“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 addition in hardback, treasure it, it’s a collectors’ item now.
Well, Shrove Tuesday is just around the corner, so I’ll 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 half and 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.
Crêpes with Orange Butter
This crêpe recipe is very nearly as good as those Crêpes Suzette they used to serve with a great flourish in posh restaurants when I was a child. These crêpes are half the bother and can be made for a fraction of the cost.
Serves 6 – makes 12 approximately
6oz (175g) white flour, preferably unbleached
a good pinch of salt
1 dessertspoon castor sugar
2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range
scant 15fl oz (450ml) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed
3-4 dessertspoons melted butter
6oz (175g) butter
3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
6oz (175g) icing sugar
freshly squeezed juice of 5-6 oranges
8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crêpe pan
First make the batter.
Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. 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 crêpes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons (6-8 American tablespoons) melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the crêpes 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.
Make the crêpes in the usual way.
Heat the pan until quite hot. Grease the pan lightly with butter and pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly.
* A small ladle can also be very useful for this, loosen the crêpes around the edge, flip over with a spatula or thin egg slice, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. The crêpes may be stacked on top of each other and peeled apart later. The greasing of the pan is only necessary for the first two or three pancakes.
They will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen it’s probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.
Note: If you have several pans it is perfectly possible to keep 3 or 4 pans going in rotation. Only necessary if you need to feed the multitudes.
Melt a blob of the orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the crêpes in the foaming butter. Fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve 2 or 3 per person on warm plates. Spoon the buttery orange juices over the top. Repeat until all the crêpes and butter have been used.
Note: A tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of orange liqueur eg. Grand Marnier or Orange Curacao is very good added to the orange butter if you are feeling very extravagant!
Myrtle Allen’s Crêpes Suzette from the Ballymaloe Cookery School
50g (2oz) flour
1 tablespoon oil
1 organic egg
1 organic egg yolk
2 teaspoons orange curaçao
150ml (5fl oz) milk
225g (8oz) large ripe oranges
75g (3oz) softened butter
75g (3oz) 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.
Next make the orange butter.
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 (1/2oz) 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.
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
3/4 tablespoons clarified butter
4 slices cooked ham or 8 slices of crispy bacon
75-110g (3-4ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated
maple syrup (optional)
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
freshly ground pepper
We use a 25.5cm (10 inch) cast iron pan for ours.
Preheat an oven to 230°/450°F/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 200°C/400°F/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
2 1/2 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 tablespoons 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.
Bill Granger’s Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb Butter
150g (5oz) ricotta
175mls (6fl oz) milk
4 eggs, separated
110g (4oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
50g (2oz) butter
honeycomb butter, sliced (below)
icing (confectioners) sugar for dusting
extra honeycomb, if available
Place the ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mix to combine. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add to the ricotta mixture and mix until combined.
Place the egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until still peaks form. Fold egg whites through batter in two batches, with a large metal spoon.
Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of the butter and drop 2 tablespoons of batter per hotcake into the pan (don’t cook more than 3 per batch).
Cook over low to medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hotcakes have golden undersides. Turn hotcakes and cook on the other side until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and quickly assemble with other ingredients.
Slice one banana lengthways onto a plate, stack 3 hotcakes on top with a slice of honey comb butter. Dust with icing sugar.
A few chunks of honeycomb are a delicious extra treat.
Note: hotcake batter can be stored for up to 24 hours, covered with a plastic wrap in the refrigerator.
225g (8oz) butter, softened
100g (3 1/2oz) honeycomb
2 tablespoons honey
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Shape into a log on a plastic wrap, roll, seal and chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours. Store leftover honeycomb butter in the freezer – it’s great on toast.
Best Ever Cornmeal Pancakes with Butter and Maple syrup
Inspired by pancakes enjoyed at Chez Ma Tante in Brooklyn, NY
Makes 8 pancakes
170g (6oz) White flour
170g (6oz) Bramata Polenta meal
2 tablespoon Castor sugar
1 egg and egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoon baking powder
10 fl ozs milk
8 fl ozs of clarified butter
Butter & Maple syrup
Put the flour, cornmeal and castor sugar into a bowl
Whisk the eggs together; add the salt and baking powder
Stir the wet ingredients plus 2 tablespoons of melted butter, with a wooden spoon
Don’t beat the mixture; it can still be slightly lumpy
Heat a heavy cast iron pan over a med – high heat for 4 – 5 minutes
Pour in a generous 1/8 inch of clarified butter, allow to heat through
Pour about 2 ½ fl oz of batter into the pan for each pancake
Allow some space between each one, cook for two or three minutes on that side or until bubbles rise and burst and the edges start to crisp
Flip over carefully & continue to cook on the other side until both sides are nicely brown and crisp at the edges
Serve immediately on warm plates – 2 per person with a pat of butter on each and a little maple syrup drizzled over the top.
Top Tips – Pancakes
- Have your pan hot enough.
- Add a few tablespoons of melted butter to the batter.
- No need to grease the pan between crepes
- Use half milk, half water for lacier pancakes