This year, Valentineâ€™s Day and Shrove Tuesday almost coincide so letâ€™s have some fun with both. Itâ€™s unlikely that young lovers will be able to celebrate in restaurants, so how about a â€˜pancake partyâ€™ at home? Rather than staring into each otherâ€™s eyes and whispering sweet nothings over a glass of bubbles, letâ€™s make pancakes â€¦.you can still sip fizz!
Show me anyone young or old who doesnâ€™t love pancakes? All my children adore them. When they were little, they queued up by the Aga waiting for the speckled pancakes to come off the pan. They brushed them with melted butter, sprinkled on some caster sugar, then a squeeze of lemon, rolled them up and ate them out of their hands as they joined the end of the queue for the next one.
Pancakes or crepes (as they are now more grandly called) were always my â€˜go-toâ€™ recipe when we arrived home from a drive with a car full of squabbling hungry children. Iâ€™d dash into the kitchen, put the pan on the Aga, the batter was made in minutes in a blender, melt a bit of butter, grab a bowl of caster sugar and a couple of lemons.
Add a couple tablespoons of the melted butter to the batter so the pancakes wouldnâ€™t stick annoyingly to the pan. Start to film the base of the hot pan with some batter, run a palette knife around the edge, flip over and hey presto, the first was off the pan and onto a hot plate in seconds. Soon peace was restored, as they gradually filled up with yummy pancakes, all those protein filled eggs, milk and butterâ€¦.so nourishing.
My grandchildren love them too, but more often than not, they â€˜pooh poohâ€™ lemon and sugar in favour of chocolate spread or banana and jam or peanut butterâ€¦.
They also love buttermilk pancakes for breakfast or tiny silver dollars with honey or maple syrup. Bramley apple slices dipped in batter are also a hit. They are fritters really, but my granddaughter Ottilie christened them â€˜Scary little monstersâ€™ because of the funny weird shapes they assume as they cook on the pan, and I have to tell you that it is not just the kids who love all these treats. We all love them, and the best thing about batter is that it really is the great â€˜convertible.â€™ A trillion variations can be made on the theme with ingredients you will virtually always have to hand, and who is to say it wouldnâ€™t bring on a proposal just as fast as hot buttered lobster (too extravagant) or chocolate mousse cake (too fattening). After all, someone who can whip up something tasty, delicious and nutritious in minutes, that doesnâ€™t cost a fortune is worth having around!
If you really want to go all out, try these Japanese soufflÃ¨ pancakes, they definitely take much more effort and tweaking than ordinary crepes, but Boy are they good plus, they are so â€˜on trendâ€™. Canâ€™t wait for someone to start making them over here. So get started and let me know if it brings on a proposalâ€¦.meanwhile, Bon Appetitâ€¦..
Shrove Tuesday Pancakes â€“ Comfort Dish of the Week
Pancakes/crepes can be rolled, folded into fan shapes or slathered or stuffed with your favourite filling.
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 15floz (450ml) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed
3-4 dessertspoons melted butter
Castor sugar and lemons to serve
8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crÃªpe pan
First, make the batter. Whizz all the ingredients together in a blender or a food processor.
Alternatively, 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).
In an ideal world allow the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm, but if you are in a hurry start to cook the pancakes straight away.
Just before you cook the crÃªpes, stir in 3-4 dessertspoons melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the crÃªpes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.
Serve immediately on hot plates with butter, castor sugar and lemon or your favourite topping.
Posh CrÃªpes with Orange Butter
This crÃªpe recipe is very nearly as good as those CrÃªpes Suzette they used to serve with a great flourish in posh restaurants when I was a child. These crÃªpes are half the bother and can be made for a fraction of the cost.
Pancake Batter as above.
6oz (175g) butter
3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
6oz (175g) icing sugar
freshly squeezed juice of 5-6 oranges
First make and rest the batter. Cook the pancakes and stack one on top of another.
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 crÃªpes in the usual way. Heat the pan over a high heat until really hot. Grease 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 crÃªpes 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 crÃªpes 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 crÃªpes.
Good to Know: CrÃªpes will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen itâ€™s probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.
Melt a blob of the orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice, toss the crÃªpes in the foaming orange 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 crÃªpes and butter have been used.
Scary little monsters
Funny how one sometimes forgets a recipe; we hadnâ€™t had these apple fritters for ages, but I remembered them recently and they taste just as good as ever. As children we particularly loved fritters because they used to fry into funny shapes, which caused great hilarity and many squabbles. These can also be shallow-fried in a pan. You can add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the sugar to toss the apples in for extra flavour.
110g (4oz) plain white flour
pinch of salt
1 organic egg
150ml (5fl oz) milk
450g (1lb) cooking apples (about 4), Bramleyâ€™s Seedling or Grenadier
good-quality vegetable oil, for frying
4oz (110g) granulated or Demerara sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Whizz all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Alternatively, sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Use a whisk to bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the milk at the same time. Leave the batter in a cool place for about 1 hour.
Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 190Â°C (375Â°F).
Peel and core the apples. Cut into rings, no thicker than 1cm (1â„3 inch). Dip the rings into the batter and lift out with a skewer, allowing the surplus batter to drain off a little. Drop a few at a time into the hot fat. Fry until the batter is golden brown and the apple is tender. Drain well on kitchen paper. Toss each fritter in caster sugar or cinnamon sugar. (Note: Eat immediately while still crisp. If the fritters are left sitting around they will soften and become less delicious). Serve immediately on hot plates with softly whipped cream.
Fritters can also be cooked on a frying pan in about Â¾ inch hot oil.
American Buttermilk Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup
Serves 4-6 depending on the size or helping
Makes 14 â€“ 3â€ pancakes
We love to cook American pancakes on my ancient Aga for Sunday brunch â€“ itâ€™s so difficult to know when to stop!
250ml (8 flozs) buttermilk
1 free-range egg, preferably organic
15g (1/2 oz) butter, melted
150g (5oz) plain white flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bread soda
12-18 pieces crispy bacon
Maple syrup or Irish honey
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, donâ€™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 2 generous tablespoons of batter onto the pan, spread slightly with the back of the spoon to a round about 7.5cm (3inch) 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.
Loganberry jam, sour cream and sausages
Serve pancakes with loganberry jam, sour cream and sausages
Substitute 25g (1 oz) of cornmeal for 25g (1 oz) of flour in the above recipe.
CrÃªpes with Chocolate Spread, Toasted Hazelnuts and Cream
Spread a little chocolate spread in the middle of the crÃªpe, top with a blob of cream and sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts. Kumquat is also a delicious addition.
Makes 50 â€“ 60 â€“ enough to have real feast!
Â½ teaspoon salt
Â½ teaspoon baking soda
30grams (1oz) plain white flour
475mls (16 flozs) sour cream
2 â€“ 3 tablespoons castor sugar
Icing sugar for dusting
Whizz all the ingredients in a blender. Alternatively, put the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk until blended. Add the salt, baking soda, flour, sour cream and sugar. Mix well. Heat a frying pan until it is good and hot, add clarified butter to the pan and drop small spoonfuls of batter onto the pan â€“ just enough to spread to an approximately 2 Â½ inch round. When a few bubbles appear on the top of the pancakes flip them over and cook briefly.
Enjoy with a dusting of icing sugar.
Japanese SoufflÃ¨ Pancakes with Peanut Butter Cream
Makes 5 â€“ 6
Soft, pillowy and deliciousâ€¦.the batter for these soufflÃ© pancakes need to be cooked in moulds so they are contained as they rise.
8 â€“ 9 cm rings are fine.
2 large free range eggs
A generous pinch of salt
60g plain white flour, sieved
1tbsp of cream
1 tbsp of milk
60g castor sugar, sieved
Melted butter to grease the pan
Raw runny honey, maple syrup or peanut butter cream
Peanut Butter Cream
35g smooth peanut butter
10 â€“ 15g dark soft brown sugar
5 â€“ 6 8cm-9cm rings (Darina is it cm or inches? See above). We use a 10â€ sautÃ¨ pan but use whatever you have and cook in batches if necessary.
First, make the peanut butter cream. Put 70ml of cream into a saucepan with the peanut butter and sugar. Stir over a low heat until combined. Cool, then add the remaining cream and whisk until light and fluffy. Transfer to a bowl.
Put a heavy cast iron frying pan, sautÃ¨ pan or griddle on the lowest heat.
Separate the eggs, put the yolks into one bowl, add a pinch of salt. Whisk in the cream, milk, then the sieved flour the make a smooth paste.
Whisk the egg whites with the sieved castor sugar in another spotlessly clean, dry bowl, until light and fluffy. Carefully stir a third of the whisked egg whites into the egg yolk mixture then fold in the remainder a third at a time until fully combined.
Arrange the rings on the preheated pan. Brush the inside and the base underneath each ring evenly and generously with melted butter.
Divide the mixture between the rings, it should come about two thirds of the way up the sides. Cook for about 6 minutes, still over a low heat.
Meanwhile, preheat a grill to a medium heat and continue to cook the soufflÃ© pancakes, not too close to the elements for a further 5 minutes approximately or until fully risen and golden brown on top.
To serve: carefully, run a knife around the edge of the rings. Turn a soufflÃ© pancake onto a warm plate. They will sink a little but donâ€™t worry, they will still be delicious. Serve drizzled with honey, maple syrup or this delicious peanut cream â€“Enjoy immediately.