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On the Table

For Cambridge Cookery’s MD Tine Roche, brunch is the best meal of the day. Here’s her guide to making the perfect late-morning feast.

Brunch at Cambridge Cookery School (11071265)
Brunch at Cambridge Cookery School (11071265)

For me, the best meal of the day is without a doubt breakfast, or, rather, if like me you don’t wake up hungry, brunch.

I am definitely a lark, rather than an owl. I get much more done during the first half of the day than I do after lunch and to me, food and drink never taste as good late at night as they do around 11am.

Brunch also lends itself really well to entertaining. Invite your friends for 11am and by 2pm they will be gone. Bliss. By 3pm the kitchen is restored to its normal order and the dishes are back in the cupboards. I am not ashamed to confess that I am almost as satisfied when I have washed the floor and put the last glass on its shelf as I am just before my guests arrive.

A good brunch must involve freshly made, Italian or French style coffee, runny eggs, fresh bread, a good serving of chilli either fresh or in the form of sriracha, ripe avocado with plenty of sea salt and occasionally a few crisp rashers of outdoor-reared, Wiltshire-cured Dingley Dell bacon.

A good brunch must also involve freshly baked bread. It is simply the best. A good, slow risen bread is a complex carbohydrate which will score low on the GI scale and in which the gluten will be easy to digest, unlike commercial bread. Offer little light and fluffy milk rolls, still warm from the oven, and your guests will love you forever.

Mix 25g fresh yeast dissolved in a little water, with 300ml full fat milk, a squirt of golden syrup, a teaspoon of fine sea salt and 500g of flour, ideally a mix of 70% strong white or spelt, 30% rye, malted or multi-seeded. Mix it all the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, shape golf ball-sized rounds of dough, place on a non stick baking sheet and leave to slowly prove in your warm kitchen, for about an hour or so. Bake at 200C - 14 minutes for small rolls, 17 for slightly larger ones.

Next, crack more eggs than you think you will need into a large mixing bowl. Use a fork to break them up, but don’t whatever you do take a balloon whisk to them as it will result in rubbery eggs.

Arrange bacon rashers between layers of paper-lined baking trays, stacking 2-3 on top of each other and placing in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. This will result in crisp, non-greasy, weirdly but satisfyingly straight rashers, without any odour of frying in the kitchen.

Slice ripe avocado of the type with dark, knobbly skin. Don’t buy the ones with smooth green skin, they never offer the desired creaminess or flavour. Drizzle with a little lime juice and season with flaky sea salt.

Make a Shakshuka or Ranchero type dish from slow cooking garlic, onion, red pepper and chopped tomatoes with some sugar, salt and Aleppo pepper. We constantly get asked for our Shakshuka recipe on our brunch menu, but even our chefs don’t make it exactly the same way every morning. It’s more a case of cooking roughly the same fresh ingredients in roughly the same way and it will all come out tasting delicious.

Now, back to the eggs. Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan until almost smoking. Pour in some of the barely whisked eggs, grab a rubber spatula and move the eggs around the hot pan while you count to 5. Remove the pan from the heat, continue to stir and by the time you have counted to 8, slide the scramble onto a warm platter. It will continue to set as it goes on the plate, so the trick is to make sure it leaves the pan while still slightly under-cooked. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper, chilli and some coriander and parsley. You will need to make this in batches as cold scramble is truly depressing.

Finally, mix a carafe each of fiery Bloody Mary and golden Mimosa. Then sit back and enjoy the morning, the company and the food.

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