Monday, 1 August 2011

recipe: blueberry herman pancakes

My grandparents had a little cabin in the North Woods of Minnesota. As a child, I did not realise how lucky I was to have the experience of spending long, lazy days on an unspoiled lake at the edge of an endless forest. It wasn't fancy. 'Having a shower' meant slinging your towel around your neck and descending the hill to the lake, where you'd hang your head over the edge of the dock, counting to ten before plunging it into the icy water. 'Using the facilities' meant picking your way through brambles to the little leaning-over outhouse, praying that you would niether collect splinters in your bumcheeks nor become the victim of a marauding bottom-biting spider.

But it was the stuff memories were made of: learning to play gin rummy, baking kolaczki with Grandma, canoeing out to the island and toasting s'mores on the campfire. And there was a special treat for a child growing up in the tropical heat of Florida - blueberry-picking. Those dusky, purplish marbles we plucked from scratchy bushes seemed so exotic to me. I savoured every berry, popping each one into my mouth and rolling it around on my tongue before squishing the juice out sharply between my teeth.

When I first came to England, blueberries were hard to find. But now, like most things, they are readily available in the supermarket (during the summer months, at least). I bought two punnets the other day. When the impatient children had given up on begging to eat them right away, I sneaked a round little berry into my mouth. Pop! Not quite as sweet and juicy as I remembered. But close.

Blueberry Herman Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup
The sour Herman starter, buttermilk or plain yoghurt balances the sweetness of the syrup and the sharpness of the blueberries.
makes about 16 4-inch pancakes

for the pancakes
2 C plain/all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp white sugar/honey/barley malt syrup/sweetener of your choice
1 C Herman starter (if you don't have any starter, you may substitute buttermilk or live yoghurt)
2/3 C vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 C milk
1 C blueberries

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients, including the Herman starter, in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Stir dry ingredients into the wet mixture, mixing well - don't worry if your batter is lumpy. The batter may be used right away, but it improves if left for at least half an hour and can be kept, covered, in the fridge for a couple of days.

Preheat your pan (I like to use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet) to a medium heat. You should not need to oil your pan because there is oil in the batter. Drop 1/3 of a cup of batter into the centre of the hot pan.  Right away, drop 6-10 blueberries into the batter in the pan. When the top of the pancake is full of little bubble holes, use a spatula to turn it over and cook on the other side for 30 seconds or so. Pour syrup over and eat immediately, or keep warm in the oven until all your pancakes are ready.

for the blueberry syrup
1/2 C blueberries
1C golden syrup (or maple syrup if you're feeling indulgent)
1/8 C water

Place the water and the berries into a small saucepan on a medium heat. Cook until the berries begin to break down. Reduce heat to lowest setting and add the syrup. Stir and keep warm until needed.

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