In praise of the lazy weekend brunch

Get up late, invite the gang around – and don't waste your time cooking up anything fancy. That's the secret to an easy weekend brunch, says food writer Shayma Saadat

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By Shayma Saadat on

As a child of Afghan-Pakistani-Persian lineage, I grew up eating dishes which incorporated flavours and fragrances of all three culinary worlds. The food my mum, Ami, prepared for us had a shared history, with the recipes telling a story of cross-influences of the regions. An Afghan rice dish would be served alongside a spicy Pakistani chicken stew, and a yoghurt would be served with a little bit of Persian saffron water stirred into it. My father worked for the World Bank in Washington DC, which meant that we were posted every few years to different parts of the world. Ami took her pantry everywhere with her. Living in Nairobi, she would bring back sacks of basmati rice from our trips to Pakistan. A childhood treat was Ami’s caramelised onion with clove – and cardamom-fragrant rice pilaf with some sautéed sukuma wiki (like an African kale) and cooling yoghurt on the side. 

No matter where we lived, the food of our roots and heritage was present in our lives. It was through Ami that I learnt how to transfer that taste of home to whichever country we lived in. Food, in our family, was a way of celebrating our heritage, as we lived as nomads all over the world. And that’s how I cook today, too, as food allows us to tell stories – stories of our culture and traditions.

Living far away from their parents in Lahore, Pakistan, my parents created a small family of friends for themselves. There was no complex scheduling of lunch or dinner appointments, made weeks in advance (something we are all guilty of doing today). Their friends would simply drop in on weekend mornings. My favourite time was when guests would pop in on a Saturday for tea, chatter and a slice of my mum’s homemade Madeira cake, and stay for brunch. Ami had an easy dish on hand, one of my childhood favourites: her famous khagina. Khagina is a Pakistani-style custard-like scrambled egg dish, made with a combination of special spices (each cook has their favourites; Ami used whole roasted cumin and turmeric), as well as onions, green chillies, tomatoes and fresh coriander. 

Brunch need not be such a strenuous affair; it should be a time to relax, potter about in your home with a cup of tea in your hand, while talking to your guests

For some, the word "brunch" makes one think of a rather fiddly hollandaise sauce with poached eggs – both of which can go horribly wrong even for the best of cooks who have made it time and time again. The sauce can curdle; the eggs may become a straggly mess. But brunch need not be so fancy and such a strenuous affair; it can also be a time to relax, potter about in your home with a cup of tea in your hand, while talking to your guests, as you prepare a dish which can be enjoyed family-style, around the table. This is what I learnt from Ami’s khagina-fuelled brunches as a child – that creating something simple, with a few key spices, is all you need to please friends who gather around your table. Make just one star dish, and buy some crusty sourdough bread from your local grocery store or bakery, pick up some fresh herbs while you’re at it and serve with salty butter. This makes for a beautiful and easy brunch gathering. 

This spiced potato and egg dish is a nod to Ami’s khagina, with its notes of musky cumin, pinches of ochre-hued turmeric and eggs. These days, I find nothing as comforting on a Sunday morning as carbs with some wobbly egg yolk. You can cook the potatoes in advance, if you like, and store them in the fridge for a day or two. Once you are ready to serve brunch, bring the potatoes to room temperature, warm them up and serve with fried eggs on top. Adorn with coriander, dill, oregano – whichever herb you adore. Bring the pan to table, smear some salty butter on a slice of doorstep-thick sourdough bread, top with potatoes and then crown with an egg. You can also add a slick of hot sauce on top. It’s perfect with cups of cardamom tea. Or a flute or two of Prosecco.


Serves 6

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1kg red potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm dice
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds 
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp (or more, to taste) sea salt
  • Bunch of your favourite fresh herbs 
  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over a medium heat. 
  2. Add the garlic, potatoes, cumin seeds, turmeric powder and salt, and cook for around 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are golden. (To check the potatoes are done, pierce them with a paring knife, which should slide in easily.) 
  3. In the meantime, fry six to eight eggs (depending on your guests’ appetites). Set aside.
  4. To serve, transfer the potatoes to a large platter, top with the fried eggs, scatter with salt and adorn with your favourite fresh herbs. Enjoy with crusty bread.

You can find Shayma at The Spice Spoon and on Twitter @SpiceSpoon

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