On my plate: Ghillie Basan’s brunch for pleasure, relaxation … and mix it up a bit
Often no more than a slice of toast drizzled with a little coffee, breakfast is served on the go, a quick, shallow meal that is far from the most important of the day.
Lunch, though perhaps longer, is nonetheless served between meetings and slices of stale bread, and rarely inspires much excitement.
With such a lack of thought and fun in these weekday meals, maybe it’s no wonder we’ve created a much more decadent weekend feast. Served anytime between waking up and mid-afternoon, brunch is a modern invention that helps us rediscover our love of cooking and dining, focusing on delicious flavors and even more company. .
Or as cook and chef Ghillie Basan explains in her new book, brunch is the kind of meal served when “the weather is more generous and the food is not rushed, and must evoke fun and relaxation and, maybe the opportunity to try something new. “
Written during the lockdown, the Scottish Brunch Bible brings together a range of tasty ideas for ‘sociable eating’, including frittatas and fried eggs, crispy bacon and buttered bread, all with the unique exotic touch of Ghillie.
“When I was writing and creating dishes, I wanted to use Scottish produce whenever possible, but also bring an international perspective,” said Ghillie, whose recipes are inspired by her travels around the world.
“Nowadays people don’t just have herring and eggs or stuffed mushrooms for brunch. Especially in the cities, when they go out for brunch, people can go for something Malay or Spanish or something completely different. Then, if they cook brunch at home, they might bring some of that alien influence to the plate. So I wanted to reflect where we are as a society today with our palate, but also trying to use ingredients that anyone can get easily. So there is a mixture of tradition and international flavor.
Although now based in the Highlands, Ghillie has traveled extensively, living in a variety of countries and cultures and so naturally the warmth always finds its way into his kitchen.
Often referred to as the “Queen of Spices,” the prolific writer has written over 40 books, and this new pocket-sized brunch guide brings together plenty of dishes her fans know and love.
One of his favorite brunch dishes is shakshuka, an egg-based dish filled with rich tomatoes and fragrant spices, which travelers would find on the menu in North Africa and the Middle East.
Ghillie’s version can be found, of course, in the pages of the new book, alongside other global dishes such as Italian ribollita and Mexican huevos rancheros.
However, herring, oysters, salmon, scallops, strawberries, and oats each keep dishes firmly in the Scottish pantry, and Ghillie even relies on a much more everyday ingredient for his unusual recipe: l humble potato.
She explained with a laugh, “I don’t think a lot of people would think of a baked potato as brunch, but why not? The toppings you can put inside are just great, and if you put in a little flavored butter, for example, you have a really good meal.
“One of our favorite things to do at home is a baked potato with wild garlic butter, served with a tuna salad with lovage. It just refreshes and gives so much extra taste.
And gourmets are not forgotten.
Ghillie continued, “If you’re more into something sweet, I love the cranachan smoothie, which I put in my ‘sweet tooth’ section. Or there are banana and cinnamon donuts – adding bacon and lime you have a dish that is a little more reminiscent of Canadian pancakes and bacon. Everyone loves sweet and savory together.
Besides food, one of the other key elements of a good brunch is often a glass of something stronger than coffee, so Ghillie hasn’t forgotten about cocktails.
The “boozy brunch” chapter of his cookbook features classics such as sour whiskey or bloody mary, each of which should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
She said, “It’s a meal that can start late in the morning and spill over into the afternoon – really, if you’re going to have a boozy brunch, you’re probably going to write off the rest of the day.”
Baked potatoes with lemon lovage tuna salad, for two
Everyone knows a baked potato with a tuna salad, but it is usually served for lunch or dinner and so often it misses the mark – the tuna is too dry or sloppy depending on the amount of cheap mayonnaise, the potato too heavy and soft as it was precooked – but put a little love in it, and it’s a great combo and makes a cheap, filling and satisfying brunch that you can add hard-boiled eggs to on side or a fried egg on top. If you can’t get lovage, you can substitute the celery leaves and add a few celery sticks to the plate.
For a baked potato with a crispy skin, I prick mine all over with a fork, rub each with olive or rapeseed oil, then grind a generous amount of salt and black pepper on top. I bake them in a hot oven for one to two hours, depending on the size of the potato, until they are crisp on the outside, but I press them with a finger.
You will need
For the potatoes:
- 2 baked potatoes with crispy skin, freshly baked, hot and ready to rock and roll
- Salted butter, flavored with wild garlic or chives, if possible
For the tuna:
- 3 cans of 145g tuna in brine, rinsed and drained
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- Lemon zest and juice
- 4 tablespoons thick creamy mayonnaise
- A handful of fresh chives, chopped
- A handful of wild garlic leaves, chopped
- A handful of lovage, or celery, leaves, shredded
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Keep the baked potatoes warm while you prepare the tuna.
- Pour the drained canned fish into a bowl. Add all other ingredients, mix well and season to taste with S&P.
- Open the potatoes and place them on plates. Slide the wild garlic butter to melt and place the tuna salad on top.
- Serve with boiled eggs cut in half, if desired.
The Scottish Brunch Bible, written by Ghillie Basan and illustrated by Bob Dewar, is now available.