Sunday, 11 September 2011

Brunch Event #2: Middle Eastern inspired brunching at Brunch & Co!

Today we welcomed another round of new brunch recruits to our secret upstairs restaurant for a Middle Eastern inspired feast.  This was an opportunity for me to try out some recipes I have been eyeing from my plethora of cookbooks - main contributors were Australian chef Skye Gyngell from the famous Petersham Nurseries in the UK & Greg Malouf, another famous Australian chef with roots from Lebanon.  So many Aussie chefs are influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine which doesn’t rely on artery clogging amounts of butter & cream for flavour, but instead focuses on quality produce and the use of nature’s flavor enhancers such as spices, floral waters, nuts & fruits.

Our menu also gave us an opportunity to test the boundaries of what we would normally consider brunch – not a piece of bacon, a pancake or a poached egg in sight!

To kick things off we had my version of Arabic inspired “French Toast” served with pears poached with chai & cinnamon & a whipped mascarpone cream infused with orange blossom flower water & orange zest.  A little certainly goes a long way with floral waters – one teaspoon flavored the cream for 10 servings!

Our next course consisted of a mezze platter for sharing.  This dish included three homemade dips – a chickpea & roasted spice mix dip, beetroot & balsamic puree & a roasted tomato & red pepper puree – all served with a gorgeous watercress, pistachio & orange blossom salad from my favourite cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi called Plenty.  The salad leaves need to be perfectly fresh & the dressing added just before serving for it to be at its best.  My vegetable man from Little India’s Tekka market didn’t let me down with his amazingly fresh coriander & basil.

Photo by Haf!

Along with the mezze platter we also served chicken roasted with a pomegranate butter & sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds, mint leaves & toasted almonds.  A tart studded with huge chunks of caramelized garlic & fetta rounded off the main course.  No kissing tonight!!

Our brunch was washed down with homemade Arabic style lemonade (made by rubbing chopped up pieces of lemon in sugar to extract the oils from the lemon zest), orange juice & homemade cinnamon iced tea.   

Our next course was a mini palate cleanser of a strawberry granita – little bursts of flavor to ready our Brunchers’ palates for dessert!

Photo by Haf

Our final course brought together another typically used Middle Eastern flavor of rose water with a traditional British dessert – the “Fool”.  A fool is typically a pleasing mash up of whipped cream, pureed fruit such as strawberries & sugar.  For our Brunch & Co Middle Eastern version we took inspiration from another great Australian Chef, Christine Manfield, and flavored our fool with little cubes of rose flavoured Turkish delight, rose water, raspberries & crushed meringue.  Delicious & decadent!

Photo by Haf

Hoping that our guests would be inspired to cook something Middle Eastern too – they all went home with their own pomegranate with instructions on how to peel them!

I particularly enjoyed decorating the table this time around – I LOVE, with a passion, old fashioned roses and country cottage style flowers in soft pastels.  I found the flowers for these gorgeous bunches of happiness in Tiong Bahru market.  Aren’t they beautiful?

Well, all the dishes & glasses are now happily stacked back on their shelves ready for the next brunch - hope to see you there!  In the meantime, happy brunching to one and all!