It was a sign.
A large, elephant-shaped sign.
Painted with some mighty inescapable strawberries.
The elephant was a resident of The Hempel Hotel in London, the venue for this weekend’s Food Blogger Connect 2010 (and, yes, I will be reporting on the bits of FBC that involved neither elephants nor strawberries in due course).
I think maybe the folks at Bord Bia had placed Mr. Elephant there as a not-so-subtle reminder to me that it was the start of Irish National Strawberry week. Like I needed a reminder.
I had already been displaying an elephant-like inability to forget that my last outing with strawberries wasn’t quite the success I’d hoped for. I mean to say, strawberries plus potato pancakes – I thought the idea had merit, though the pancakes I made at the time, unfortunately, didn’t. Now my elephant-shaped conscience was insisting I have another go. Who was I to argue?
The result, I can at least report, was a much better incarnation of the strawberries plus potato pancakes genre.
A combination of better-than-jam slow roasted strawberries from Gastroanthropologist (whom it was a delight to meet in person at FBC) and Miss Jane Bury’s potato pancakes, a recipe dating back to the early 1700s and set forth in Colman Andrews’ fabulous tome, The Country Cooking of Ireland.
As Caroline from Bibliocook says in her review of this book, it should be thrust into the hands of all prospective tourists to this country. The potato pancakes, from a recipe collection now held in the National Library, are well worthy of being scoffed on their own (though anything spud-like and fried in butter always is). They can have savoury or sweet additions (hence the strawberries, which I ate with them), though I do think that they’re most at home on the savoury side of the menu, strawberry elephants notwithstanding.
Gastroanthropologist’s Slow Roasted Strawberries
I was intrigued from the moment I read Gastroanthropologist’s recipe for slow roasted strawberries. Slow cooked and each delivering a concentrated strawberry hit, this I had to try.
I followed the instructions as she describes here with only minor adjustments. I didn’t have a vanilla bean but used a good quality vanilla extract instead. She also makes a sauce using the roasted strawberry juices along with Sauternes, though I used madeira instead, which made for a kind of tangy, fruity, toffee-ish sauce.
- 500g strawberries (small berries preferably)
- 1.5-2 tblsp butter
- 0.5 tsp natural vanilla extract (or pulp from half of a vanilla bean)
- 1-2 tblsp demerara sugar
- around 50ml madeira (I used a sweet malmsey) – or substitute another sweet fortified or unfortified wine
You’ll also need:
- A non-metal ovenproof dish – mine was around 20cm x 30cm
- Preheat the oven to 110C
- Add the butter to your non-metal oven proof dish. Place into the oven for a few minutes to melt.
- Trim the strawberries but leave them whole and toss in the sugar.
- Remove the dish with the melted butter, mix with the vanilla extract or pulp, place strawberries cut side down in the butter, return to the oven and roast for around 3 hours or until they slump inwards (and, as Gastranthropologist describes, they look like Hershey’s kisses).
- Once cool enough to handle, remove the strawberries. If you have juices remaining in the pan, pour off into a small saucepan. If you find, like me, that the strawberry juices have dried somewhat and formed a sticky layer, loosen with a little boiling water, then remove the contents to a small saucepan.
- Add the madeira to the liquid in the saucepan, place over a medium heat and simmer until it is reduced by about half. Add a little sugar to taste if you like and/or stir in a little cream. Serve with the roasted strawberries, ice cream or cream and maybe even some pancakes.
- I reckon that strawberries slow roasted with some balsamic vinegar instead of the vanilla might be worth a try.
- There might be enough for 2 in this, but that’s only if you feel like sharing.
Miss Jane Bury’s Potato Pancakes
This is as per the recipe described by Colman Andrews in Country Cooking of Ireland, except that I made the individual pancakes smaller than originally specified, as I found my batter to be quite soft and the pancakes prone to disintegrate. Smaller, thicker pancakes held together better.
These are very simple, but rich. Tasty eaten just on their own or best with other savoury foods, though they’ll accept sweet accompaniment too (and, if you’re going the sweet route, I would be inclined to reduce the amount of salt in the batter, perhaps by about half).
- 850g potatoes, preferably a floury variety (I used maris piper)
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp salt (reduce to abt 0.5 tsp if serving with something sweet)
- 240ml heavy cream
- 175ml milk or water or as needed (I used milk)
- 4-6 tblsp clarified butter
You’ll also need:
- A potato ricer – handy, though not essential, for mashing the potatoes – plus a frying pan, preferably non-stick, for frying the pancakes.
For The Mash:
- Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly even-sized slices, around 1-2cm thick. Rinse them under cold water.
- Bring about 1.5l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 2 tsp salt and the potato slices. Bring back to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, for around 15-20 minutes or until just fork-tender. Drain well, then either let them sit, covered by a tea-towel, for about 5 minutes or place the pan over a low heat and stir the potatoes gently for a minute or so while they dry out.
- In a large bowl, put the cooked and still warm potatoes through a potato ricer, if you have one, or mash with a potato masher or a fork. Allow to cool a little.
For The Pancakes:
- Add the eggs, salt and cream to the mashed potatoes and stir well to form a thick batter. If too thick to flow from a spoon, dilute with milk or water.
- Place a frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add about 2 tblsp of the clarified butter.
- Add around 2 tblsp of batter to form each small, thick pancake (around 8-10cm diameter). Cook in batches, cooking each batch for 6-8 minutes, turning once, and repeat until the batter is used up, adding more clarified butter to the pan as needed. Keep pancakes warm in a low oven, covered with foil or just let people eat them as you make them.
- These are great on their own, though they’d go well with other brunchables, like eggs and bacon, or you can have them sweet, with sugar and butter, or, yes, maybe even strawberries.
- Of course you can add whatever herbs or spices you like to the pancake batter, though they’re pretty good just as they are.
- Around 20-24 small pancakes, serves 6-8
What a stunning combo of good potato pancakes & these slow roasted strawberries from gastoanthropologist!!
I wanted to try them too! Now, I am going to make this lovely combo of special & apart tasty looking food!
Thanks for sharing, my friend!
PS: I had never seen a strawberry elephant before! hahahaha,..!!
I have great news, next year you and I can go out and eat a big stack of these :)
I love that elephant, I would be in so much trouble if I could afford to buy up all the cool food things I see out and about!
Look forward to getting this cookbook!
Interesting. Roasting strawberries sounds like a delicious idea. Although I often have difficulty stopping myself from just eating the whole lot with my fingers before they get to the fridge. :) I am really looking forward to hearing about Food Blogger Connect, since I couldn’t make it this year.
Mmmm…these sound amazing. I’m liking this whole fruit-potato theme! Will be looking forward to hearing about how you got on in London.
Aoife – So great to FINALLY meet you. It’s so interesting meet the real deal when we’ve been friends over the internet for so long. I’m so glad you liked the slow roasted strawberries and will definitely make them again, but this time with potato pancake =). Hopefully another two years doesn’t pass till we meet again!
I love this that at first looked like a very unusual combination to me. I kept on reading and just adored the slowly roasted strawberries – can’t wait to try to roast some and utilise them with youghurt in the mornings as well as with these potato pancakes which I will most certainly make. this combination will be great for a brunch bite. I love brunch. And by the way, I loved meeting you and I will become a regular at The Daily Spud.
Sophie: Yep, you definitely don’t see strawberry elephants every day :D Do try the slow roasted strawberries – I’m sure you’ll like them
Chef E: the cookbook is great – even better is the thought that we could eat some of these together!
sarah: I know what you mean about strawberries – mostly I’ll just want to eat them raw as is, but this does make for an interesting alternative; sorry you couldn’t be at FBC this time around (for obvious distance reasons!) – will report more in due course
Caroline: I think the fruit/potato theme deserves more exporation! To be honest, stewed apple would really be the more natural fruit accompaniment (if any) to potato pancakes like these but (as you can see) I’m willing to give other things a whirl (and, besides, the strawberries are well worth trying just on their own). This also reminds me that I’m still intent on making your potato-apple tart…
gastroanthropologist: the feeling’s mutual – really great to finally meet you too; and the strawberries are just fab – as for the spuds, well, you know that I just can’t resist adding potatoes in there somewhere :)
valentina: It was so lovely to meet and chat with you at FBC; and you are not alone in thinking this an unusual combination – it most certainly is! Both the strawberries and the pancakes are worth trying, whether together or separately.
oh my potato pancakes with roasted strawberries…I have no words, slightly groans..yum
Roasted strawberries sound divine! And to pair them with potato pancakes- very creative! I might appeal to my teenage sister by making some fluffy buttermilk pancakes with these lovely strawberries and save the potato pancakes for a tasty dinner app! Thanks!
Woohoo, what a great post, and I cannot believe that you and Gastro – JUST met. I like the looks of these berries and tators. I’ll be making these for breakfast soon! Sounds like a wonderful event, and I’ve heard some incredible things about this cookbook. I’ve got it on my list.
Ha, pancakes made with potatoes?! Sounds too good to be true :) Loving the elephant, very clever of you to sneak it into the post!
Spud, only you can make strawberries with potatoes look so mouthwatering. Can’t wait to surprise my hubby with this combo one day!
These pancakes with roasted strawberries look scrumptious! Thanks to gastro for these strawberries, bet they make a great combo with your potato pancakes. It will be a great surprise breakfast to my guests this sunday.
And the strawberry elephant looks so cute.
sweetlife: hey there, I hope that you have recovered the power of speech by now :)
Peanut Butter and Jealous: You’re welcome – and the strawberries would be excellent with some buttermilk pancakes! Sorry we didn’t really get to chat at FBC – but we shall hopefully make up for that online.
OysterCulture: It would have topped off a great weekend if you could have been there for our meeting too! And I think you’ll love the book, it really is a fabulous showcase of all that is good about Irish food.
Anne’s Kitchen: Hi there! Believe me (almost) anything is possible with potatoes :D
Phyllis: surprise is the word – I think I surprise myself as much as anybody else with these things sometimes!
zerrin: I know how much you love your breakfasts, so I hope you enjoy both the strawberries and the pancakes :)
Hey really great to see your blog after hearing you talk about it. Slow roasted strawberries with potato pancakes just sounds gorgeous. Those elephants were very cool! I want one x
OK, from now on this will become one of my daily reading, to get to know better Irish cooking!
I’ve been really happy to meet you in real life, even for just a few moments and words!
Nah, I see strawberry covered elephants all the time. Must be the drugs.
I was so glad to see you again at FBC and get time to chat for longer. These slow roasted strawberries sound incredible!
Mmmmmmm, just LOOK at those gently collapsing strawberries on the pancake stack! Decadent. I loved the strawberry ellie too but was in too much of a tizz to photograph it on Saturday. Next time. Lovely to see you again, even if we did not have much time to chat. Hope you enjoyed the conference as much as I did and that the presentations were useful!
Heather: Delighted you called around to visit :) And those elephants were very cool – I could definitely picture having one in my garden, maybe with potatoes instead of strawberries, lol
Juls: it was lovely to meet you too, even if only briefly – I’m looking forward to my daily dose of Tuscany over at your place :)
Sarah: I should find out where you get your strawberry elephant drugs! :D It was great to meet you again and chat – and the slow roasted strawberries are indeed very good…
Jeanne: Pity we didn’t get more time to chat – will just have to come back again next year for more! I did enjoy the conference and it was certainly useful I thought. Now I just have to get organised enough to put all of that useful information into practice :)
I haven’t tried the pancakes yet but I just love the strawberries – tried them this morning. I only had a punnet so didn’t go very far. and I have decided that I prefer them cold as the flavour is more ‘consolidaded’. next time pancakes and strawberries.oh yes, there is no way I can have these strawberries only once.
The strawberries are fabulous Valentina, aren’t they (though, yes, one punnet wouldn’t go too far) – I will have to make them again soon myself!
“These will be made.” — Pancake Woman
I expect nothing less from the Pancake Woman herself