Thursday, February 3, 2011

Beach Post - Berry picking and breakfast crepes

So I have returned to the blog, riding a cloud of relaxation, from a full week at the beach (the other week with sans post is explained by the hugeness of the pile of work waiting for me on my return).  We stayed at a lovely beach house in Lilli Pilli on the South Coast, near enough to the beach that you could hear the waves crashing at night, but nestled in quiet bush land with the tallest gum trees I have ever seen.   Every morning we woke up to the sounds of the birds and the sea, read our books for a while, contemplated a swim at some stage and then, as often happens with Mr J and I, our minds turned to breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It also just so happens that my birthday fell during our beach week and was duly celebrated with a lovely dinner of coconut prawns (shrimp to my American friends) and char-grilled vegetables served with chilled New Zealand champagne in my "new" vintage glasses (thanks, Mr J - he carried them the 2 hours down to the coast in his motorcycle bag.  That's commitment!).  I will definitely blog about the prawn recipe shortly, which is actually my mother's and one of the vast array of yummy dishes served at the family Christmas feast.  It's definitely a keeper - simple, delicious and a real treat.  But more about that later...

First and foremost, I want to tell you all about the berry picking we did on my birthday!  It was an epic journey, as the "Gourmet's Guide to the South Coast" didn't really tell us that the windy, dirt road from the highway to the farm was 12 kilometres long... and it didn't help that we got stuck behind a very frightened Russian tourist family in an entirely unsuitable car (Prius) for the conditions who were determined to do 10 kilometres per hour the whole way.  But, thankfully, we made it there in the end, somewhat dusty, but safe and sound and ready to pick ourselves some berries.

The Clyde River Berry Farm is one of the suppliers at the Canberra Region Farmers' Market every Saturday morning while the berrying season lasts.  Mr J's stepmum raves about their blueberries, so I was keen to see how they grow their berries (and what other lovely varieties they produce) ... and of course, pick a bucket-load of myself.

The Farm is a self-sufficient oasis in the middle of a forest, cleared by the owners in the 1980s.  They then planted the various types of berries and stone fruit, built a mud-brick home and put up an array of solar panels providing the property's electricity.  It's a lovely place, with the cutest little puppy who meets you on arrival to say hello and accept a few pats.  You grab yourself a bucket (or two, or three), hopefully a hat and some sunscreen (it was 30 plus degrees on the day we were there) and head straight out to the parts of the farm still fruiting.

On the day we were there the blueberries (all four varieties) were in fruit, the blackberries just beginning their season, and a couple of nashi and blood plum trees groaning with fruit.  We helped ourselves to a couple of kilos of different types of blueberries, which you literally "tickle" from the trees, and half a bucket of blackberries.  To be honest, I was a little plum-ed out after the last couple of months, so we gave the blood plums a wide berth!

When we were done, we took our bounty back to the farm shed to be weighed and decided to treat ourselves to some home-made peach and strawberry ice cream.  I have now been ruined for all other ice cream - it was so delicious!  They use a strange machine to grind the fresh fruit from the farm into vanilla ice cream.  It then pipes out the flavoured ice cream like a soft serve and on a hot day after some berry picking in the sun, there really is nothing better.

Later that week I decided to use the berries we picked in some morning crepes.  I made a stack of simple thin pancakes, rolled them up with the berries and a small sprinkling of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, and devoured them with freshly brewed coffee.  The combination of the tartness of the berries, the sweetness of the sugar and the edge the lemon juice gives to the flavour, was divine.  And well worth the effort of getting out to the farm and picking the berries in the heat.

A week later and the berries are still in great condition in the fridge and I plan to use the last of them to make a berry ice cream, which I will no doubt inform you all of at a later date.

Mixed berry crepes

This recipe is only very slightly adapted from Margaret Fulton's The Margaret Fulton Cookbook, an Australian classic.  I usually take my 2004 edition with me down to the coast because it has so many basic, never-fail recipes.


- 1 1/4 cups plain flour
-  2 tablespoons sugar
-  pinch of salt
-  1 1/2 cups milk (plus a bit extra to thin the batter after it sits for a while)
-  3 beaten eggs
-  2 tablespoons melted butter
-  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-  2 tablespoons caster sugar
-  2 cups mixed berries
-  1 lemon, cut into wedges

Margaret tells you to sift the flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl... I didn't and it probably needed it, but there was no sifter available at our rented beach house.  Stir the dry ingredients together (including the cinnamon).  Next, mix the eggs, milk and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl and then add to the dry ingredients.  Mix until smooth.  Stir in the melted butter.  Allow the  mixture to stand.

Margaret asks for 2 hours.  With Mr J getting slightly grumpy as his blood sugar plummeted, I left it for 1 hour.  At that point it had thickened too much, and I added a couple of tablespoons of milk extra to thin it out a bit, so it would spread better in the slightly dodgy pans provided at the coast house.  To be honest, without a proper crepe pan, or at least a non-stick pan, it's difficult to get perfect crepes.  But they all taste the same, even if they are a little wonkier!

Heat up your pan and add a small amount of butter to the pan.  Pop in about a soup ladle's worth of batter and quickly turn the pan to make it as thin as possible.  I do it in circular motions, which gives the crepes a vaguely spiral pattern...

I usually have the oven pre-heated to about 100 degrees celcius and, as crepes are cooked, I deposit them on an over-proof plate in the oven, which keeps them nice and warm (and the edges crisp, which I love).

When you have a nice, high stack place it on the table.  I usually pop the berries, sugar and lemon wedges in separate bowls on the table and let people construct their own crepe with the toppings of their choice.  For me, I like to take an open crepe, scatter some berries, about a teaspoon of caster sugar and a small squeeze of lemon juice, then roll it up like a cigar.  It's equally good with just the lemon and sugar. Delish!

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