Wednesday 28 January 2015

Man with a Blue Scarf | Rice pancakes

As someone who wrote a BA thesis on autobiographies, I tend to have opinions about memoirs and biographies. I have no patience at all for writers who get caught up in gossip stories about their subject, and endless name-dropping. That said I want to tell you a bit about the book I'm reading, Man With a Blue Scarf, which has hardly any of that. Earthy brown shades are also on my mind, and pancakes, pancakes with rice.

Currently, I'm thoroughly enjoying Man With a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud by Martin Gayford. It's not a biography but has extracts from Gayford's diary. He takes us into Freud's studio when he sits for a portrait and gets to know the artist better. Lucian Freud (1922-2011), the German-born-British painter, was one of the most influential artists of his generation, and quite a character (he was the grandson of Sigmund). Gayford's accounts show us the artist at work; how he approaches his subject.

The book is a fascinating insight into the life of the artist, who was turning 81 when this passage was written:
In practice, we alternate between conversation and periods when his concentration is intense. During those he keeps up a constant dance-like movement, stepping sideways, peering at me intently, measuring with the charcoal. He holds it upright, and with a characteristic motion moves it through an arc, then back to the canvas to put in another stroke . . . he mutters to himself from time to time, little remarks that are sometimes difficult to catch: 'No, that's not it', 'Yes, a little' . . . Once or twice he steps back and surveys what he has done, with his head on one side. (p. 10)
They have wonderful conversations about other artists, about literature (Freud liked Henry James, Gustave Flaubert and Thomas Hardy), and they even talk about food (he liked Elizabeth David's books). The book contains 64 illustrations: paintings by Freud and other artists, and photos from his studio. I haven't finished the book and I even find myself reluctant to finish because I don't want it to end. I borrowed a copy at the library but this is a book I want to add to my shelves.

In December I started reading the book Breakfast with Lucian by Geordie Greig. It started well and I was enjoying the lively descriptions of Freud, even reading some aloud for my husband. Then at some point, I lost my patience with it, when the author, who was a friend of the artist, told story after story about Freud's lovers and love triangles. The tone was humorous and harmless but all of a sudden it felt as if I was reading a tabloid (I don't read those) and I didn't have the patience to continue and finish it.

What else don't I have patience for? Clichés in magazines are high on my list.

I have always said that I like the little things in life and one of those is the arrival of magazines in the mail; this week the Elle Decoration, March 2015 issue. A favourite feature of mine is about colours, which is one page with the history of the colour and e.g. its use in the art world. Rich brown is the colour of this issue and the article starts with these words: 'Startling news to report from the design world: brown is back.' Really? Did brown ever go away? Startling? On the cover of their September 2014 issue they asked: 'Is black the new white?' No, it's not, black is black, white is white! Is my pointless irritation coming through? By the way, the earthy tableware is by Reiko Kaneko, the bowl by Nicola Tassie, and the dress in the foreground is from the Chloé (by Clare Waight Keller) spring 2015 collection.

Shall we move on to the rice pancakes?

In Iceland we call these klattar, not pancakes, but every foreigner that has visited us and tasted them has commented on the smart idea of using rice in pancakes, hence rice pancakes. These days I'm hooked on raw almond and chia butter, which I put on mine with blueberry jam. You can serve them with butter, cheese and jam, organic chocolate spread or peanut butter, pure maple syrup, or whatever you're in the mood for.

I often make these for breakfast or as an after-school treat when I have leftovers of rice pudding or cooked rice in the fridge. I got the recipe from a friend in Iceland and later made it gluten-free for a guest with wheat intolerance (normally I use Doves Farm plain flour). You can easily substitute the gluten-free flour with spelt flour, or organic wheat flour, and use less milk. They are softer that way. You can even add some cinnamon or organic chocolate chips for an extra treat. Sometimes I use fresh blueberries: I put 3-4 on top of each pancake once I have ladled the batter into the pan, else the batter will turn bluish! The recipe makes about 10-12 pancakes, depending on how large you make them.


1-2 egg whites or 1 egg, free-range
2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar or pure maple syrup/agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup (250 ml) rice pudding or cooked (brown) rice
1 cup flour, gluten-free (c 175 g)
optional: ⅛ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea/Himalayan salt
175-200 ml almond milk or any other milk

Whisk the egg whites, sugar, vanilla and oil together in a bowl (if using 1 egg, 1½ tbsp oil will do). Add the rice pudding/cooked rice and whisk.

In a smaller bowl mix the flour, salt and xanthan gum (if using, in a gluten-free version). Add the mix to the other bowl with the milk and whisk together. It's good to start with 175 ml of milk (about ¾ cup) and add more (⅛ cup) if needed. The texture of the batter should be slightly thick.

Heat a pan over moderate heat; then wipe it with oiled kitchen paper. Ladle some batter into the pan (I usually make 2 pancakes at a time) and cook until golden brown on the bottom before flipping over to the other side. Transfer to a plate and repeat.
Uppskrift á íslensku.

Behind the scenes: a photobombing by a Persian cat


  1. Wonderful post Lisa! I was intrigued when I saw your photos on Pinterest - that book looks pretty interesting! And the pancakes - I must try them soon!!!

    1. Thank you, Igor. I can highly recommend the book (I'm almost finished). I think it shows LF in a truthful light and it's a book that I would call 'free of noise'.

    2. Interesting and now on my to-read list! Have a happy Tuesday Lisa!

  2. Lisa, thank you for the book recommendation - I am beginning to think that we Lisas think alike - I, too despise tabloid style writing, and find it insulting that a writer would think I'd be interested in it! What draws me are insights you mention about the process of a brilliant artist, as well as the human being beneath the surface. We all can relate to that. A question about your recipe: does it also work with brown rice? I'm always trying to maximize nutrition, and that extra bit of bran does carry quite a bit. All the best, Lisa

    1. Thank you for your comment, Lisa.
      Yes, you can use brown rice, I put the word 'brown' in parentheses. In fact, the pancakes in the photo are made with brown basmati rice.

  3. I can't stand biographies which give in to name dropping either, or whenever they become too personal. Yes, an insight into a detailed private life of the subject may be expected, but when I read about a filmmaker, designer or any other artist, I am simply not interested in their love life. I have recently read Diane von Furstenberg's biography and to say I was disappointed would be an understatement, I just could not swallow the enumeration of her lovers throughout her life, which is mainly what the first part of the book is about unfortunately.

    Always appreciate your book recommendations, Lisa. Now I am thinking what I should serve those pancakes with. :)

    1. This kind of pointless information can really take away the joy of reading a biography. Why anyone would consider it a selling point for a life story is beyond me.

      About the pancakes, I'm sure you will think of something ;-)

  4. I'm glad you're liking that book so much. It will be my next Lucien book for sure, and I avoid those books about his love life. Everyone who follows his work knows about that, but who cares. That earthenware is beautiful. I would love to start collecting table ware in that style some day soon...wishing you a very happy Valentine's Day! p.s. I'm back blogging, hope you will stop by and say hello :)

    Mary Jo


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