Brunch decoded

Quintessentially British, “Brunch” is a cross between breakfast and lunch. Normally eaten around 11am and can last up to three hours (although I wouldn’t like to limit it). Another epic tradition brought to life in the 1800’s; a playful meal for the Victorian party animal and adopted by the Americans after World War Two. The anticipation of spending a morning devouring a buffet of all sorts of treats is a highlight of my week. The satisfaction of not having to rush to work with half a slice of dry toast balancing between your teeth and toothpaste on your jumper makes it all the tastier.

However my love for a Saturday morning feast of boiled eggs and soldiers, pancakes, and copious amounts of tea are surprisingly not shared by everyone. A good (Scottish) friend once politely dropped into conversation that brunch should be banned as it “displaced” his morning. He argued we should have three solid meals a day and not one halfway between two. It’s safe to say the conversation ended pretty soon after that.

Much like Christmas morning this British tradition tends to differ from family to family. Al fresco, in bed, or with your finest china – if you’re too slow to grab your favourite spoon, or mug for your tea, you may as well go hungry.

Almost as important as the meal itself are location and company. A brave uncle attempting to discuss politics and digest a newspaper; as you stare at him blankly, desperately trying to piece together your non-existent memory of the night before, is not enjoyable for either party. The comforts of your own home are great if changing out of your pj’s to become socially acceptable is too much of a challenge; but cooking ability might be a determining factor of whether a restaurant would give maximum enjoyment and safety to all.

Layering the meal with three courses to make up for breakfast and lunch should be taken seriously (but not too seriously it is the weekend remember). Start with an artisan combination of fruit, yoghurt and granola – perfect to cleanse the palate and kick-start your morning with a healthy dose of vitamins. There is no place for a bowl of cornflakes here. We all know a balanced diet is best so round off the meal with your choice of a sweet treat: pastries, croissants, muffins or a simple digestive. Don’t feel guilty; it’s elevenses after all.

The pièce de résistance: main course.

The king of brunch is a full-works fry-up. Any number of components will build your empire and carry you through battle. They may look and smell the same but whether you are English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh, defence barriers will rise on whether haggis or Penclawdd cockles are more suited. The square sausage debate can be left at the Boarders until the next Independence Referendum. From builders to farmers, children to travellers, at the end of the day (or should I say beginning) we all stand together in climbing this mountain of grease.

A simple bacon sandwich may hit the spot, with all additions from sausage and black pudding to a fried egg welcome. Crunchy cos lettuce and some sliced plum tomatoes create a guilt-free BLT- it’s just a salad with a twist. I am personally saucy enough but mix and match: ketchup, mayo, hot sauce, brown sauce or even Canadian maple syrup.

You may go upmarket on the sandwich front with smashed avocado on sourdough or rye bread. Get creative tossing pancakes or waffles with limitless toppings of bacon, Nutella, lemon or more maple syrup. Omelettes are another dish open to your imagination – a useful way to use up leftover cheese lurking at the back on the fridge. One thing we are learning quickly is that bacon can (and should) be added to everything on the menu. You may have 99 problems but bacon could probably solve 98 of them (along with a longer weekend)- unless you are a vegetarian in which case, apologies.

To take your brunch up a notch create a decadent fishy feast of lobster, oysters or kippers. Kedgeree, eggs Benedict, or simply smoked salmon and scrambled egg. A great treat to celebrate birthdays, Christmas, Weddings or just the fact you managed to survive another week. Do not forget a ton of sea salt and cracked black pepper to spice things up.

Brunch is trending in capital cities. Nightclubs are bearing all in daylight to give us unlimited pizza and Prosecco over midday. Restaurants are serving up anything from sushi to steak, but best of all is the infamous Duck and Waffle – open 24 hours and located on the 40th floor (Heron Tower, London), it is the highest restaurant in the UK – brunch with a view. Is this a short-lived craze we will grow out of? I think not, brunch is an old English tradition that, unlike kale, is here to stay. 

Alongside food we have the small question of which drink will wash it all down. If you are as indecisive as me this could take a while. Narrow it down to tea and there is still the question of builders or herbal? Earl Grey or Redbush? Let alone the controversy of whether the milk comes before or after the tea itself (of course it’s after). Coffee is not much easier either and doesn’t stop at black or white; do you use instant, a cafetiere or a machine to make it? Cow’s milk or almond milk? You may even enjoy a hazelnut or vanilla twist.

Freshly squeezed orange juice is a prerequisite when you commit to brunch. Not even an amateur would dare to leave it off the list. If you are a domestic goddess this is your cue to whip out the juicer. I for one cannot keep up with the flavours of juice on offer. You may spy vegetables and herbs sneaking into the mix too or if you are a hard-core yoga-junkie a green-goddess made of cucumber, spinach and celery may take your fancy.

Last but by no means least let me present to you: Alcohol. It will either make or break your brunch. If you didn’t quite have enough last night then leave the celery out of the juice and immerse it into a Bloody Mary – one of the most distinctive rituals to characterise this meal. Tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, horseradish, spices and lemon – otherwise known as hair of the dog. Commonly used to help ‘reduce’ the symptoms of a hangover but really just delays it until you sober-up. Champagne would also not go amiss around 11am, adding an air of elegance to the table.

I hope this has raised some questions, prompted your imagination but most of all boosted excitement for the weekend ahead.

P.S. If you’re adding beans: beans means Heinz. (Disclaimer: other varieties are available)


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