There will always be a special place in our hearts for East London's Brick Lane Beigel Bake, but the best bagel we've ever eaten was at Russ & Daughters, a Jewish deli on New York's Lower East Side that's been around since 1914. After queuing for ages (then missing our turn and irritating the impatient crowd behind us by changing our minds five times), we stepped out with bagels packed with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, red onion and juicy slices of tomato.
Partly inspired by that bagel, this is one of our favourite brunches for when we have a few people round. The idea is that you lay out all the different toppings so that everyone can help themselves: there should be enough variety to cater to most tastes and ample opportunity to mix and match.
Although we have included a recipe for bagels in this book, if you have a good bakery nearby, we urge you to make life easy and buy them. The point of this brunch is that it shouldn't be too much effort, more a case of assembling a spread of delicious things that you and your guests can keep lazily picking at.
|12-15 slices||the best smoked salmon you can afford|
|At least 12||bagels|
|2 x 280g tubs||cream cheese|
|3||lemons, cut into wedges for squeezing|
|a fully loaded pepper grinder|
|For the egg salad:|
|3 tbsp||Greek yoghurt|
|A small bunch (around 20g)||chives, finely chopped|
|A small bunch (around 20g)||fresh dill, finely chopped|
|salt and black pepper|
|For the tuna salad:|
|3 x 200g tins||tuna in spring water, drained|
|3 tbsp||Greek yoghurt|
|150g||dill pickles, finely chopped|
|2 bunches||spring onions, dark green ends discarded, then finely sliced|
|1 tbsp||black pepper|
|A small bunch||basil, chopped|
|A good squeeze||lemon, to taste|
|For the beetroot pickled eggs (optional):|
|½ tsp||black peppercorns|
|½ tsp||fennel seeds|
|1||small beetroot, peeled and thinly sliced|
|Highly recommended extras:|
|the ripest fattest tomatoes you can find, thinly sliced|
|1||small red onion, very thinly sliced|
|good-quality capers or caper berries|
|pickled beetroot, thinly sliced|
If you're making the beetroot pickled eggs it's best to get started on them first (or make them the night before) as they need at least 2 hours to chill in the fridge.
Add the vinegar, water, salt, sugar and spices to a pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Add the sliced beetroot and leave to cool.
Put a pan of water on to boil. Once bubbling, carefully add the eggs and cook for 8½ minutes at a steady simmer. Drain immediately and cover with cold water; leave to sit for a couple of minutes,
Add the eggs to a scrupulously clean jar or container, then carefully pour in the beetroot and pickling liquid (this shouldn't be stone cold but cool enough not to crack your jar). Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. The egg will be good for a couple of weeks and will increase in intensity the longer you leave them (we prefer them slightly milder). Serve sliced.
You can make the egg and tuna salads in advance: simply mix the ingredients for each salad together and season to taste. Decant into the bowls you want to serve them in and keep covered in the fridge until 30 minutes before serving.
Similarly, lay the salmon out on a platter, cover and pop in the fridge until needed.
Prepare any of the 'extras' that need slicing, then plate up, cover with cling film and leave in a cool place.
To serve it's simply a case of laying everything out, getting everyone to the table, slicing the bagels in half (toasting them for those who like a toasted bagel) and digging in.