17 May 2023 · Cookbook Preview
Brunch with Brother Marcus, the debut cookbook from the hot London restaurant group, is published on May 18, 2023 and immediately available to ckbk Premium Members.
We caught up with friends and co-owners Alex and Tasos to chat about all things brunch and to share the recipe for Tasos’ crowd-pleasing Pork Belly Pita (see below) – it’s the very latest thing he cooked from the cookbook.
Read on for time-saving tips to host the perfect brunch, plus lots of delicious recipe ideas and hangover cures. Many of the recipes are inspired by Tasos’ Cretan and Cypriot heritage.
By Ramona Andrews
Your original Balham (London) restaurant was named as ‘best brunch in London’ by Time Out and your restaurants are regularly hailed as London’s top brunch spots. What are the ingredients that make up the perfect brunch?
Alex: The dish that has put us on many top brunch lists is our fritters which are a twist on a classic Greek fritter. The patties are a combination of sweet potato, courgette and feta and have layers of smashed avocado between each. They are finished off with turmeric yoghurt on the side and a poached egg on top.
What does your dream brunch consist of?
Tasos: Crispy fried chicken, fried eggs, bacon jam and a crunchy potato rösti - it’s all about the balance of sweet and salty, and the combination of different textures. This makes for a hearty hangover cure! The recipe is in the book, so you can make it yourself to see what we’re talking about.
How do you like your eggs?
Tasos: Perfectly cooked, which in my eyes should be runny! I’m partial to a poached, fried or soft-boiled egg, as long as they’ve got that perfect yolk, and a sprinkle of salt.
Tell us about how you all met. How did food first bring you together?
Alex: We are friends from school. However, after uni, we all went into different fields of work but remained friends. At weekends we’d work together at festivals for street food stands slinging hundreds of portions of pizza or steak and chips - we had lots of fun and this is what led us to open our first Brother Marcus. We’ve also spent many an Easter in Elounda, Crete with Tasos at his family restaurant celebrating. Food is always the focus of any holiday to Elounda (the Greeks love to feed you!), so it’s always been something we’ve enjoyed together.
Who inspires you?
Tasos: Living in London we’re lucky enough to have many amazing chefs cooking up some pretty incredible food. In terms of business, I’d say JKS Group, they have great breadth in their array of concepts, and St. John and Trullo are two of our favorite restaurants, both in terms of food and concept. MasterChef Australia is also pretty inspiring from a creative perspective - the talent and fusion are on a whole different level.
We’ve traveled quite a bit to different Eastern Mediterranean cities for inspiration and to meet local producers and I’d say some of these producers have resonated with me the most. They have been doing their trade for years and are very skilled at what they do, which is hard to find these days as machines do so much. We met a man in his 80s who still makes kataifi by hand, it was absolutely amazing.
What dish or dishes from your book would you recommend for pulling out all the stops?
Alex: The Sugar Daddy, our take on French toast, will impress guests - the name says it all! Caramel and duck egg custard are stuffed inside a slice of brioche, which is then lightly toasted in butter and sprinkled with bacon floss - this dish does require a bit of time to prep so will need planning ahead. Our Pork Belly Pita [recipe also shown below] is always a crowd-pleaser, the spice of the homemade kasundi chutney with the crunchy cucumber and crispy pork belly is the perfect combination. Also, I’d say to always have a batch of traditional Greek baklavadakia on the go. They are delicious at any time of the day and you never know when a friend might drop by.
In what way is the saying that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ true for you?
Alex: We love how versatile it is - you can have eggs on toast for dinner but you can’t have a roast for breakfast, unless you’re a complete mentalist! We quite often eat breakfast dishes for three meals a day. It’s also a nice way of the family coming together in the morning and having a bit of downtime before the busy day ahead.
Are there any classic brunch dishes that you think are overrated?
Tasos: Eggs Benedict - only because it is so often made very badly. But when it’s done right it’s the bee’s knees. [Ed. this version in New York Cult Recipes gets the nod from us.]
If you were a brunch dish, what would you be and why?
Alex: Hash browns and kasundi jam - naughty and spicy!
Tasos: Shakshuka - saucy and smokeeeey!
If you could have brunch with any fictional character, who would it be and what would you serve?
Alex: Remy the rat from Ratatouille. We’d do the whole menu and get him in the kitchen to work his magic!
What's the most popular brunch item on your menu, and why do you think it's so popular?
Tasos: It’s got to be the fritters. They’re veggie, packed with loads of good flavors and very beautiful to look at.
What was the last thing each of you cooked from the book?
Tas: Pork Belly Pitas - they are a staple in my family. Quick and easy to execute and incredibly delicious.
Alex: Scrambled eggs on toast for my wife and daughter this morning.
What’s your top brunch hangover cure?
Alex: It’s all about volume, ‘hair of the dog’ and fluids so it has to be the ‘Marcus Breakfast’ with one of our Ouzo Bloody Marys, loads of water and an orange juice, followed by any pastries I can get my hands on.
The book has some great tips for time-saving. What can you recommend for making your life easier if you’re hosting brunch?
Tasos: Poach the eggs the night before. If you rapidly cool them in water, store in the fridge and reheat the next morning no one will be able to taste the difference, and it will allow you to focus on what is important, your guests.
Tasos, tell us some of the ways that your childhood in Crete (and helping out in your family kitchen) influenced your cooking, the restaurant, and the book.
Tasos: My childhood summers working in my dad’s restaurant have had a huge influence on my cooking style, and especially on Brother Marcus. Family in Greece is a big thing and meals are always shared with the whole family, sometimes this can be four different generations. This is the core ethos of what Brother Marcus is, we want to bring family together through food and memories. Some of the recipes in the book are my grandmothers, maybe even great-grandmothers, that have been passed down through generations.
What are your plans for the future?
Alex: Growth is on the cards but it’s got to be the right site. We’ll hope to have some exciting news soon…
This is a take on the classic Greek, traditionally pork sandwich, the gyro. We were trying to find a gyro with all-day appeal so we could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and this recipe was our delicious conclusion. Simply add a fried egg and some spicy sweet kasundi chutney, wrap it all up in a warm flatbread and you’ve got a messy but incredibly satisfying meal at any time of day.
4 tbsp Kasundi Chutney (see below)
1/4 cucumber, sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
4 pinches Aleppo chilli flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 pork belly slices
a pinch of dried oregano
80ml sunflower oil
4 Greek Gyro-style Pitas
Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan. Season your pork belly slices with salt, pepper and oregano then press them as flat as you can into an ovenproof tray. Cook for 15 minutes, then flip and cook for a further 15 minutes until they are golden brown.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan and fry the eggs as you like them. Warm the pita in a lightly oiled pan.
To assemble, spread a tablespoonful of kasundi over one half of each pita and lay the sliced cucumber on top. Add a slice of pork belly, a fried egg and a scattering of thinly sliced spring onion, then season with Aleppo chilli, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Now tuck in!
2½ tsp turmeric
1½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp chilli powder
80 g sugar
120 ml white wine vinegar
500 g chopped tinned tomatoes
2 tsp cardamon pods, crushed
90 g red chillies
30 g ginger
90 g garlic
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1½ tsp cumin seeds
5 g curry leaves
2½ tsp mild curry powder
2½ tsp paprika
Deseed the chillies and roughly chop them. Peel and roughly chop the ginger and garlic, then place them in a food processor with the chillies and pulse, leaving it fairly chunky.
Place a saucepan on a low heat, add the vegetable oil and toast the mustard and cumin seeds until they start to pop. Add the chillies, ginger and garlic and cook down until soft.
At this point add the curry leaves, let it all cook for another minute and then stir in the curry powder, paprika, turmeric, coarsely ground black pepper and chilli powder. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until you can smell the fragrance of the spices.
Add the sugar, vinegar and tomatoes. Tie the crushed cardamom pods into a muslin or stocking so they are easy to remove after cooking, then add them too. Bring to the boil, then cook on a very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so the chutney doesn’t catch on the bottom and burn. When the oil starts to separate out and floats to the top you know the kasundi is ready.
To store place in a jar while it is still hot and seal with a lid. As the sauce cools this will create a vacuum enabling you to store it for weeks.
ckbk Premium Members have unlimited access to Brunch with Brother Marcus and more than 700 more cookbooks. Take out a 14 day free trial of Premium Membership to see for yourself.
Want to try some of these dishes before you cook them? Brother Marcus now has four locations in London (South Kensington, Borough Yards, Spitalfields and Angel).