Pancake Tuesday is just 10 days away. I love, love, love pancakes, bit fat juicy ones, thin crispy lacy ones, teeny weeny pikelets, soft spongy crumpets, blousey Dutch babies…
Pancake batter is totally magical, you can make a million variations by just changing the proportions of egg and flour to liquid.
Half milk and water will give you a lacier crepe, less liquid will result in a thickish pancake. Use buttermilk instead and you can turn out a stack of fluffy American pancakes.
Everyone has their favourites, but simple pancakes conjure up the happiest memories of Pancake Tuesdays of our childhood.
Mummy made a huge bowl of pancake batter and then cooked pancake after pancake for what seemed like hours. There were nine of us so we took turns to have the next one straight from the pan.
We brushed the speckled pancakes with melted butter, sprinkled on some castor sugar and squeezed some lemon juice to zip up the flavour, rolled them up and then ate them slowly cut into little slices until it was our turn again.
When my own children were little, pancakes were our quintessential fast food made in minutes when we arrived home from a shopping trip or an afternoon at the beach.
Just pop a pan on the aga, shoot a mug of white flour into a blender, add three eggs and 15fl oz of milk, a dessertspoon of castor sugar.
Whizz, bang — batter made.
Melt a little butter in the pan, pour in a small ladle full of batter, tilt the pan to cover the base, cook on the highest heat for a minute or two until its easy to flip over.
Slide it onto a hot plate, then fill or top with your favourite choice — chocolate spread is right up there, soft and easy to spread but now we know that the well-known brand is made with controversial palm oil you may want to make your own with good quality hazelnuts and chocolate.
Kumquat compote, a homemade lemon curd and crème fraîche are so more-ish.
Honey, butter are also hard to beat but orange butter and freshly squeezed lemon juice are a quintessential favourite.
Ring up the pals and arrange a pancake party — fun and delicious for all the ages from nine to 90.
1. Reynard’s Dutch Babies
We use small, 15cm cast-iron pans.
Heat oven to 230C/Gas mark 8.
Whisk all the ingredients together for the batter.
Melt a tablespoon of clarified butter in each of the cast iron pans over a high heat, pour a quarter of the batter into the hot pan.
Transfer into the heated oven, they will bubble up.
Reduce temperature to 200C/Gas mark 6 and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
Add a slice of cooked ham 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.
2. American Buttermilk Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup
We love to cook American pancakes on the aga for Sunday brunch. It’s so difficult to know when to stop!
Serves 4-6 depending on the size or helping; makes 14 – 3in pancakes
Mix the buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a large bowl, until smooth and blended.
Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda together, stir into the buttermilk until the ingredients are barely combined, don’t worry about the lumps.
Do not over-mix or the pancakes will be heavy.
Heat a heavy iron or non-stick pan until medium hot. Grease with a little clarified butter.
Spoon two generous tablespoons of batter onto the pan, spread slightly with the back of the spoon to a round about 7.5cm across.
Cook until the bubbles rise and break on the top of the pancake (about a minute).
Flip over gently. Cook until pale golden on the other side. Spread each with butter.
Serve a stack of three with crispy streaky bacon and maple syrup.
3. Russian Fluffy Pancakes
Julija Makejeva, who works with us at the Cookery School, taught me how to make these pancakes, known as oladushki in Russian.
Put the buttermilk into a bowl, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda on top and leave for 3–4 minutes to allow the mixture to bubble.
Whisk the egg, salt and caster sugar into the buttermilk mixture.
Slowly add the flour to the batter, whisking all the time, until the mixture has an even consistency.
The batter should be very thick and reluctantly fall off the spoon.
Heat a wide frying pan on a medium heat.
Add the vegetable oil.
Pour a tablespoon of batter into the pan and repeat.
You should be able to fit about five more pancakes in the pan, spaced evenly apart.
Fry until golden brown on one side, flip over once bubbles have appeared on the surface and popped.
Repeat the process until all of the batter is used.
Serve with sour cream mixed with raspberry jam or sour cream sprinkled with brown sugar
4. Posh Shrove Tuesday Pancakes with Orange Butter
Every Shrove Tuesday we make pancakes at the school, the students queue up to eat them hot from the pan, with much swapping of stories about how mothers made them.
This year one was heard to remark ruefully ‘my mother’s pancakes never tasted like these, these are delicious’.
In fact, these are very nearly as good as crepes suzette but half the bother.
Serves 6 - makes 12 approx
Basic Pancake Batter
First make the batter.
Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs.
With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour from the sides.
Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles.
(If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).
Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so — longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter.
This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.
Next make the orange butter.
Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Then add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy, add the orange liqueur if using.
Make the pancakes in the usual way.
Heat a non-stick pan until very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base when you tilt and swirl the pan.
Put the pan back on the heat, loosen the pancake around the edge with a non-metal slice.
Flip over, cook for a few seconds on the reverse side.
Slide over onto a plate. Repeat until all the batter has been used up.
Pancakes and orange butter can be make ahead and finished later. The pancakes will keep overnight covered in a fridge.
They will peel apart easily — no need to interleaf them with greaseproof paper.
To serve: Melt a large blob of the orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the pancakes in the foaming butter, fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes).
Serve two per person on warm plates. Repeat until all the pancakes and butter have been used.
5. Drop Scones with Loads of Toppings
These can be sweet or savoury, just omit the sugar.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix.
Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge.
Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.
Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat. Drop three tablespoons of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together.
Cook for about two minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.
Remove from the pan to a wire rack.
Serve warm with whichever topping you fancy from the list below:
Kumquat compote and crème fraiche and shredded mint
Blood orange, labne, roast rhubarb and pistachios
Labne, pomegranates and mint
Blueberries, lemon cream and mint leaves
Dulce de leche, bananas, pecans and slivered almonds
Roast cherry tomatoes and rocket leaves
Blackberries, lemon curd, cream and blueberries
6. Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread
Makes 2 small jars
Heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5.
Spread the hazelnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes or until the skin start to loosen and the nuts are golden and evenly roasted.
Rub the skins off the hazelnuts and discard.
Cool and transfer to a food processor. Whizz the hazelnuts for 2-5 minutes or until the oil begins to separate from the soft paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut oil, vanilla extract and salt to taste.
Keep whizzing until the spread is loose, glossy and spreadable texture. Taste. It may need another pinch of salt or another tablespoon of hazelnut oil.
Spoon into little jars, cover and use within a month but usually it doesn’t last that long.
Date for the Diary: The Weston A Price Foundation will host a conference at Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick on March 25/26. ‘Changing Our Minds’ will focus on the nutritional foundations of a healthy mind. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fairtrade Fortnight: February 27 to March 12. Join your friends and neighbours to put Fairtrade products in your shopping basket whenever possible. www.fairtrade.ie for the Fairtrade Fortnight Action Guide.
Slow Food East Cork Event: Fair Trade Nicaraguan Chocolate, Heydi Mairena from Jinotega in Nicaragua will share the story of her fair trade artisan Quetzalcoatl chocolate on March 1, at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
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