Ricotta hotcakes with blueberry-star anise compote and mascarpone cream
by Christine Knight
This recipe is a reverse engineering exercise. Whenever I go home to Adelaide, my mum and I go for brunch at Urban Bistro on Fullarton Road. Bizarrely but appropriately, Urban is in the ground floor of an apartment block that used to be the maternity hospital where I was born (along with my sisters, and most other Adelaide children of my generation) – the Queen Victoria Hospital. IMHO, Urban serves the best brunch in Adelaide, which in a city very well supplied with delectable brunch options is saying something. Also IMHO, the ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote and rich cream are the highlight of their menu, though the stir-fried blue swimmer crab omelette comes a very close second. Much as I love Edinburgh, its cafes haven’t quite cottoned on to the brunch concept yet, and although you can get some very nice full Scottish breakfasts, and even a decent eggs Florentine or scrambled with smoked salmon, you won’t get anything to match the menus at Urban, East Terrace Continental, or The Big Table at Adelaide Central Market. Hence I tend to make it myself!
Since I first worked out how to make this, Urban has added the authentic recipe to its online collection – I’m not sure whether to be glad to be able to compare, or infuriated at all the reverse engineering work I put in! Regardless, I’m smug enough to think it’s still worth putting my version online (less sugar, more spice, and the addition of mascarpone). I can’t take credit for the hotcakes (nor can Urban) – Bill Granger’s are the best, and I’m not going to pretend I can do better. Unless your guests are especially greedy in the dairy department, you’ll wind up with a bit more mascarpone cream than you need, but I’ve suggested these quantities because they’re how mascarpone and cream are generally sold in the UK. If you prefer, reduce the quantities by about a third, keeping the proportions about the same.
For the blueberry compote
1 heaped dessertspoon demerara sugar
juice of half a lemon
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
For the mascarpone cream
235ml (1/2 pint) whipping cream
For the ricotta hotcakes
1 1/3 cups (340g) ricotta
¾ cup milk
4 eggs, separated
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
butter, for greasing the pan
Start with the blueberry compote. Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over low-medium heat until the blueberries start to burst and release their juice. Simmer for several minutes more until you have a syrupy compote. You want most of the blueberries still whole and firm, but with plenty of syrupy juice. Remove from the heat and decant into a bowl to cool. (I like to put it in a serving bowl at this point, so people can help themselves to the accoutrements once the hotcakes are made.) Just before serving, remove the star anise (to avoid anyone breaking a tooth).
Next make the mascarpone cream. Place the mascarpone in a mixing bowl and loosen slightly with a spatula. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold half the cream into the mascarpone to lighten, followed by the other half of the cream. Again, scrape into a serving bowl if you’re doing things that way.
For the hotcakes, place the ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and mix well with a balloon whisk. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add to the ricotta mixture and whisk until just combined. Place the egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites through the batter in two batches, with a large metal spoon.
Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of the butter. (I like to use 2 frying pans at the same time to speed things up.) Using a large metal serving spoon, drop about 1/3 cup of the batter per hotcake into the pan. (I cook 3 per pan at a time – don’t try to fit more than this.) Cook over low to medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hotcakes have golden undersides. Turn and cook on the other side until golden and cooked through.
Serve 3 hotcakes per person and let everyone help themselves to the blueberry compote and cream.
Hotcake recipe from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food (Murdoch, 2000).