Blueberry breakfast – smoothie and blueberry ricotta pikelets

I was a rebel at university. Seriously. I majored in biology, and toyed with the idea of doing postgraduate study. My father was dismayed. Every other Malaysian Chinese student in the early/mid 90’s took engineering, law or accountancy. That is, if you didn’t have the grades for medicine. Dad wanted me to do business studies, one of those general degrees where you can work in a variety of industries, and was more ‘appropriate’ for a woman. I should mentioned that I come from a family with very traditional values.

What kind of a degree is biology? Where is the job security?

In retaliation, I did a Masters in plant biotechnology. And took 5 months to land an entry-level research job. While my friends quickly scaled the career ladder and tax brackets, I floundered in a dead-end position for 4 years, which paid little more than minimum wage. It was a hugely interesting job, and I learnt a great deal. To their unfailingly supportive credit, my parents never once said ‘I told you so’. Long story short, I have changed careers several times, and am in a stimulating and challenging job, which I love, and I’m even on a respectable wage. Both Dad and I got our ways, – I am in a role which combines biology & business.

And guess what? I work at a research institute which among other roles, also breeds blueberries and studies their functional benefits. I would have enjoyed blueberries regardless, but I certainly have a huge appreciation of them now. The rabbiteye varieties grown in NZ have very high levels of antioxidants, higher than varieties bred and grown in the Northern Hemisphere countries.

There is strong evidence that blueberries are good for you, the phenolic compounds (flavonoids,  anthocyanins) in blueberries have been implicated in hastening recovery from strenuous exercise, shown benefits for gut health and can assist with mental acuity. There is no RDI for antioxidants, though 100g of blueberries will give you around 200mg of anthocyanins. With the blueberry season on us, I’ve gotten a smidgen addicted to them . I’m still trying to find the right spot in the garden to dig in a plant or three…

But try finding locally grown frozen blueberries in the supermarket, – impossible! I’ve scoured the various brands, and they are all imported. 125g punnets of fresh blueberries sell for $3 – $4.50, making a 500g bag of imported IQF (individually quick frozen) berries a bargain at $7. Frozen locally grown blueberries can be sourced directly from producers (See for NZ growers and farmers markets). Whoops. I lie. OOB locally-grown organic frozen blueberries are available at Farro Fresh, $10.99 for a 500g bag.

I like simple recipes; and delicious blueberry smoothies are about the easiest thing to make. My best friend’s husband, Iwan, introduced me to this a few years ago, as a cooling treat in the hot Brisbane sun. There are no strict quantities; and include ice and more liquid if you want it more like a drink, and less like a iced dessert. I have frozen bananas cut into cubes in the freezer at all times for this purpose (and for banana cakes). And this is the only reason I have Tip Top ice-cream in my freezer.

Blueberry smoothie
Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (per person):
½ frozen banana (use fresh ripe bananas as an alternative)
1 scoop vanilla (or French vanilla) ice-cream
⅓ cup blueberries
½ cup milk

Put all ingredients in the blender, and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Blueberry ricotta pancakes
(from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course)
Prep and cooking time: 30 mins

125g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
100mL milk
125g ricotta cheese
100g fresh blueberries, or frozen dusted with flour
butter for frying

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add in the egg yolks and milk. Mix well.

Gently fold in the blueberries and ricotta. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, and then fold into the batter.

Heat non-stick pan over medium heat and melt a tablespoon of butter. Cook spoonfuls of batter, 2 minutes on each side until golden. Serve with cream or yoghurt, drizzled with your favourite syrup. I like vanilla or maple syrup.

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