a bagel birthday brunch

walnut crumble muffins

When it comes to thinking up creative party themes, my friend Sam is a champion. So it came as no surprise when a few weeks ago an email bounced into my inbox inviting me to a Sunday bagel birthday brunch in Centennial Park.  So what exactly is a bagel birthday brunch??? The simple explanation is it’s a brunch time picnic where the hosts provide the bagels and the guests provide tasty things to go on the bagels….what’s not to love about that…

During my time in California I developed a real taste for bagels. It’s hard to go past an American bagel…mabey it’s all the cream cheese that you eat with them but they are the goods and even their supermarket mass produced bagels are tasty. One of my favourite breakfasts when I was working in Sonoma was toasted onion bagels with a thick slather of cream cheese and a smear of vegemite…. a savoury delight.

I was also quite fond of your classic bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers and dill as a lunchtime standby.. or for a bit of a chilli hit, finely diced crunchy jalapeno chilli and cream cheese…..and then there was the unlikely combo that a girl from Maine taught me where you finely dice red capsicum (peppers), as much red chilli as you dare, a touch of red onion and lots of raw broccoli and mix it through some cream cheese and spread over toasted bagels…yum.

Back in Oz I dallied a few times with local bagels but they just didn’t have the same chewy texture so I decided that they were possibly the only food thing best left to the yanks.  But thanks to Sam, the world of bagels has been reopened to me. Apparently there are a few good places for bagels in Sydney:Glick’s on Bondi Rd and the source of our brunch bagels: Grandma Moses on Old South Head Rd in Rose Bay, near Bay Swiss…. bagels just as good as the Californian ones in my memory.

The bagel birthday brunch was a huge success. While it was a wide enough theme for everyone to be able to think up something to bring, the bagels tied all the bits and pieces together and made it a great interactive collaboration.  The quintessential cream cheese and smoked salmon were well represented, and there was the bonus of some creative interpretations: lobster meat teamed with mascarpone, boiled eggs, hummous, a smoky eggplant salad, cucumber, spicy pumpkin dip, salami, and ocean trout pate (provided by yours truly). And for the sweet tooths there was honey, strawberries and one of the highlights of the day: Hank’s pawpaw, lime, and passionfruit jam. 

A birthday brunch isn’t a real birthday brunch without cake….I provided some freshly baked walnut crumble muffins just in case. But the real Birthday Cake, with candles and all was a dense fudgey Sacher Torte…all good things.

ocean trout pate
makes approx 2 cups.

This was something I made with some leftover seared ocean trout a while ago and had frozen it. It’s a great thing to have on hand in the freezer for when you bagel brunch invitation turns up or you need a quick something to serve with drinks.

I found it a little dry after it had been defrosted so I freshened it up with some lemon juice and olive oil. This recipe was adapted from Karen Martini’s kingfish and smoked trout rillettes. Karen poaches her fish for her rillettes but I prefer to add the complexity of crispy skin and BBQ flavours.

500g ocean trout or salmon
75g unsalted butter, softened
100g natural yoghurt
2t dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
2T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 lemons, juiced
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 bunch dill, finely chopped
bagels or sourdough to serve

Sear ocean trout skin side down on a hot BBQ for approx 4 mins or until skin is very crispy. Turn and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, until trout is almost cooked through. Cool fish and then flake into a bowl being sure to remove any bones. Finely chop the crispy skin and add to the bowl.

Stir in the remaining ingredients starting with the juice of one lemon and adding more until the taste is to your liking. Season with s&p.

walnut crumble muffins
makes 10

I adapted Stephanie Alexander’s walnut afternoon tea cake recipe from The Cooks Companion for the base of the muffins. These are great if you ever need to bake for the gluten free crowd, although not so good for people like my friend Kath with walnut allergies.  You could substitute in pecans or whatever nuts you prefer to replace the walnuts. If you needed it to be dairy free you could replace the butter in the topping with vegetable oil.

200g walnuts
5 eggs, separated
pinch salt
65g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2T marsala or the liquor of your choice
2t lemon juice
for the topping:
60g walnuts, coarsley chopped
3T brown sugar
1T butter
1t cinnamon, ground.

Preheat oven to 190oC and line a muffin tray with papers.  To prepare the topping combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.  Process the 200g walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside and then process egg yolks, sugar and zest until pale in colour and the sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice, marsala, and ground walnuts and stir to combine.

In a clean, dry bowl whip eggwhites with the salt until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg yolk and walnut mixture through whipped whites being careful not to deflate the whites.

Spoon the cake mix into the prepared muffin papers and evenly divide the topping between the muffins.

Bake for 20mins or until dark golden in colour and springy to touch. Allow to cool in muffin tray.


Grandma Moses
Old South Head Rd (near Bay Swiss)
Rose Bay
9371 0874

173 Bondi Rd

Hanks Jam

One Comment

  • During my time on the east coast during college I couldn’t even get to class without a visit to Einstein Bagels – a bagel with “shmear” and a cup of coffee. What a way to start the day.

    I too have looked far and wide to find a good bagel in Sydney but to no avail. But Grandma Moses is new to me – I am off there today to try it. Thanks!!!

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