Tuesday 5 February 2013

Pancakes - a recipe (for three or so hungry people)

Pencilton snoozes under a warm pancake

Into a large mixing bowl pour a mole-hill of plain flour, about the volume of a small hat.  Sieve it, if you don't like lumps.  More flour here will mean more pancakes, and it's about the only part of the recipe you will need to scale up in order to feed more people, or the same number of hungrier people.

Using an unbroken egg, make an indentation in the top of the mole-hill of flour.  Break two medium-to-large eggs into this hole, giving the appearance of a volcano.  Add a pinch of salt, which will bring out flavours later on.  Using a wooden spoon (or a whisk if you have one), stir the eggs into the flour, and start to add the milk.

The milk should be poured in little-by-little, each time the mixture seems to be too dry.  In the end, after a good amount of stirring, whisking or beating, the mix of flour, egg and milk (and that pinch of salt) ought to be somewhere on the fine line between gloopy and soggy.  To see whether it's there yet, lift a spoonful of the mixture and pour it from your spoon.  Does it creep like treacle?  If so, it's too floury, and needs more milk.  Does it flow like water (or milk, indeed)?  If so, it's too milky - add some flour.  It should be somewhere between the two.  The more viscous, the more filling the pancakes will be, the wetter, the less likely to become a pancake.

Now, using your pancake pan (or regular frying pan, if you will), fry a large lump of butter, about the size of a big toe.  Let it coat the pan's interior, and drip the remainder of the melted butter (which should still be a sizeable amount) into the mixture you have prepared, and stir it up.  A good amount of melted butter in the mix will mean the pancakes are self-lubricating, and you won't need to pour any oil into the pan between each one.

Leave the mix to settle for an hour, or less, or not at all if you're very hungry.

Heat your pan until it is very hot.  Pancakes cannot be achieved over a low heat, and some camping stoves are incapable of reaching pancake temperature at all.  Pour (from a cup or ladle) a measure of pancake mix into the middle of the pan, and move the pan about until your batter spreads out to cover its bottom (or whatever size you wish your pancakes to be).  Heat for a short while - until the surface of the pancake looks dry but clammy, or until smoke emerges.

Now, the time is come to flip your pancake.  You should shake the pan vigorously (but carefully) to unstick the underside from the pan - or carefully slip a spatula beneath the pancake, to make sure it isn't cleaving to the pan.  Once you're sure that the half-cooked pancake is moving freely, give your pan a confident, but not excessive, jerk, forwards and upwards, tilting the far end of the pan up higher than the handle end.  Your pancake ought now to rise, rotate, and land upside-down ready to cook to readiness.  Do not be afraid - the pancake is very unlikely to travel far in any unexpected directions, so, with practice, you should be able to turn the pancake over with very little panic or use of energy.  Cook this side of the pancake for a slightly shorter time than the first, then slide the finished item out of the pan onto a plate.

Since the pancake mix does not itself contain sugar, the resultant pancake will be suitable for sweet or savoury fillings.  On the savoury front I'd recommend salami and grated cheese, with black pepper - or courgette and mushrooms if you're vegetarian, again garnished with black pepper.  Pepper is the savoury sugar, when it comes to pancakes, and will make any savoury filling seem deliberate.

I've no doubt you have your own preferences when it comes to sweet fillings, so I shan't presume to recommend any.

P.S. I'm well aware that this is not a set of comments on a film, but pancakes are important too.  Pancake Day is almost upon us (and as I often note, it's always Pancake Day in your heart, except on Tisha B'Av, the Jewish day of mourning)

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