Can I tell you an exciting piece of news? Okay, two. Number one: I graduated from university! (Finally. After 7 years it was about time.) Number two (and this is the one I'm currently most excited about): I'm gonna attend Marta's and Sanda's food photography and styling workshop in Portugal in May! I really have to thank my dear friend Jonna, an amazing knitter (she owns the coolest yarn store in whole Finland), photographer (yeh, multitalented), and creative soul, for asking me to join her in this adventure. I can't wait to eat delicious food (I'm looking at you, fresh seafood), drink wine, chat with people around the world, get inspired, learn, and enjoy the beautiful Portuguese coast. We're also gonna spend a couple of days in Lisbon, so I would be thankful for any tips on places to stay, eat, and see. Oh and places to find props. That would be awesome.
May and Portugal are still a couple of months away but I can already feel the promise of spring in the air. The days are finally getting longer – at the moment 6 minutes every day. That's one hour in 10 days! I must say that this phenomenon of days getting shorter and then longer again still fascinates me. Every single year. I mean, I can't believe that last Sunday I was able to shoot in daylight well past 2pm. Crazy. There's still snow but I know we're moving towards the light, towards spring and summer. I guess that's called hope. At least to the Nordic definition of things.
But even if you don't live here up north and wittness the return of daylight in awe, there's also another reason to love late winter days. What I'm talking about is citrus fruit and blood oranges in particular! There are just a couple of weeks left of this glorious season, so make the most of it. My suggestion: these Nordic pancakes served with a superb blood orange compote that is flavored with Aperol and vanilla. Nordic pancakes are similar to French-style crêpes. A perfect Nordic pancake has a lacy, crispy edge – someone who masters this is highly respected in any Nordic country. Don't be afraid of frying thin pancakes or crêpes. It isn't as difficult as many believe; actually, I think that crêpes belong to the same food-that-people-are-afraid-to-make-without-any-rational-reason category as risotto and choux pastry. Once you get the hang of the frying technique, it's easier than making American pancakes. I promise. Oh and don't be fooled by the very first pancake of the batch – it almost always fails (but still tastes great).
Nordic Pancakes with Blood Orange & Aperol Compote
makes 12-15 pancakes, depending on size
If blood oranges aren't in season anymore, you can use oranges instead. In that case I would maybe add a grapefruit or two to the mix. Jam sugar is sugar that contains pectin as a gelling agent and is used to make preserves, such as jam. In the compote, I used jam sugar 1:3 to get a nice consistency but you may use normal sugar or 1:2 jam sugar instead if that's what you have on hand or are okay with a runnier compote. Furthermore, Aperol can be substituted with Campari, a similar type of Italian liqueur.
6 dl (2 ½ cups) milk, preferably whole milk
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
165 g (3 dl; 1 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp melted butter, cooled
+ more butter for frying
for the compote:
about 1800 g (4 lb) blood oranges
6 tbsp 1:3 jam sugar
4 tbsp Aperol
½ vanilla bean, split lenghtwise & seeds scraped out
150 g crème fraîche (or sour cream), to serve
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the milk, eggs, salt, and sugar. Gradually, add the flour followed by the melted butter. Whisk until smooth. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. As the batter rests, bits of butter may rise to the surface. Don't worry; just give the batter a good whisk before frying.
Meanwhile, make the compote. First, segment the blood oranges. To do so, cut the top and bottom from the fruit and place it on a chopping board. Working from top to bottom following the curve of the fruit, cut away the skin and pith. A small and sharp knife comes most handy. Next, take the fruit in your hand and hold it over a medium-sized pot to catch the juices. Carefully, cut each inner segment away from the membrane and let the segments fall into the pot. Be careful to discard any white pith or seeds. Repeat with the remaining oranges.
Add the sugar and Aperol to the pot with the segments. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 minutes, or until segments have soften a bit. Strain the compote. Set the segments aside (don't throw them away!) and return the juices to the pot. Add the vanilla seeds and pod to the juices. Over medium heat, let the juices simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until reduced and syrupy. Finally, add the reserved orange segments, stir, and set aside to cool.
To fry the pancakes, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a small knob of butter and a ladle of the batter; we're looking for a thin pancake, about 1 mm in thickness. As soon as the batter hits the pan, pick up the pan and swirl it, so that the batter completely covers the bottom of the pan. Fry until set and golden brown. Flip and fry until the other side is golden brown as well. Transfer fried pancakes to a plate and continue with the remaining batter. Add a small knob of butter between every other pancake.
Serve the pancakes with blood orange & Aperol compote and crème fraîche.