Emma Freud: How to eat like a New Yorker - Best brunch

Emma Freud continues her New York foodie adventure, discovering new ways to entertain at home with fabulous brunch recipes. These ideas go way beyond your standard fry up...

Emma Freud

Living in New York has made me nostalgic. Not only for the now almost-forgotten tastes of Quavers and Marmite, but for the traditional British Sunday lunch, where vegetable peeling takes most of the morning, and once you’ve eaten your own body weight in pork and potatoes, you’re presented with a hot baked pudding covered in custard and cream.

Oddly, Manhattan doesn’t seem to be interested in cooking on Sundays – instead, they have their own tradition: brunch. For the young-ish and childless-ish, Sundays usually involve going out at noon to one of the thousands of NYC restaurants serving brunch – meeting friends, drinking a Bloody Mary, grazing on egg-based dishes followed by fruit-based dishes, then exiting (mildly drunk) at about 4pm.

‘It’s about revelling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eating eggs all day.’

Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon & chivesBrunch in restaurants is very much a #thing here – it’s tweeted, Facebooked and Instagrammed; the menus are anticipated and released early to build excitement; there are more online guides to ‘NYC’s best brunches’ than there are to ‘NYC’s best cat videos’; and they force a millennial generation, who work too hard, to take an entire day out centred around a long, lazy, alcohol-fuelled, friend-filled meal. As The New York Times said: ‘It’s about revelling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eating eggs all day.’

I recently snuck into Norma’s, one of Manhattan’s most famous and oversubscribed brunch venues, and selflessly ordered their two most famous dishes. Artichoke Benedict is a roasted artichoke heart, covered in a poached egg, covered in porcini Béarnaise and drizzled with truffle oil. Followed by stuffed French toast. Actually stuffed! With cheesecake. I have seen the future, and that was it. My brunch problem, however, is that the whole ‘queuing an hour for a table and then sitting in a restaurant all day’ thing doesn’t work for me. But throwing a communal brunch at home is now taking over from dinner parties in Manhattan as the easy, inexpensive, relaxed way to see and feed your friends. It’s a revelation.

Flash-fried smoked salmon & egg bagelThis is how it’s done: issue a casual invite to between two and 10 people, saying come over on Sunday any time between 11am and 2pm, bring anyone. On the appointed morning, you go to a corner shop or local deli and get bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon. These are the sacred foundation stones. If you can, add in egg mayonnaise, guacamole, some nice cheese, ham or salami, a salad and – for the other end of the table – some cut-up fruit, natural yogurt and granola, croissants or a cake. 

It's one deli shop and it takes minutes to put the food into bowls to suggest the slight, although frankly unrealistic, possibility that you made it all yourself. Alternatively, be Martha Stewart and provide pumpkin soup, huevos rancheros and a leek frittata, but frankly nobody likes a brunch show-off. The dishes go on a kitchen counter before anyone arrives, so your guests just help themselves. It’s so colourful and inviting that everyone will tell you what a great cook you are: you aren’t, you just went to the right shop. 

Brunch: 'You can arrive late, leave early, it’s child-friendly, vegan-friendly, expectation-light, low on washing-up...'

Cheese & bacon sconesIt’s a meal to have in the kitchen, on the sofa, standing by the sink or sitting on a cushion. You can arrive late, leave early, it’s child-friendly, vegan-friendly, expectation-light, low on washing-up and, if you over-cater, there’s no expensive chunk of roasted meat going to waste. It’s become my favourite way to see friends and the brunch dress code is my favourite look: scruffy clothes, bed-head hair and last night’s mascara. Children can dip in and out without anybody thinking they have dodgy manners, and the added bonus is that the traditional beverages constitute at least one of your 5-a-day as they all involve fruit… Mimosas, Bloody Marys and Margaritas. Tick.

Put your own brilliant brunch together and try Emma's cheese & bacon scones.

Our brunch recipe collection

Do you have any foolproof brunch recipes for a laidback breakfast with friends? Let us know what they are in the comments section below...

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