Since I left home I was always a city-centre boy and fully accepting of the transient nature of the people around me. I saw little value in engaging with those around me. Head down, defences up. Six years ago I had a bit of shock when moved a little further out of the centre and into a lovely square with a well established and active community. Not knowing how to engage, or recognising the value, I nodded, contributed my annual subscription to the residents association and steadfastly refused to engage. My community were the glittering shiny people down the road in town. Why would I need to hang out with people I didn’t know on the street, when I could not talk to people I didn’t know in town?
Well things change, and what was an eye opener to me was when an old college friend moved onto the square about 18 months ago and observing how effortlessly they integrated. For fucks sake, they knew peoples names, and what they did. Watching them interact with the neighbours made me reflect on my own engagement. Don’t get me wrong, I was perfectly polite, a nod here a wave there, but all perfunctory. It made me think of how others must have viewed me, rushing by with barely a glance and a grunt. I resolved to change and am now more involved, finding the time to stop and talk, leaving a weekly surplus of eggs from the hens in a basket on the front gate. Little things, but I feel better for it, as the attention I give to others has been responded to. It’s a subtle shift, but I feel more rooted in where I am, and happier for it.
I recently came across an Irish initiative to meet and reconnect with neighbours over food that really appeals to me. Concept is simple, it’s about sharing a simple lunch with your neighbours that you organise yourselves on a national day of community celebration. Street Feast is a fantastic idea and this year is on 17 June 2012. I will be looking to organise one here, and I hope that you can all click on the link and are inspired to organise your own. The best ideas are the simplest, and in Ireland right now I feel that there are plenty of experiences we could be sharing and conversations we should be having with our neighbours.
Long preamble over. I talked about sharing because this monster of a brunch, cannot be eaten alone – needs many mouths to eat!
I’ve been on a bit of a brunch buzz lately, trying out new recipes and ideas, and I came across a strangely named Dutch Baby pancake recipe and fell in love with it (I thought it was on Huffington Post but can’t find the link).
This is a sweet breakfast dish - it’s effectively a sweet Yorkshire pudding. The batter is simply made with eggs, flour and milk, seasoned with vanilla and cinnamon, and sweetened with a little sugar. It is baked in a cast-iron pan, and puffs up like a huge monstrous pudding, about the the size a large plate. The batter when baked is light and fluffy, with a crispy crust covered with little edges that catch when baked and turn a beautiful golden brown. Though don’t be surprised that something this big and beautiful can last forever, it does deflate a little when taken out of the oven, so don’t be too disappointed.
The preparation time takes all of about 5 minutes, and once you pop it into the oven you can sit back and relax with the rest of the family till it’s done – the perfect lazy pancake brunch, no slaving over a hot pan making thin little crepes over and over. And when it’s done, you can all sit down to eat it together, which is surely the point a perfect brunch.
Traditionally you can serve these babies with a squeeze of lemon, butter and caster sugar. However I like to mix berries into the batter, whatever is to hand, blueberries, cherries or raspberries. A dollop of thick Greek yoghurt, sweetened with some honey and a scattering of toasted almond flake also make a fine accompaniment.
For the photos I poached some rhubarb and served with Greek yoghurt and extra strong coffee
Dutch Baby Pancake (Makes one 9 inch pancake)
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
60 grams all-purpose flour
125ml Full fat milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence or seeds from a fresh pod
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Fruit and icing sugar, for serving.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the butter in a 9 inch cast iron frying pan or cake pan and put in the oven.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla and cinnamon until combined. Add berries at this stage if you want them baked into the batter, or reserve them and serve on top like a fruit salad if you would prefer. When butter is melted, remove pan from the oven (be careful, it’s very hot) and swirl butter around until it coats the bottom and the sides. Pour the batter into the pan and place it back in the oven.
Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a squeeze fresh lemon juice and fresh fruit.
Don’t forget to sprinkle with icing sugar!