'Myrtle, your hair is on fire,' an alarmed guest exclaimed as Myrtle’s fringe went up in flames while she was enthusiastically flambéing crêpes beside their table. The guest jumped out of his chair and damped out the flames with napkin and the water jug — drama in the dining room.
For many years, in the Ballymaloe House dining room, it was a ritual to serve Crêpe Suzette on Shrove Tuesday. Many regular customers from earlier years will remember that Myrtle would wheel the famous Ballymaloe House Sweet Trolley into the dining room with her copper chaffing dish, a pile of crêpes, the spirit stove, and a bottle of Cointreau and Grand Marnier.
The delicious crêpe suzette were made to order and she shared the recipe in The Ballymaloe Cookbook, first published in 1977 and still in print to this day. If you are fortunate to still have copy of the first edition in hardback, treasure it, it’s a collectors’ item now.
Well, Shrove Tuesday is just around the corner, so I’ll share my favourite recipe for pancake batter. I love, love, love pancakes, but doesn’t everyone?
Super quick to make and such a brilliant standby, whisked together in minutes with ingredients that pretty much everyone has to hand, eggs, milk, flour, butter, castor sugar and a lemon for traditionalists. But why stop there, the possibilities for fillings are endless….
Pancake batter is magical, it’s definitely one of my ‘great convertibles’.
One can make a million variations by just changing the proportion of egg and flour to liquid. White flour can be substituted by buckwheat, chickpea, tapioca, spelt, rice flour — or a mixture.
The liquid too can be varied coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, buttermilk, even oat milk. Sparkling water or soda water gives an even crisper batter. One can create dairy free, gluten free and vegan versions. Half milk and half water result in a lacier crepe. Use less liquid to make a thicker pancake — buttermilk will produce a stack of fluffier American style pancakes for breakfast or brunch.
Pikelets and crumpets are all variations on the theme as are Dutch babies and Toad in the Hole, Yorkshire pudding and popovers.
Basic pancakes, as we always called the thin lacy crepes, were my “go to” recipe when the kids were little. The recipe was written inside the door of the kitchen cupboard and could be whizzed up in seconds while a pan was heating up on the Aga and a little butter softened on the side of the stove.
The kids would line up to eat them in turns, hot off the pan slathered with butter, sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.
We were conservative then but now so much more adventurous, chocolate spread and lots of roasted nuts, peanut butter and honey, homemade lemon curd and mascarpone, honey butter and of course savoury pancakes too.
We made some delicious ones yesterday with kale pesto, goats cheese and a little tomato and ginger relish. The possibilities are endless.
So why not plan a Shrove Tuesday pancake party and try some of these recipes.
I love this version of the famous Dutch baby which I enjoyed at Reynard restaurant in the Wyeth Hotel in Brooklyn.
- 3 free range eggs
- 175ml (6fl ozs) milk
- 75oz (3oz) all-purpose flour
- Salt to taste
- ¾ tbsp clarified butter
- 4 slices cooked ham or 8 slices of crispy bacon
- 75-110g (3-4ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated
- Maple syrup (optional)
- 2 tsp thyme leaves
- Freshly ground pepper
- We use a 25.5cm (10 inch) cast iron pan for ours
Preheat an oven to 230/450F/Gas Mark 8.
Whisk all the ingredients together for the batter. Melt a scant tablespoon of clarified butter in each of the cast iron pans over a high heat, pour 1/4 of the batter into the hot pan.
Transfer into the preheated oven, they will bubble up. Reduce temperature to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add a slice of cooked ham or slices crispy bacon and a good sprinkle of grated Gruyére cheese.
Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese melts. Slide onto a warm plate.
Drizzle with maple syrup (optional), sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.
Buckwheat Pancake with Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts
- 1 oz (25g) butter
- 2½ ozs (65g) buckwheat flour
- 2 ozs (50g) plain white flour
- 1 large free range egg
- 6 fl ozs (175ml) milk
- 4 fl ozs (110ml) cold water
- A pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Best quality organic chocolate and hazelnut spread
- Toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- Maldon sea salt (optional)
First make the batter.
Melt the butter on a low heat — cool. Sieve both flours and a pinch of salt into a bowl.
Make a well in the centre, add an egg, gradually whisk in the milk and water drawing in the flour from the outside. Finally whisk in the melted butter. Cover and allow to rest for 15- 30 minutes.
Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat. Pour in a small ladle-full of batter just enough to cover the base of the pan. Cook for about a minute, flip over and cook for a further 30-45 seconds. Slide onto a hot plate.
Spoon a couple of generous tablespoons of chocolate spread onto the centre. Fold in the four edges, once, twice to form a square with chocolate in the centre. Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt.
Myrtle Allen’s Crêpes Suzette from Ballymaloe Cookery School
- 50g (2oz) flour
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 organic egg
- 1 organic egg yolk
- 2 tsp orange curaçao
- 150ml (5fl oz) milk
- 225g (8oz) large ripe oranges
- 75g (3oz) softened butter
- 75g (3oz) castor sugar
- Castor sugar
Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre. Pour in the oil, egg, egg yolk and curaçao. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, stir in the egg mixture and gradually bring in the flour. Beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. Leave aside for 30 minutes.
Grate the rind of the oranges very carefully so as not to penetrate the white. Add to the butter and sugar. Cream vigorously until smooth.
Put a frying pan on a high heat. Melt about 15g (½oz) orange butter in the pan. When the butter is bubbling, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly, swirling the batter around to get it even. Loosen the crêpe around the edge, flip over with a spatula, cook for a second or two on the other side. Fold into a fan shape and slide onto a hot plate.
Repeat with the remaining pancakes.
Sprinkle them with castor sugar. Return the pancakes to the pan, pour over a little brandy and curaçao. Set alight, keeping your face away from the flames. Tilt the pan and spoon the juices over the pancakes until the flame subsides. Serve immediately on hot plates.