About 18-months ago, a group of our friends started what has come to be known as ‘The Brunch Club’. Every couple of months somebody in the group volunteers their yard – the hope is always for good weather – on a Saturday or Sunday. The rest of us put together a plate of something and turn up at around 11.00am for brunch. It is always a great time, and brunch often extends to the early evening. These brunches are that important time where everyone relaxes, and catches up on what everyone else has been doing. It is important for our group, because with some of them living a distance away, and others having the responsibility of children, we tend not to spend a lot of time together. Our friends always manage to surprise me with the creativity they display in their choice of food for these occasions. I include below some recipes that you may find useful should you choose to do the same thing with a group of your friends. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Don’t forget to gather together a varied selection of fruit, fresh, sweet and savoury dishes. Start with a champagne cocktail, then if everyone turn up with a couple of bottles of wine, a long day is guaranteed.
Carrot and Apple Cider Cocktail (an appetite stimulant)
2 medium carrots, chilled and chopped
¾ cup sparkling apple cider, chilled
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
Process carrots through juice extractor then combine with other ingredients. Pour over ice.
Lebanese Pancakes stuffed with ricotta
20g fresh or 7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
125ml + extra 500ml lukewarm water
250g plain flour, sifted
FILLING: 300g ricotta mixed with 250g walnuts finely chopped and mixed with 2 tablespoons caster sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon or, alternatively, 1-2 teaspoons rosewater or orange blossom water, or 1 tablespoon honey.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Dissolve yeast with sugar in 125ml wwater and stand for 10 minutes until bubbles form. Add mixture to flour in a large bowl, then gradually add extra 500ml warm water. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour. The batter should bubble and rise. Heat a heavy-based frypan, and when hot smear with oil (vegetable is best, as it doesn’t flavour). Reduce heat to medium and add a small ladleful of batter to about 8cm (4”) diameter. Fill the uncooked side with a spoonful of the ricotta mixture, then fold into a semi-circle and press edges to seal. Brush with a little vegetable oil or ghee (from butter section of supermarket), then bake in oven until golden. Dip in attar syrup (500g caster sugar, 300g water & 2 tablespoons lemon juice boiled for 7-10 minutes until syrupy, then cool and add 2 tablespoons rosewater or orange blossom water). Serve with your favourite preserve and some slivered or flaked almonds, and dust with icing sugar.
Approx cost $5.00 for the batch. Makes 20-24
Carrot and Orange Salad with Craisins
Craisins are dried cranberries, which are available from the dried fruit section at the super market
4 medium carrots
3-4 tablespoons Craisins, soaked overnight in your favourite fruit juice
good pinch salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Peel thin slices of carrot using your vegetable peeler. Remove skin and pith from oranges and slice into rounds. Mix and refrigerate ingredients to develop flavours.
Arrange orange rounds into a neat mound on the plate, reserving 1-2 rounds. Arrange carrot strips on top, reserving 1-2. Place reserve orange slices, then reserved carrot slices, then sprinkle over Craisins and oil remaining in dish.
Approx cost $6
Stuffed and Pickled Baby Aubergines (make 4-5 days ahead)
350ml white balsamic vinegar (from supermarket)
125ml extra-virgin olive oil
4 whole cloves
1 star anise
pinch cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
12-18 baby aubergines (eggplants), between 5-8cm long (3”-4”)
Trim stalks from aubergines and simmer in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain overnight so water leeches out.
Make brine by mixing vinegar, oil, cloves, salt, cayenne, star anise and single garlic clove. Set aside. Make stuffing by mixing walnuts and 2 cloves garlic.
Split one side of each aubergine almost through to the skin on the other side. Press open and fill with walnut suffing. Layer in a plastic or glass container and pour over brine. Seal and refrigerate for 4-5 days.
To serve, remove from oil and drain. Serve as an appetiser or as part of a mezze platter.
Approx cost $5
Tim Alderman 2015