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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Three easy brunch ideas to try at home

There's no need to spend a fortune at a fancy hotel - make your own brunch at home instead.  These three suggestions will help you on your way

Create a seafood brunch in the comfort of your own home
Create a seafood brunch in the comfort of your own home

Weekend brunches are a UAE institution, but as we all know, an afternoon spent eating and drinking doesn’t come cheap. If you’re looking to spend a bit less but still want to embrace the very best bits about this type of meal – the socialising, lazy, leisurely eating and delicious food – then how about brunching at home

Before you dismiss the idea as too much work or not quite special enough, our ideas are easy to execute and each of the menus follows a popular brunch theme, meaning they feel less like an ordinary lunch and more like a treat. To keep things simple, these suggestions utilise ready-prepared items and instead of differentiating between formal starters and mains are based on a relaxed, grazing-style way of eating.

The seafood brunch

Leave the caviar and finicky oysters to the high-end restaurants and plump for a one-pot mussel feast that will wow guests without blowing your budget. Not only are these molluscs cheaper than most other types of seafood, they’re also sustainable, respond well to being cooked in big batches and look impressive, too.

Mussels might seem intimidating, but once the prep work is completed and the base sauce made, they take mere minutes to cook and even come with their own internal timer: once they’re done, they open up.

Serve big bowls of mussels with griddled lemon wedges, a simple green salad and piles of crusty bread for mopping up the sauce, and don’t forget to provide a few finger bowls and a receptacle for empty shells.

Creamy caramelised garlic mussels with griddled lemons

(see picture above) You can easily adapt this dish by adding different flavours just before you pour in the stock. Try a tablespoon of curry powder and a squeeze of lime, or use Thai green curry paste and replace the cream with coconut milk.

Serves 6

2.5kg to 3kg mussels

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

8 sprigs thyme

2.5kg to 3kg mussels

3 tbsp white grape vinegar

200ml vegetable stock

200ml double cream

Griddled lemon wedges, to serve

Crusty bread, to serve

Green salad, to serve

Method:

  • Set your largest saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil and butter, followed by the garlic, shallots and thyme. Cook, stirring often, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the garlic is golden and caramelised. Set aside until needed.
  • Wash the mussels in a large bowl of cold water, scrubbing them to get rid of any debris. Remove the beards by pulling down and outwards towards the hinge. Discard mussels with cracked shells or that don’t close when tapped against a hard surface.
  • Return the pan with the garlic to the heat and add the white grape vinegar and stock, and bring to the boil. Tip in the mussels and cover with a lid. Leave to steam for 4 to 5 minutes or until the majority of the mussels have opened, shaking the pan occasionally.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to serving bowls, removing any that haven’t opened.
  • With the pan still on the heat, pour in the cream and heat through. Taste and season if needed. Pour the sauce over the mussels.
  • Serve with lemon wedges, salad and crusty bread.

Meat-lovers brunch

The meat-lovers brunch
The meat-lovers brunch

Perfectly cooked steak served at the table with an array of condiments and side dishes is one of the most decadent ways to brunch, but it does come with a price tag to match. Bring the idea into your own home, though, and the meal can be both affordable and achievable, as well as earning you serious kudos from your guests.

To serve a steak dinner for six or more with aplomb, abandon the idea of searing individual steaks to order. Instead buy a large cut of meat – a rib eye or sirloin roast – and cook it whole. Leave the meat to rest properly so that all the juices are reabsorbed and slice it just before serving. The end pieces will suit those who prefer their meat at the medium-well end of the spectrum and the cut will become rarer and rarer towards the middle.

With this sort of meal, quality trumps quantity every time. A couple of slices of steak per person is really all you need, provided you go big with the accompaniments. Call them fries, frites or chips, there’s something about this combination that just works. Forget about peeling mounds of potatoes and frying them to order, though. Instead take frozen oven chips in an entirely gourmet direction by way of a sprinkling of parmesan, a scattering of herbs and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Serve your steak and posh chips with condiments and sauces galore - think ketchup, mayo and mustard, herby homemade salsa, pickled mushrooms from the deli, and a quick sauce made from combining blue cheese with sour cream. Do all that and your lucky guests will think that they’re eating at the homeliest steak house in town.

Pepper-rubbed roast sirloin with truffle, parmesan and thyme fries

Serves 6

1.5kg sirloin of beef

3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling

3 tbsp black peppercorns

1/2 bunch thyme

1 tbsp plain flour

900g frozen chips

75g parmesan, finely grated

½ to 1 tbsp truffle oil

  • Thirty minutes before you want to start cooking, remove the meat from the fridge. Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Lightly oil an ovenproof dish or tray.
  • Finely crush the black peppercorns and tip into a small bowl. Pick the leaves from half the thyme sprigs and add to the bowl along with 2 tbsp oil. Stir together to make a paste.
  • Season the meat with salt, then rub all over with the black pepper paste. Dust lightly with the flour.
  • Set a large frying pan with the remaining oil over a high heat. When you can feel a strong heat rising from the pan, add the meat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turning regularly, until seared on all sides.
  • Transfer the meat to the oiled dish or tray. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes for medium-rare, 1 hour for medium and 1 hour 10 minutes for well done. Cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before thinly slicing.
  • Cook the chips according to pack instructions, so that they’re ready at the same time as the meat. When 10 minutes cooking time remains, sprinkle over the parsmesan and remaining thyme sprigs and drizzle with truffle oil. Return to the oven.
  • Serve the steak and fries with as many different condiments and sauces as you like.

Asian-style brunch

Create an Asian-style brunch at home
Create an Asian-style brunch at home

Little morsels of sushi and sashimi, crispy wontons, plump dumplings, soy-glazed fish and fluffy rice; if that sounds more like a restaurant meal than one you’d serve in your own home, we say think again.

By no means burden yourself with making every item in that array yourself, though. Focus on cooking one element really well – in this case the soy and honey glazed salmon – and then supplement with a few cheats, such as delivery service sushi, frozen edamame beans, shop-bought dim sum and even microwavable rice. The trick simply lies in gussying up these extras: decant items into pretty bowls or arrange on aesthetically pleasing plates, add a scattering of herbs here and a dusting of lime zest there and you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

Serving individually portioned salmon parcels adds a sense of theatre to the meal. More importantly, it makes your life easier as they can be packaged up well ahead of time, ready to be popped in the oven 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat. Do bring them to the table still wrapped up; that way everyone gets to open their own little salmon present.

Soy and honey-glazed salmon parcels

Serves 6

5 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp runny honey

2 limes

3cm piece ginger, peeled and grated

1 tbsp olive oil

400g tenderstem broccoli, trimmed

6 125g skin-on salmon fillets

  • Put the soy sauce, honey, the zest and juice of one lime, and the ginger in a small saucepan, set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until thickened and sticky. Leave to cool.
  • Set a frying pan or griddle pan with the olive oil over a high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for 4 to 6 minutes. Thinly slice the remaining lime.
  • Cut six squares of baking paper or parchment, each about 30cm by 30cm. Brush the salmon fillets all over with the sticky soy glaze.
  • Divide the broccoli between the squares of parchment, add the lime slices and place a piece of salmon on top. Spoon over any remaining glaze and seal the parcels.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Put the parcels on a baking tray and cook for 20 minutes. Serve with steamed dumplings, edamame beans, rice and dipping sauces.

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Tips for entertaining with ease

·         Set the table the night before. It’s a small job but it will make you feel more organised once done.

·         As the host, your mood sets the tone. If people arrive to find you red-faced and harried, they’re not going to relax until you do. Take a deep breath and try to exude calm energy.

·         Guests tend to turn up thirsty. Fill a big jug with iced water and lemon or lime slices and encourage people to help themselves.

·         Have some background music on to help create a bit of ambience and fill any initial lulls in conversations.

·         The meal certainly doesn’t need to be ready the moment your guests step through the door, but if there’s a nibble or two that can be passed around it will ward off hunger pangs and buy you a bit more time in the kitchen.

·         You absolutely don’t have to make every element of the brunch from scratch. Take inspiration from our ideas for ready-made extras and by all means pick up a store-bought dessert.