Something for the Weekend

Big fat juicy strawberries from Whole Foods

Midsummer is the most evocative of times, that “school’s out *hallelujah*! ” feeling still hasn’t disappeared even as I hit my thirties (or as I like to say, entering my prime). As a kid Mama & Papa Johansen dispatched me to visit the Johansen elders in Aurland, a tiny village nestled in one of the most picturesque parts of western Norway at the end of a long fjord surrounded by rather foreboding mountains. This is Peer Gynt country, or so Norwegians would have you believe, where mischief and melody reign. Midsummers in Aurland were spent hiking through the valleys, fishing in the Aurlandsfjord, and foraging for wild strawberries. Aside from all this frolicking in the wild we grandchildren generally putzed around on the farm, picking fruit and playing games and pestering my grandmother for her delicious sour cream waffles. Let’s not mention the model-esque and seriously evil aunts, suffice to say they make Attila the Hun look like a gentle soul.

I often get asked how fruit can possibly grow in Scandinavia. “Um, it’s not the North Pole” I reply, indeed midsummer days are so long that it never gets dark. The extra UV light coupled with a temperate climate during summer makes the region ideal for growing plump summer fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, plums, apples, pears…you get the idea. Nothing will ever taste as good as my grandfather’s crimson Senga Sengana strawberries, the fecundity of his crops enhanced with what he called “super-dung” from the neighbouring farmers. Lord knows what his turbo-powered fertilizer contained but I’ve yet to find fruit as rich in flavour over here as the kind I grew up with in Aurland.

So in this vein of nostalgia I spend every June hunting down the best strawberries this side of the North Sea. Thus far, between M&S, Waitrose, Riverford Organic and Whole Foods the latter’s strawberry supplier wins hands-down. Typically as I mention this I’ve realised the Whole Foods strawberry carton and label have been thrown out but you’ll have to take my word for it: delicious, juicy and intensely fragrant English strawberries, just as nature intended.

Being a purist I tend to stick to strawberries n’ cream this time of year. Why adulterate good produce, especially in this sultry London weather, when something like clotted cream from Rodda’s acts as the perfect foil for ripe strawberries? But even I, committed clotted cream fan that I am, draw the line at cream for breakfast and save it for afternoon tea or a midnight snack (I kid you not, cream has replaced my cheese addicion during these warmer months).

So here’s what I did with a recent batch of strawberries:

Strawberries, plain yoghurt, Rude Health granola, pomegranate molasses

“Pomegranate molasses?!” Oh yes. Bored with the quotidien honey, I drizzled some pomegranate molasses over my breakfast and let me tell you dear reader, this may just  be the most inspired decision I’ve made all year. Well, at least this week. The tartness of the pomegranate molasses matches perfectly with the nutty, crunchy, skinny-dip-in-the-sea wholesomeness of Rude Health’s granola and lifted the sum of this dish to something much much greater than its virtuous parts.

Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

As if that wasn’t the breakfast of champions, then this next dish is the brunch to end all brunches:

Spelt & blueberry buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup

The combination of bacon and maple syrup repels some people but being part-Yankee I love it. If strawberries remind me of summers spent on the west coast of Norway, pancakes remind me of later teenage summers spent on the east coast of the U.S. I have a less pulchritudious but no less evil aunt over there; not been lucky with the aunts sadly. Summers in New England, however, were blissful in every other respect. I love the people there, the food, the sea, the history.

Anyway enough nostalgia. This recipe is an Anglo-Scandi hybrid between Fiona Beckett’s in The Ultimate Student Cookbook and Trina Hahnemann’s in the Nordic Diet and it works a treat. Incidentally the buttermilk helps raise the pancakes as they’re cooking due to the buttermilk’s inherent acidity combining with the alkaline bicarbonate of soda. Things get a little combustible, and that’s what you want in a good pancake batter. You could of course use milk and add a generous squirt of lemon juice to acidulate the milk if you don’t have buttermilk to hand.

Spelt & blueberry buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup

Ingredients for 2 people

  • 100 g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 50 g plain spelt flour
  • 4 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 250 ml buttermilk
  • 40g melted butter
  • 1 small punnet blueberries
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon
  • Maple syrup (I got some Grade D unrefined syrup from the health food shop, tasted fine)

Method:

In a large bowl sift all the dry ingredients except the blueberries. In a smaller bowl mix the egg, buttermilk, melted butter and stir through with a fork. Make a well in the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the liquid, stirring constantly so you get an even batter. Add the blueberries. The batter should be quite a thick consistency; when you lift the fork it should take a second or two to drop. I couldn’t find a ladle for dropping the batter in the skillet but this cheeky espresso cup did the trick:

Batter and ersatz ladle: espresso cup with nude ladies

Next heat a pancake skillet or non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and smudge with the leftover melted butter. Place a small ladle or an espresso-cup full of batter on the pan and cook for a minute or so until bubbles appear:

Bubbling pancake!

Aerial view of the pancake...

Now, using a spatula flip the pancake over and cook for a further 45 seconds-1 minute. Remove from the pan and keep in a warming oven (50-75 C) while you cook the rest.

Fry the bacon over a medium heat until crisp, remove from the pan and if the bacon’s quite large break into pieces and sprinkle over your pancakes before pouring obscene amounts of maple syrup all over the plate. This isn’t fine dining, don’t be precious about pigging out.

What do you think? Any cracking breakfast or brunch ideas? I’d love to hear what you treat yourself to on midsummer weekends!

In the meantime have a great remainder of this weekend, I’m off to sift through the excellent Camper Van Cookbook competition recipe entries…

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25 Responses to Something for the Weekend

  1. shayma says:

    ah, Sig, I suppose the sweetness of the strawberries also has to do with the love you felt towards your grandfather. i love how you have drizzled pomegranate molasses over the strawberries- that’s brilliant! And these pancakes look so delish- all soft and warm. As for my fave breakfast these days, it’s really simple: pumpernickel bread, slathered with tahineh and fig jam or freshly sliced bananas. green tea. x shayma

    • Thanks Shayma, love the sound of pumpernickel bread with tahineh and fig jam. Sliced bananas on toast is one of my all-time fave toppings for breakfast, so simple and yet so delicious.

  2. Cate says:

    I found your musings on strawberries interesting. The best strawberries I ever tasted in the UK were from a grower in Cheddar, Somerset. I am constantly disappointed by the offerings here, especially the ubiquitous Elsanta. I will have to check out Whole Foods. I love pancakes and french toast with maple syrup and bacon.
    I have been looking up recipes for strawberry shortcake recently to indulge in childhood memories. Last year I made blueberry buckles and cobblers.

    • Mmm, love blueberry cobbler, though buckles are new to me. Interesting to read you’ve been similarly disappointed by strawberries here Cate, the ubiquitous Elsanta is such a poor approximation for a real strawberry but of course it suits supermarkets much better. Good luck finding a recipe for strawberry shortcake, sounds lovely!

  3. Ailbhe says:

    Lovely story and lovely recipe. I made vanilla pancakes this morning with strawberries, thick yoghurt and Jarrah honey. Always looking out for different pancake recipes / combinations so will definitely try this one out. Cheers!

  4. Kavey says:

    Isn’t it all about the strawberries today… as you know (via twitter) I’ve been strawberry picking today, what a pleasure!

    • Can’t wait to go strawberry picking Kavey, envy you going this weekend as I have to wait one more weekend before I head to Sussex! Hope you made good use of them, and more importantly, ate lots while picking!

  5. goodshoeday says:

    Have you tried looking for Tiptree Farms fruit, they have it in the Waitrose near me and the quality and flavour are much better and the berries usually a smaller variety that the vulgar Elsanta. And to get really good fruit you need to be away from the big shops and at a PYO or going to a farm shop. I I always sniff the boxes of berries as well to make sure i get the best punnet.
    As for weekend brunch I’d rather save the berries for lunch or dinner and tuck into my all time favourite bacon and mushroom roll instead.
    And PS I don’t think granola is very healthy or virtuous, tasty yes but at 25% fat I’m not sure it can make many health claims other than making the eater happy ;0

    • Good tips Goodshoeday, I have seen the Tiptree berries but have yet to try them so will do so next time I’m in Waitrose. Picking your own, as Kavey recently did, is definitely the way to go though, am looking forward to hitting the strawberry patches of West Sussex next weekend!

  6. Erin says:

    I’ve made this total bodge pancake splooger which reduces the drippy mess that comes with delivering pancake batter from bowl to pan. Take a big squeeze bottle, like the ones some chefs use for coulis, and slice off a bit of the tip so you have a bigger hole. Pour the batter in and screw the top back on – now squeeze perfectly round pancakes with no splatter all over your hob/counter/floor.

    • Erin your ‘bodge pancake splooger’ is a brilliant use of the humble squeezy bottle, love it! Will definitely try next time I’m making pancakes (though I rather like the espresso cup with the nude ladies)

  7. davyk says:

    Brunch is my favourite meal and those pancakes look fabulicious. Am feeling hungry now and inspired to make my own special brunch of pan softened onions, mushrooms and parsley – topped with a poached egg served on griddled bread!

  8. Pingback: Brunch! Mushrooms, Onions, Parsely & Poached Egg

  9. Meeta says:

    lovely thoughts on strawberries but i admit it was the recipe that got me here! the pom molasses over strawberries? that is pure ingenious!

  10. rhwfoodie says:

    Mmmmm your pancakes look unbelievably good!!! That’s definitely going on the weekend breakfast list…

    My current favourite use for strawberries is making fresh milkshakes for my boys. I chuck some strawbs, maybe a banana and a glug of maple syrup all into a jug with some chilly milk. Get the stick blender involved for a few seconds. And bang – instant escape from oppressive heat!

  11. Oooh strawberry milkshake, good idea rhwfoodie! That is definitely a great way to cool down on these hot summer days, will try making one with pomegranate molasses soon!

  12. rhwfoodie says:

    I keep hearing about pomegranate molasses – need to get myself some of that once the maple syrup runs dry :-)

    • ah…maple syrup, also a weekend brunch staple! you must try pomegranate molasses, gives a nice fruity contrast to maple which sometimes can be a bit too sweet :)

  13. winesleuth says:

    You had pancakes,maple syrup and bacon without me!!! I don’t know if I can talk to you anymore Sig, I thought we were friends ;)

    Seriously, when I scrolled down and saw that pic, my jaw literally fell open. Oh, how I do miss pancakes on the weekend. I think I may have to make some this Saturday, although I do cheat and use Bisquik to make the pancakes.

    • Once the book is done we are having a brunch blow-out Sleuthie!! I did think of you when I made the pancakes, fear not there shall be plenty more occasions for us to feast on them…

  14. Niamh says:

    OH SIG! Inspired adding pomegranate malasses. It makes so much sense. Like a fruity balsamic.

    Love the pancakes too. Brunch soon? :)

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