my sister helped me a lot and even though it wasn’t always easy between bickering, arguments, complaints, we made it. I guess it’s how it works in a restaurant kitchen. Although I’m no Gordon Ramsay (whether in cooking or insulting).
On the menu.
Freshly squeezed orange juice for the little ones
Mimosa cocktails for the grown ups
Brie and apple toasts
Bacon wrapped asparagus
Thin mint hot chocolate or latte
Freshly baked strawberry and orange muffins
Chocolate pralined eggs
I like how there are no price on this menu ;) [recipes and game plan are included at the very bottom of the post]
Ok I didn’t make the chocolate eggs, we got them from M&S for Easter but everything else was 100% homemade ;)
I LOVE my tray… It’s supposed to look like an apple crate, super pretty and rustic. Find it here! (you can also get strawberry, raspberry crate and more)
We enjoyed our drinks and the food as well as the sunny Spring weather. I think the sun wanted some champagne too…
My brother was particularly concentrated on eating… as always. Appetisers, or “apéritif” as we call it in French is a sacred institution in my family… A little crazy. Whenever my dad’s home, there isn’t a meal preceded by appetisers. Enough to throw health and fitness concerned people into depression.
Then on to the table.
The thin mint lattes weren’t as good as simple mint hot chocolate. But to be fair, I don’t have the fancy coffee machine they have at Busboys and Poets and Nespresso capsules are no simple espressos; I guess the one I picked wasn’t the perfect match for chocolate and mint. Still have to work on that.
I really, REALLY loved the muffins… they were soooo moist, and light, and tasty and ah… I want some now just writing about it. Plus the colours of the bleeding strawberries in there… Simply out of this world!
Last step… dishes. Of course, we didn’t let Mom get involved of course and sent her off to bed – nap time is also very sacred in my family… – to digest all this food.
What I liked and wanted about this menu was it to be sophisticated yet simple, tasty yet light. No beans or sausages with heavy scrambled eggs and sky scraper high pancake stacks on my table! (though I wouldn’t say no to brunch pancakes… you know me).
Here are the recipes and the game plan.
Prepare the hard boiled eggs the night before. Like that they’re cold and ready to peel the next day. Important tip: beware when you peel them… I didn’t ruin the first one by not being gentle enough. You really want to keep the eggs white as intact as possible for a prettier result.
For 5 eggs (10 halves):
-5 large eggs
-3 tsp mayo (I used light mayo to cut some of the fat)
-1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
-1 tsp paprika (not smoked!)
-1/2 shallot, finely minced (you wouldn’t want to bite in a big piece of raw shallot would you?)
-salt and pepper to season
-chives to top
___To keep the egg yolks as yellow as possible, I follow Laura Vitale‘s recipe for hard boiled eggs: place your eggs in a large, deep saucepan and top them with COLD water – you want them completely covered. Then bring the water to a boil, saucepan covered, on the stove and take the sauce pan as soon as you reached boiling temperature. Let the eggs sit in the super hot water for 10 minutes and then drain. Run them under cold water until they’re cool. Keep them in the fridge until needed.
___Peel the eggs very gently. Try to spot where the yolk is situated in the white before cutting in half to make sure you cut where there’ll be equal yolk in both halves. Gently spoon the yolk out (although it easily comes right out) in a bowl and then add your mayo, mustard, paprika, shallot and season. Mix well until the mixture is smooth and not dry anymore. If it’s still dry, add a little mayo.
___Place your mixture in a piping bag with a pretty star tip and pipe the yolk mixture back in the eggs whites until full. Then cut some chives and place two little sprigs on top of each egg. Keep in the fridge until you serve but it’s best to do this not too long before serving or the egg yolk mixture will dry out a bit ;)
Brie and apple toasts:
I came up with this – though I’m sure other people have made something similar and there’s probably a recipe out there. So I was sort of experimenting and I’ll add tips to this recipe so you can make yours even better than mine.
To make 15 you’ll need:
-2 small apples (whoever ones you like, but I went with honey crisp)
-15 mini round toast slices and if you can’t find that, just do like me: cut white sandwich bread with cookie cutters until you have 15 slices
-15 halves of walnuts
___I started by slicing the apples, starting from the bottom and working the way to their top (if you see what I mean, so perpendicular to the core). I sliced mine very thinly but I actually think it’s better if they’re still a little thick (makes them more chewy). What’s good about this method is that the very center of your rounds (and indeed, your slices will look more like rounds) is the core, but if you take out the seeds, it looks super pretty. Pop them in an oven preheated at 180C until they’ve dried out, a bit, but don’t let them brown too much.
___Prepare your bread, and toast it in the same oven (I would brush the bread with a little bit of melted butter for more colour and more flavour). I think 5 minutes is enough. Don’t let them brown too much either. They will go toast again later.
___Assemble time: on one round slice of bread, add a round slice of apple, top it with a piece of brie and a walnut. Put it back in the oven for the brie to warm and melt a bit (but again, don’t leave it for too long). 5 to 8 minutes should be good.
___Finish with a little drizzle of honey and they’re READY!
I don’t think you need a recipe for freshly squeezed orange juice, do you? However for the mimosa, first pour your champagne, to half of the glass and top it up with orange juice.
It’s great to have a French water bottle to serve your orange juice, or any pretty drinks like cocktails ;)
Bacon wrapped asparagus:
Find a good, smoked bacon for this and also shaped in an equal width strip shape. It’ll make it a whole lot easier to wrap!
For 3 per person, for 4 people, you’ll need:
-12 big asparagus
-12 strips of smoked bacon
-drizzle of olive oil
___Cut the hard bottom of your asparagus, slantwise (it’s prettier). Blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes to start their cooking – unless you like really crispy asparagus and I guess you can skip that step. Then run them under really cold water to stop the cooking process.
___Prepare your bacon. I like to cut of some of the fat if it’s a big stripe of fat on an edge. If your bacon’s edges aren’t straight lines, you have to cut some off. I know it’s a waste, but hey: it’s just bacon.
___Wrap the bacon around the asparagus, starting from the bottom and working the way up. Then pop it on a baking tray lined with foil paper, sprayed with a bit of non stick spray. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil and off in the oven! 20 minutes should be good, but keep an eye on it, depending on how you like your bacon (soft or crispy). (I may try to pre-cook the bacon in the oven next time, and wrap it, when it’s still pliable, around the asparagus and then bake everything for crispiness…)
I think I made mine too big… Or I didn’t use the right tip when I piped the mash, but they flattened a bit in the oven… I don’t know… Make them smaller than mine maybe?, and use a large star tip ;)
For 4 people:
-A little less than 2lb of baking potatoes
-1 big knob of butter (I think it would be 1 1/2 tbsp but feel free to add a little more)
-3 tbsp light cream cheese
-1 egg yolk (I used two but I think it may have caused the flattening. Again: I don’t know, I have to experiment a little more)
-freshly grated nutmeg (about 3/4 tsp) and salt and pepper
___Prepare your potatoes like you would for a mash: chop them in equal size pieces (and not too big so they absorb less water). Throw them in COLD, slightly salted water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes and check if they’re cooked. You should insert a knife in the potato chunks super easily. Otherwise leave a little longer.
___Once cooked, drain the potatoes, and mash them with the butter (it will melt with the heat of the potatoes). Then add the egg yolk – the mixture should be cool enough now, to not scramble the egg. Mix, mix, mix, season.
/!\ IMPORTANT: do not do this with a food processor or blender, unless you like eating glue paste.
___Pipe your mash potato on some parchment paper starting from the center, then swirl around and make your way up to the top. (I didn’t, but I think buttering the parchment paper, or spraying it with non stick would be a good tip).
Then you can keep those in the fridge until you cook your wrapped asparagus ;) I made mine the evening before, and like that you don’t have to worry about it on the actual day ;)
___When ready to bake. Preheat the oven at 180C and make sure you took the potato duchess out of the fridge a while before so they come to room temperature (it’s ok if they’re still a bit cold). Then melt some butter and drizzle the top of the pretty mountains (they’ll get a nice golden brown colour). And that’s it! In the oven, same time as the asparagus, 20 minutes, or until they’re a little crispy on the outside! They should be able to be taken off the parchment paper afterwards, if you buttered or sprayed it. I hadn’t and I had to serve them on the paper, which isn’t great…
Strawberry and orange muffins:
I’ll redirect you to the recipe I found online. I may have used a little less butter and a little more strawberry puree, but oh my, it was one of the best muffins I have ever had ;)
Thin mint hot chocolate:
The combination mint and chocolate = match made in heaven.
Enough for 4 big cups:
-1/2 good quality (at least 70% cocoa) dark chocolate bar
-2 tsp sifted good quality cocoa powder
-700mL whole milk
-3/4 cup mint syrup (I made mine myself, equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and add a big bunch of fresh mint and leave it to thicken for 20-30minutes. Then take off the heat and drain, making sure to squeeze the syrup out of the mint. You can store it in a mason jar like I did, and you can keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks I think. Adding a drop of vodka will help you preserve it longer).
___In a large saucepan, pour your milk and your cocoa. Let the chocolate melt on a medium-low heat and make sure to stir regularly. Then add your mint syrup and it’s ready to serve! I like to not add too much syrup, as it brings not only mint flavour but sweetness, and then everyone can add more syrup as they like. What’s also good is to steam some milk, if you have the machine for it and to top your hot cocoa with it. Decorate with a sprig of mint when you serve.
3 hours on the actual day should be enough to prepare, cook and bake everything ;)
Voila! Enjoy your elegant and tasty brunch!