Brunch on Saturday: Bala Baya review and duck eggs and soldiers recipe

This weekend Rachel Hosie gets a taste for a Tel Aviv-inspired small plates menu and we modernise egg and soldiers with confit duck, brioche bread, hollandaise sauce and duck eggs

Rachel Hosie@rachel_hosie
Friday 27 October 2017 12:48
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Brunching out...

Bottomless bubbles may be standard at brunch now, but Tel Aviv-inspired restaurant Bala Baya goes one step further – adding bottomless starters into the mix.

For £8, this London eatery offers unlimited small plates. That means as many portions as you like of: flatbreads, houmous, strained yogurt with chive and za'atar oil; grilled Turkish chillies; heritage tomatoes; aubergine and sweet potato with walnuts; date and cardamom butter; pickles with olives and feta; grilled beets with mint and pistachio; grapes with anchovies and tarragon puff; chopped liver and crispy onions; kipper with paprika and lemon; and harissa butternut with maple. And all served on pretty glasses too.

We particularly loved the sweet potatoes, savoury yoghurt and deliciously warm, fluffy flatbread. The flavours were unusual and everything was beautifully spiced without being too punchy.

Plate up: chow down on flat bread and yummy sides 

The £8 deal is only available if you order a main course; so make sure you save some room. The mains range from the light to the indulgent. We loved the shakshuka, made either with lamb meatballs (£14) or aubergine (£11) and served with yet more warm pittas to soak up the delicious tomato sauce. The drizzle of date tahini added a hint of sweet creaminess too.

Turkish chilli cornbread with salmon (£15) was also impressive, served with perfect poached eggs, rocket, fig and garlic yogurt.

If you fancy something lighter, get the yogurt (£7), served with summer berries, homemade granola, rose drizzle and edible flowers. It tasted as good as it looked.

And if you have room for pudding, order the burnt babka (£7). You won’t regret it.

There’s also the option of bottomless cocktails to wash it all down too. At least you know you’ll have enough food to soak up the alcohol.

Arch 25 Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union St, London SE1 0LR; 020 8001 7015; open daily; balabaya.co.uk

Indulgent: a thoroughly grown-up egg and soldiers

Brunching in...

Duck eggs and soldiers

Eggs Benedict is so ubiquitous on breakfast menus that we wanted to jazz things up a little – in doing so we present this work of hyper-indulgent genius. This is about as much of a guilty pleasure breakfast as there is. It’s the Donald Trump of the breakfast world: mega rich and blonde (and it doesn't leave an unpleasant aftertaste). It puts together confit duck legs with duck eggs, hollandaise sauce and brioche soldiers. Cardiologist optional.

Serves 4

2 confit duck legs, at room temperature 
30g butter, plus extra if needed
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra if needed
4 slices of brioche, each cut into 6 ‘soldiers’
4 free-range duck eggs, at room temperature
watercress sprigs, to garnish 

For the Hollandaise Sauce

125g butter, diced
2 egg yolks

½ teaspoon white wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar 
sea salt 
freshly squeezed lemon juice
cayenne pepper 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Place the duck legs in the oven for 15 minutes to warm through. Meanwhile, make the hollandaise sauce. Select a heatproof bowl that will sit over a saucepan of simmering water without the base of the bowl touching the water. Set the bowl aside and heat the water until it is just simmering. Do not bring it to the boil.

In a separate pan, clarify the butter. Melt the butter, skimming the white whey from the surface. Set the golden melted butter aside and keep warm.

Place the egg yolks, vinegar, a pinch of salt and a splash of ice-cold water in the bowl, then place over the simmering water and whisk constantly for 3–5 minutes until the mixture is thick and pale. Remove the bowl from the heat and slowly whisk in the melted butter until the hollandaise sauce is creamy. If the sauce thickens too much, simply thin it with a splash of cold water and continue whisking. Season with a splash of lemon juice and cayenne and salt to taste. Set aside and keep warm.

To fry the soldiers, melt the butter with two tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the brioche pieces and fry until golden brown on both sides, adding extra butter and oil to the pan if necessary. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm. Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat. Crack the eggs into the pan and cook over a medium heat, spooning the oil over the yolks, until the whites are set.

Pull the meat from the duck legs and slice. Serve the duck meat, a fried egg, the hollandaise sauce and the brioche soldiers. Garnish with watercress and serve immediately.

Recipe from M ‘The 24 Hour Cookbook’, by executive chef Michael Reid. Photography by Jodi Hinds. Visit the M restaurants here

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