February is good for two things only: the Six Nations tournament and pancakes. The rugby kicked off last weekend and was what we’ve come to expect; frustration as Italy so nearly beat France, despair as Scotland fought bravely but in the end lost to England, and absolute tenterhooks as Ireland and Wales hammered six bells out of each other. The game in Dublin ended in a rare draw and thousands of Welsh fans who’d made the trip across the Irish Sea were stranded when Storm Imogen blew in. There were two new coaches (for England and for France, both being hailed possible saviours for teams which haven’t brought home the goods lately) and plenty of new players. The one who made me sit up and take notice was one of the French forwards, not because of his athletic ability but because he rejoices in the name of Wenceslas Lauret. Delightful!
We were barely over the excitement when the next treat was on us, in the form of Shrove Tuesday – not that we need a special day to eat pancakes in our house. Over the years we’ve made all sorts, from thin crêpes through drop-scones/Scotch pancakes/pikelets to stuffed savoury rolls. I’ve recently discovered that it’s a great way of using up over-ripe bananas – just mash them up, add enough flour to stabilise the mixture a little and drop large spoonfuls into a fairly hot, greased pan. Flatten them down a bit and turn after a few minutes. They don’t need any sugar added to the mix because the bananas are so sweet.
Everyone loves pancakes. Jo, one of my mates in the singing group, said that she made up three lots of mixture earlier. That must translate to at least three dozen pancakes – for two adults and two children! It’s a real shame that it’s not good for us to eat batter made from flour, eggs and milk, then cooked in fat. I have a friend who says that we should beware of yellow food because it’s always bad news. I know she doesn’t mean yellow peppers, plums and bananas; what she means is cheese and eggs, and all those snacks you find at a standard pub buffet: pasties, sausage rolls, samosas, spring rolls, and meat/fish coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. These things are all choc-a-bloc full of saturated fat, and a few token peas and beansprouts really don’t make up for it. I remember seeing a TV programme once that visited a chip-shop in Scotland where they folded pizzas in half, dipped them in batter and deep-fried them. The fact that there was a tomato sauce on the pizzas didn’t make up for that, either.
We’ve eaten pancakes on holiday too, sometimes stuffing ourselves to the point of pain when we couldn’t resist the pfannkuchen with apples or palačinke with walnut and chocolate sauce. Whatever the name, the basic recipe never changes much. I was looking through a magazine this week and found something called a Dutch Baby, which is a sort of sweet Yorkshire pudding, and comes from the States; it starts off in a frying pan and ends up in the oven (unlike the French version of the sweet Yorkshire pudding, clafoutis, which doesn’t go anywhere near a frying pan and just gets baked).
I’d never heard of it and I have no idea why it has such a peculiar name but I thought I’d give it a go. It was delicious so here’s the recipe:
Dutch Baby (enough to divide between two people or as a single portion for one very greedy person)
6o g plain flour
2 tsp caster sugar
pinch of cinnamon
zest of lemon (or, my preference, of a small orange)
pinch of salt
100 ml milk
Mix all these ingredients together in a large bowl, making a well in the centre.
Whisk in the eggs and milk until you get a smooth batter, then let it rest for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 220 c.
Melt a small knob of butter in a 10″ oven-proof frying pan. When the butter is foaming, pour the pancake mixture into the pan to set the base. Then put the pan into the hot oven for 10-15 minutes until it’s puffed up and golden. We had it served with a warmed fruit compote and if we’d had any I’m pretty sure that a spoonful of clotted cream would have finished it off beautifully.
Or, if you prefer, how about Crempogau? The crempog is the welsh pancake – also known as ffroes. So here’s the recipe, taken from the visitwales site:
55 g butter
450 ml warm buttermilk
275 g plain flour
75 g sugar
1tsp bicarb of soda
½ tsp salt
2 well beaten eggs
Stir the butter into the warmed buttermilk until melted, then gradually pour this into the flour and beat well.
Leave to stand for at least 30 mins before stirring in the sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt and vinegar into the beaten eggs.
Pour this mixture into the flour and milk mixture and beat to form a smooth batter.
Heavily grease a griddle and heat, then drop the batter a tbsp at a time onto the heated griddle and cook over a moderate heat until golden brown on both sides.
Keep the crempogau warm and continue this method until all batter is used up.
If you want of course, you can add currants or other dried fruit.
Spread butter on each pancake then eat with your particular favourite – jam, syrup, honey, grated cheese…
By the way, although the recipe says buttermilk, for most people that usually means a trip to the supermarket. If you don’t have time or if, like me, you live out in the sticks and you can’t be bothered to drive all that way just for a pot of buttermilk, just use milk with a splash of lemon juice in it. Nobody will know the difference. Also I cooked mine on the ancient bakestone I inherited from my mother but a heavy, thick bottomed frying pan will do just as well. To check the bakestone/griddle/pan is hot enough, just sprinkle a drop of water on to it. If the water jumps about and bubbles, the pan’s the right temperature.
Pancakes of all types freeze really well – not the Dutch Baby, though; nobody puts Baby in a freezer…
But in the unusual event that you make more than you can eat in one session, at least you can bag them and save them – maybe get them out for the next rugby match? Stay warm, watch rugby, and eat pancakes. Spring is on the way.