Recipes and images by Fiona Hugues

How I do love to attend a brunch soiree, as it leaves the rest of the day to do great things, undoubtedly fuelled by drinking bubbles at breakfast time. Hosting an early gathering is, however, the cause of much anxiety and heart palpitations among most, and there’s a few that won’t even bother such is the torture the mere thought of playing host brings. Fear not my friends, help is at hand. Here is my completely stress-free, prepared in advance brunch so that you too can enjoy bubbles for breakfast without sweat or tears.

A FEW DAYS BEFORE

Order pastries, the best you can afford.

Decide on your table colour palette and try to stick to it. I’ve used an old rose and mustard floral theme here led by a piece of linen I used as a tablecloth because those usual garish pink and environmentally hazardous get-ups garnered from a reckless trip to a $2 shop make me grimace.

Don’t be afraid to mix old and new tableware, but try to keep it all within colours you can count on one hand. I added black and white striped napkins for some graphic chic, but all similar shades are worth a crack too.

The pretty Karen Walker side plates I used were the perfect match for my $1 op shop pink champagne flutes. The floral linen fabric was a good match with my handmade pottery plates. Same goes for flowers – mix garden and roadside finds with a few bunches from a florist for relaxed hostess happiness shown off in a vase.

Buy ingredients for my brunch recipes and add some seasonal fruit to appease any vegetarians or vegans on your guest list.

THE DAY BEFORE

Make the bagel spreads, rillettes and potato salad, and chill in the fridge.

Prepare your table, wash and iron linens, put out plates, glassware, cups for coffee and cutlery.

Cut stems of flowers and arrange in vases of fresh water.

Chill champagne … dairy and oat milk too if offering tea and coffee.

ON THE DAY

Put on your daytime jazzy playlist – I usually play Spotify French café or bossa nova lists.

Light a few scented candles.

Pile pastries, toasted bagels and brioche and stack onto serve ware or into baskets. Add butter and preserves to accompany the croissants. (Trick – put jams in small bowls or vintage jars so your guests think you made them.)

Fill a press with ground beans or get your filter ready for coffee.

Pull everything out of the fridge and place on the table.

When guests arrive, chat, socialise and pour champagne.

And in a rather magical fashion when ready to eat, with no stress at all, casually point guests towards your buffet brunch table so they can help themselves.

Voila! You’re welcome.

 

Salmon Rillettes

Salmon in the morning is such a delicious thing. Most days I prefer savoury flavours early, and this ticks all my boxes. Rillettes pronounced ‘ree-yet’ is a French classic made with smoked and poached salmon, flavoured with delicate fragrant things all buttery and rich. It is sublime on brioche toast but equally great on a bagel, and it keeps well in the fridge for a week (pop it on blinis for aperitif time later in the day or serve portions individually as an entrée with sliced baguette). My recipe here is more of a guide, so don’t forget to taste as you go.

300–400g approx. fresh salmon fillet, deboned

4 x spring onions, 2 roughly chopped, 2 finely sliced

⅔ cup white wine

zest of a lemon, plus the juice

250-300g hot smoked salmon fillet

1 x shallot, finely chopped

2–3 tbsp crème fraiche

⅓ cup good mayonnaise

2 tbsp whole seed mustard

1–2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

¼ cup salted capers, rinsed and roughly chopped

salt & pepper

 

Place the wine, fresh salmon, lemon zest and roughly chopped spring onions in a saucepan and add water just to cover. Bring to the boil, turn off heat and set aside to cool and infuse.

In a bowl mix together the chopped shallot, finely chopped spring onion, mayo, mustard, capers, dill and crème fraiche.

Drain poached salmon and discard liquid. Flake in the cooled gently cooked salmon (it should be dark pink and only just cooked) and add the smoked salmon and stir to combine. The key is keeping chunks of glorious pink fish, so don’t over mix. Have a taste. Season with a little salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and more tart crème fraiche if you need.

Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour so the flavours can get to know each other.

Serve on toasted brioche, crostini, bagels or whatever bready thing takes your fancy.

 

Creamy Cheese Bagel Spreads

I’m of the age where I can vaguely recall a retro cheese ball sitting proudly on a 1980s table all creamy, tart and delicious. Insanely tasty, I’ve brought that swanky party time beast of old out of pre-extinction and jazzed it up for brunch to serve with bagels. Frankly, I don’t really like too much fondling of my balls in the morning, so these ones aren’t manhandled and tossed about, instead they’re served in jars which makes them easier to store in the fridge. They’ll last for a good week or so. Just bring them out a half hour before serving to soften so they’re easy to spread.

Sicilian Cheese Spread

450–500g cream cheese, softened

½ cup grated cheese (I used Noble but Parmesan is great if you want a stronger flavour or mozzarella or Colby for those who prefer a milder palate).

a whisper of crushed garlic, about ⅓ clove

¼ cup sautéed red capsicum, sliced

2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp sundried tomatoes, sliced

slivered green olives

1½ tsp tomato paste

fresh chopped herbs (I used basil and flat leaf parsley)

salt & pepper

 

In a bowl beat together the cream cheese, garlic and grated cheese until well combined and pretty much smooth. (I used my stand mixer with paddle attachment).

Stir in all the other ingredients well and taste. Adjust seasoning or ingredients as you prefer.

Spoon into jars and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Bacon Walnut Spread

450–500g cream cheese, softened

½ cup grated cheese

3 rashers of streaky bacon, cooked and finely chopped

2 tbsp horseradish, grated

½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped

salt & pepper

a squeeze of lemon to taste.

 

Use the same method as above.

 

All Day Potato Salad with Soft Boiled Eggs

This salad is great at any time of the day. I’ve served it individually here for ease, but you can whack it on a big serving plate and shower it in chives to take to a BBQ. I love it in the morning as it’s all lemony and eggy with salty bacon bits. It’s pretty much a no fuss eggs benedict – just add some buttery wilted spinach if you’re a purist.

1 x 700g bag small gourmet potatoes (I used Medley for interest and colour), chopped into similar sizes

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 red sweetie capsicum, sliced

9 rashers smoky dry-cured bacon, 5–6 chopped, 3 left whole

1 cup mayonnaise (or hollandaise if you like)

1 cup unsweetened Greek yoghurt

¼ cup fresh chives, chopped

juice of a lemon

flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped

3–5 soft boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half

salt & pepper

 

Place potatoes in a large pan of slightly salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender when tested with a sharp knife. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a pan over medium heat, add the oil and sauté the capsicum until softened and starting to golden.

Place the mayonnaise and yoghurt in a large bowl, season, and add lemon juice to taste. Add the cooked capsicum, chopped chives and chopped bacon. Stir to combine and adjust seasoning to your liking. Add potatoes and toss to coat.

Spoon salad into serving dishes – I used small wine goblets. Tuck in a rasher of bacon and nestle half an egg on top. Season with a sprinkle of pepper.

Keep salad refrigerated but serve at room temperature with small cake forks.

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