Blueberry buttermilk pancakes with blueberry balsamic syrup

Man, do I ever love me a good Sunday brunch. And this is a good Sunday brunch. The Americans are really on to something with the use of buttermilk in pancakes — the faintly tart taste gives them a lot more depth of flavour.

The original pancake recipe came to me via Smitten Kitchen; this version has been lightly adapted to use UK units and pack sizes. It makes 8-10 four-inch pancakes, serving two to four people depending on appetite.

For the pancakes:

  • 140 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 300 ml buttermilk (one standard supermarket pot)
  • 55 ml milk
  • 30 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 100 g fresh blueberries (half a standard supermarket punnet)

Stir together the dry ingredients in one bowl, and in another beat the egg with the buttermilk and milk. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet, then whisk in the melted butter. Smitten Kitchen claims you don’t need to be too fussy about the whisking because a few small lumps won’t hurt; I’ve never noticed any ill effects.

Fry the pancakes in batches, pouring four-inch circles of batter into a pan lined with a little melted butter over a lowish heat. Immediately after pouring out each pancake, scatter some fresh blueberries over, pushing them down into the batter. It’s much easier to evenly distribute the blueberries this way than how most recipes work, which suggest you whisk the blueberries into the batter.

Cook the pancakes lower and slower than you would for thin British style pancakes, to give the leavening time to rise and the batter time to cook through. They’re ready to flip once the underside is golden, the edges are cooked through, and the still-liquid top is covered in plenty of bubbles. There’s some more tips on technique in that Smitten Kitchen post.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, make the syrup:

  • 100 g fresh blueberries (the other half of your punnet)
  • 2 Tbsp demerara sugar, or more to taste (I like 2.5 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp ground arrowroot made into a paste with 1 tsp water

Bring berries, sugar, syrup, and water to a simmer over a low heat for five or so minutes. The blueberries should pop and thicken the syrup up. Add the arrowroot and thicken further to your preference. (Pectin would probably be the more logical choice here, but I hardly ever have that to hand.) You can use cornflour instead of arrowroot but that can make the syrup taste a little floury.

Serve the pancakes with the syrup and, for the full American diner effect, fried streaky bacon.

Update: my friend Dan adds:

Another big advantage of buttermilk is that its acid reacts with the baking soda to release CO2 which adds fluffiness. Also: try using 2 parts flour, 1 part medium-ground yellow cornmeal.

This weekend was adventures with home-cured salt beef (that’s “corned beef” to you Americans), mostly because it’s been over a year since I last made it. First and fourth pictures are the hash I made for breakfast today; second pic is the salt beef sandwiches we had for dinner last night (with Emmenthal, tater tots and sweet pickled gherkins); third pic is the fresh-from-the-braise salt beef itself, in all its glory.

The hash was one of my more successful meals of late.

I let the leftover salt beef from last night cool before dicing it (that stops it falling apart, as would happen if you tried to dice it warm). Diced a small onion and a red pepper. Microwaved two medium sized potatoes for five minutes on high, then let them cool before dicing them, too. Threw in some tater tots I had left over from the night before.

Fried onions and peppers first over a medium heat for 10 minutes or so. Removed them from the pan, melted some butter, increased the heat, and added the potato. Fried to a good colour and crunch, then removed it, lowered the heat, and added the meat to rewarm it. Finally, I stirred the potatoes, onions, and peppers back through and put the whole lot in a warm oven while I poached the eggs.

Frying each element individually meant everything still tasted of itself, and helped stop the potatoes dissolving into mush from the stirring necessary while rewarming the salt beef. It also means I could use my smaller cast-iron pan, without having to step up to my largest frying pan, which is an inferior non-stick number.

I seasoned the potatoes with a little toasted caraway seed, in the style of Austrian hash. I liked this a lot — I’m mad for caraway seed — but Danielle wasn’t so keen.

I’m a real fungi to brunch with

Just a (fairly) simple brunch I made today.

I melted some black truffle butter in a big pan and added a finely diced clove of garlic. Fried fresh chestnut and portobello mushrooms (about 300 g total), then added some dried porcini and shiitake mushrooms for good measure. After it had cooked down, I thew in the soaking water I’d used to rehydrate the dried mushrooms, reduced that to almost nothing, and stirred through a little double cream and some fresh parsley just before serving.

Pairing this with lightly toasted brioche is a really nice idea that I picked up from my fellow O:S! writer Nick. The sweet, rich bread is a lovely pairing with the earthy mushrooms.

I’m a real fungi to brunch with

Just a (fairly) simple brunch I made today.

I melted some black truffle butter in a big pan and added a finely diced clove of garlic. Fried fresh chestnut and portobello mushrooms (about 300 g total), then added some dried porcini and shiitake mushrooms for good measure. After it had cooked down, I thew in the soaking water I’d used to rehydrate the dried mushrooms, reduced that to almost nothing, and stirred through a little double cream and some fresh parsley just before serving.

Pairing this with lightly toasted brioche is a really nice idea that I picked up from my fellow O:S! writer Nick. The sweet, rich bread is a lovely pairing with the earthy mushrooms.

Sunday brunch: eggs Benedict

Few things I cook for breakfast strew destruction all around the kitchen quite like eggs Benedict. It’s all in the timing, this; poaching eggs, making sauce, toasting muffins, frying bacon (I was out of ham); all of them requiring careful timing, and even more so to bring the together at the same time. It causes extra special bonus devastation when (ahem) I completely screw up the first batch of hollandaise sauce and have to start over with the last two eggs in the house and no fallback if it went wrong a second time. Tightrope walking time!

First time around, I tried this method described by Felicity Cloake and based on the writings of God Amongst Cooks, Harold McGee. Cloake calls for you to put water, egg yolk, and butter in a pan and gently heat while whisking. Endearingly, this makes a minimum of mess. Rather less good, though, is that even a small amount too much heat and it splits. The line between “enough heat” and “too much heat” is too narrow a path for me to walk successfully. This recipe has only ever been a one-way ticket to splitsville for me. I think I’ve tried it three times now…

So I gave up, consigned the first batch to the bin, and did it my usual way instead: two egg yolks and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice in a bowl set in a saucepan over simmering water, apply gentle heat until it reaches 60 deg C, whisk in cubes of cold butter (125 g / 4.5 oz / 1 stick in total) one at a time, keep whisking until it reaches the desired thickness, season. Hold briefly in a just-about-warm oven or for a longer period in a pre-warmed vacuum flask.

More mess, but it always works for me, and has the advantage that if you’re careful you can pasteurise the egg yolks by heating them to 60 deg C and holding them for five minutes at that temperature, before adding the butter. This can sate any concerns you may have about salmonella from eating raw egg, particularly if you are going to hold the sauce in a flask for long-ish periods (as I have done before now when making béarnaise sauce to accompany steak). The addition of the acid — lemon juice in hollandaise, vinegar in béarnaise — allows you to reach these temperatures without the egg yolks starting to cook, although you’ll want to use a digital thermometer and not take it any higher than necessary.

Sunday brunch: eggs Benedict

Few things I cook for breakfast strew destruction all around the kitchen quite like eggs Benedict. It’s all in the timing, this; poaching eggs, making sauce, toasting muffins, frying bacon (I was out of ham); all of them requiring careful timing, and even more so to bring the together at the same time. It causes extra special bonus devastation when (ahem) I completely screw up the first batch of hollandaise sauce and have to start over with the last two eggs in the house and no fallback if it went wrong a second time. Tightrope walking time!

First time around, I tried this method described by Felicity Cloake and based on the writings of God Amongst Cooks, Harold McGee. Cloake calls for you to put water, egg yolk, and butter in a pan and gently heat while whisking. Endearingly, this makes a minimum of mess. Rather less good, though, is that even a small amount too much heat and it splits. The line between “enough heat” and “too much heat” is too narrow a path for me to walk successfully. This recipe has only ever been a one-way ticket to splitsville for me. I think I’ve tried it three times now…

So I gave up, consigned the first batch to the bin, and did it my usual way instead: two egg yolks and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice in a bowl set in a saucepan over simmering water, apply gentle heat until it reaches 60 deg C, whisk in cubes of cold butter (125 g / 4.5 oz / 1 stick in total) one at a time, keep whisking until it reaches the desired thickness, season. Hold briefly in a just-about-warm oven or for a longer period in a pre-warmed vacuum flask.

More mess, but it always works for me, and has the advantage that if you’re careful you can pasteurise the egg yolks by heating them to 60 deg C and holding them for five minutes at that temperature, before adding the butter. This can sate any concerns you may have about salmonella from eating raw egg, particularly if you are going to hold the sauce in a flask for long-ish periods (as I have done before now when making béarnaise sauce to accompany steak). The addition of the acid — lemon juice in hollandaise, vinegar in béarnaise — allows you to reach these temperatures without the egg yolks starting to cook, although you’ll want to use a digital thermometer and not take it any higher than necessary.

My first experiment with the black truffle butter that I bought from Truffle Hunter at the Abergavenny Food Festival. These creamy, slow-cooked scrambled eggs had about 1.5 Tbsp of it, plus a teaspoon of double cream, salt, white pepper, and parsley. I lucked out on the amount; the truffle taste was just about right (I think it can be off putting if it’s too strong). The butter is very convenient; following the advice I was given when I purchased it, I froze it, and I’m just chipping a little off as needed. It keeps for six months or so like that, apparently.

We served the eggs with pan-fried streaky bacon and avocado dressed with olive oil and a pinch of wild garlic salt.

My first experiment with the black truffle butter that I bought from Truffle Hunter at the Abergavenny Food Festival. These creamy, slow-cooked scrambled eggs had about 1.5 Tbsp of it, plus a teaspoon of double cream, salt, white pepper, and parsley. I lucked out on the amount; the truffle taste was just about right (I think it can be off putting if it’s too strong). The butter is very convenient; following the advice I was given when I purchased it, I froze it, and I’m just chipping a little off as needed. It keeps for six months or so like that, apparently.

We served the eggs with pan-fried streaky bacon and avocado dressed with olive oil and a pinch of wild garlic salt.