12 hour brunch, September 2013
You know that when your brunch guests arrive at 11am but depart after midnight, something has gone right. However, on this particular Saturday it may have been down to the rosé consumption then any the cooking. On the menu was:
Grapefruit cups with a mint infused sugar
Slice a bunch of grapefruits in half, hollow out the flesh and place back the segments, neatly carved. This is time consuming but I did have some help. This is HK after all. Place a mint leaf on each as a garnish. Put some sugar in a pestle and mortar and grind a few mint leaves into it until it turns green. Transfer to a bowl and invite guests to sprinkle on top of their grapefruit.
Cherry compote with flaked almonds and apricot kernels
Take a punnet of cherries, cut each in half and remove the stone (or buy a cherry pitter in City Super). Add a splash of water and poach in a small saucepan for 3-5 minutes or until just soft. Place in a serving bowl and scatter with flaked almonds and apricot kernels. I had never seen the latter on sale until moving to HK, but these things are ubiquitous here as the Chinese believe they are anti-carcinogenic. Only use a few though as they can be quite drying on the mouth but the flavour is sensational, and what they use to flavour Amaretto. Let's not tell the guests however that they contain a minute quantity of cyanide...
Cheat's granola with pecans, dried apricots and goji berries
Rather than making a granola from scratch and buying every goddamn seed and nut (which can be expensive in HK, unless you shop on iherb....), I bought a plain granola (this is my favourite) and added chopped pecans, dried apricots and goji berries, or as the Chinese call them, wolfberries. I find these pretty tasteless if I am honest, but they add colour to the dish and are in the world's top 10 of superfoods. They are high in vitamin C with supposed antioxidant properties and there is even a Chinese myth that a man who consumed them daily lived to the age of 256 years! But did he attend brunches like this?!
We used Delia Smith's recipe and stuck to the traditional potato and onion filling to keep it kiddy friendly, although add some chorizo or red pepper if you want to spice it up. You can make this the night before and serve it chilled. Leftovers are ideal for kids' packed lunches.
My husband is legendary at making this, even for 12 guests as we had this day. However, don't expect him to speak to you while he does it... On two toasted muffin halves, place 2 poached eggs, a slice of ham and pour Hollandaise on top. Yes, make the sauce from scratch. It's not hard but just don't ever let it boil or you'll have to start from scratch, so buy plenty of eggs just in case. Serve with roasted vine tomatoes. Let's not mention the fury that ensued when my he announced that the tomatoes I had purchased were not sufficiently red nor his subsequent shopping trip to upgrade them resulting in our latest guest being the host himself... For the best ham, go to the counter in Great which sells roast chickens (to the right of the sushi). They bake one gammon ham per day which comes out of the oven around 11am. This is a world apart from all the prepackaged varieties at the deli counter and we normally buy a whole one for Christmas (large one costs about $800). English muffins are available in nearly every Parknshop or Wellcome although those from Great are fatter and generally superior in quality, as you might expect.
Selection of breads & pastries from Joel Robuchon's Salon de Thé
The multi Michelin starred chef now has two bakeries in HK, one in IFC and the other in Landmark. They open at 8am so best to drive there on the morning of your party to get what I firmly believe are the best breads and patisseries in HK, and at decent prices too.
When the solid courses came to a close, there was a shift poolside, several more corks popped, a round of homemade burgers, the natural attrition of a few guests as childrens' bedtime approached, only to leave the hardcore crew...
NB. this kind of brunch works best on Saturday so that you have Sunday to recover...