Berry good.

British Summer Time. Go on, if you listen hard enough you can hear it. The gentle thwack of tennis balls on pressed grass, mowers humming, ice cubes chinking, your neighbour swearing at a deck chair. Yes, across the country we're finally shaking out our picnic blankets and planning lazy alfresco weekend brunches. So what better theme for our second edition of Breakfast Inspiration than the jewel of the food hamper, British berries.

In high society, darling, strawberries are as old as Wimbledon itself, becoming fashionable in the late 1800s when they were favoured as a courtside snack. These days Scotland is considered one of Europe's top berry growing regions, due to long hours of sunlight in early summer. And while soft fruits still seem decadent, and are a luxury in the winter, in season they're surprisingly easy on the wallet.

That's not the only reason to indulge. Sprinkled on your cereal or blended into a smoothie, berries are a nutritious breakfast ingredient. If you believe the hype, blueberries are a 'superfood' touted as a preventative for heart disease and cancer. Bridget Benelam, Senior Scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, helped us sort berry fact from fiction. "There is no specific definition of a superfood, and no way of testing whether a food is 'super' or not, so it can be a misleading term," she says. "It often refers to foods like blueberries that are rich in antioxidants."

What we can say for sure is that berries are fat free and packed with vitamin C to help fend of pesky summer colds. And the good news according to Bridget: "It's a variety of compounds from fruit that confer a health benefit rather that single one, so its great to include lots of different berries". In other words, why stop at a blueberry? Top your yoghurt with raspberry, currants, sweetened gooseberries or more unusual varieties such as strasberries and pineberries!

Don't fancy treading the supermarket aisle while the sun's out? There's nothing more satisfying than a trip to a pick-your-own farm for package-free fruit as fresh as it comes. But if you're city bound why not try GYO (grow your own) instead. Horticultural expert and fruit aficionado Mandy Richardson gave us some easy tips. South facing window boxes are the best, with most kinds of berries being surprisingly easy to cultivate in containers. "If you don't have much space," she says, "plant dwarf varieties instead such as Top Hat or Sunshine Blue." And remember to only wash the fruit just before your breakfast, otherwise they start to mould.

To keep that summer buzz all year, pop any spare berries into the freezer (it locks in their vitamin C) or try your hand at a spot of jam making. Blue or red, in a drink or dunked in cream, there's no doubt these little gems are this season's best accessory.

Some inspiring recipes

Strawberry Jam

500g strawberries, washed and hulled
350g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp butter
Toast, to serve

Mix the hulled strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge overnight.

The next day, place the strawberry mixture in a saucepan on a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Do not stir as it breaks up the berries. Once the sugar is dissolved bring to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes.

After 8 minutes, add the butter and stir quickly to combine. Take the saucepan off the heat and allow to cool.

Pour the jam into sterilised jars and seal. Once open, keep in the fridge.


Tip

To sterilise jars, wash them well in soapy water, drain briefly, then place them in the oven and heat at 100C/gas ¼ mark for about 30 minutes, until dry. If the jars have metal lids, dry them in the oven too. If you're using preserving jars with rubber seals, use the process above for the jars, but immerse the seals in a pan of boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes before turning the heat off and allowing to cool.

Breakfast summer pudding

A quick breakfast update on the classic, English berry-filled dessert.

Serves 2

1 punnet of raspberries
½ punnet of strawberries, hulled and finely diced
2 tbsp Tropicana orange juice, or to taste
1 dessertspoon caster sugar, or to taste
2 individual brioche
Thick Greek-style plain or vanilla yoghurt, to serve

You can begin this the night before, but don't have to. In a bowl, mash the raspberries a little, then stir in the strawberries. Add the orange juice and sugar gradually - adjusting to taste. Mix to combine and set aside to marinate for at least 15 minutes, or place in the refrigerator overnight.

Cut the top off the brioche loaves and hollow out some of the centre, then press the rest of the centre in, to widen the hole. Spoon some of the berry mixture into the brioche, and over the top. Leave for about 20 minutes, so some of the berry juices soak into the bread.

Serve with any remaining berries, and spoonfuls of thick yoghurt.


Tip

If you can't find any individual brioche loaves, don't wory. Get 2.5cm slices from a brioche loaf, then tear roughly. Place a layer of brioche in a serving glass or bowl, then some of the berry mixture, add another layer of brioche and berries, then top with yoghurt. Voilà - breakfast trifle!

Blueberry ricotta hotcakes

Try these easy pancakes for a lovely, lazy, late breakfast. Serve them with butter and honey, or try them with maple syrup and bacon for an American-diner style start to your day.

Serves 4-6

4 eggs
300g ricotta
2 dessertspoons caster sugar
220ml milk
255g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 punnets of blueberries
Vegetable oil
To serve, maple syrup and crisp streaky bacon

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with ricotta, sugar and most of the milk. Sift in the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, and gently combine into the mixture. (You may want to add a little extra milk at this stage if you think the batter is too stiff.) Stir in most of the blueberries, reserving about half a punnet.

Heat some vegetable oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Depending on how big your pan is, add 1-2 ladlefuls of the mixture and start to cook your hotcakes in batches. When bubbles start to form on the surface, and the underside of the hotcake is golden-brown, flip the hotcake and cook until the other side is nicely coloured. (Press down on the pancake gently with your spatula or fish slice , it should feel soft, but it shouldn't feel wobbly - if it does, the batter is still uncooked.)

Remove the hotcake(s) from the pan to a plate and keep warm in a low oven. Repeat with remaining batter until used up.

Divide the hotcakes between plates, scatter with reserved blueberries and serve with crisp bacon and maple syrup.


Tip

For a truly decadent brunch, leave the berries out of the hotcake batter. Instead, blitz them using a hand blender, then add to a small pan with a little sugar and a splash of water. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and you have a nice consistency. Cook the berry-less hotcakes as before, then serve with the berry sauce and some thick yoghurt - or ice cream!