I was shopping in a supermarket on the King’s Road a few days ago and I noticed it. The first few signs. Big bags of flour on the promo shelves. Sugar. Eggs. Squeezy bottles of golden syrup … Pancake day is on the way. Easter’s not so very far behind.
Can you make a pancake? Can you flip it? Can you turn those simple, cheap ingredients (you don’t have to use the golden syrup) into something delicious and fun that takes five minutes and seems like a celebration and a gift, every time?
If you can’t, it seems impossible: something experts do, with aprons and frilly white hats. If you can, it’s like magic.
When I was growing up, Shrove Tuesday was slightly about pancakes, but mostly about Giving Something Up. I’m all for the power of self-denial, but last year my littlest, Tom – then eight – was asked to do something different at school. Instead of Giving Something Up, the was encouraged to Learn Something New. Tying your shoelaces. Juggling. A poem. The ukulele …
We decided to learn how to make pancakes. I found a recipe online and we tried it. Our first couple were terrible, but by the fourth or fifth we were brilliant. Actually, Tom was brilliant. He’s a natural cook and he quickly became more reliable than me. He makes them now, and I help them with the flipping. It’s quicker than making cupcakes, and involves a lot less sugar. Try them with sliced banana and raspberries … mmmmmmmm.
Here’s that recipe:
You will need:
100g plain flour
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp sunflower or other vegetable oil
Lots of pancake recipes say you need to prepare the batter in advance – but you don’t! You can make this batter and use it straight away.
- Put the flower and salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle with a spoon.
- Crack the eggs into the well, then pour in about 50ml milk and the oil. Start whisking from the centre, gradually drawing in all the flour. (We use a hand whisk)
- Once the flour is incorporated, keep whisking until you have a smooth, thick paste. Add more milk as necessary.
- Get the toppings ready! We use Nutella, jam, golden syrup, and lemon and sugar. But not all on the same pancake at the same time! (Or not often …)
- Finishing the batter: add the rest of the milk in a smooth steady stream, while whisking. (It’s quite good if one person can pour while the other whisks it in.) This will give you thin, crispy pancakes. If you want them thicker, don’t add all the milk.
- Heat the frying pan over a moderate heat, then wipe it with oiled kitchen paper. We tend to use about a tsp oil per pancake.
- Add a ladle-ful of batter to the pan, tilting it to create the thinnest, widest area you can. Leave to cook for 30 secs. This feels like a long time but trust me, you’ll need it. Then flip. If you’re a pancake genius, you can do this with the pan alone. Or use a fish slice. We tend to use a wide plastic spatula, which does the job well.
- Cook the other side for at least 30 secs, then lift to check if it’s the right golden colour. Once it’s ready, turn out onto a plate, cover with yummy stuff and eat!
If you’re cooking Nutella pancakes, it can be helpful to add the Nutella while you’re cooking the second side. Then it will gently melt and be easier to spread along the pancake.
I also rather like the look of these this year: