I’ve been gorging on American pancakes while visiting the US last week, but I think I still have some room left for more on this traditional Pancake Tuesday. I want to share my foolproof recipe for pancakes with you today, but first, did you ever wonder why this day is also known as Shrove Tuesday?
The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance. The celebratory aspect of the day was associated with releasing high spirits before the somber season of Lent. The tradition of making pancakes on this day comes from the tradition of a last feast with ingredients such as sugar, fat and eggs, whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with Lent. So now you know!
Right, back to my pancake recipe. There are so many variations out there but this is my recipe for my favourite blueberry pancakes. I use self raising flour to make nice fluffy american style pancakes (plain flour will make flatter more crepe like pancakes). It doesn’t get much simpler than this as there is no weighing of ingredients. The only thing to remember is to make sure you use the same cup measurement of the flour and the milk.
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 egg
- Handful of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the milk and egg. Whisk all the ingredients together until you achieve a nice smooth batter consistency. Then I add in a handful of blueberries to the mix.
To make the pancakes, heat a small heavy-based frying until very hot and then turn the heat down to medium. Lightly grease with oil or a little butter and then ladle in enough batter – depending on the size you want the pancake to be, tilting the pan so the mixture spreads evenly. Cook over a moderate heat for 1-2 minutes or until the batter looks dry on the top and begins to brown at the edges. Flip the pancake over with a palette knife or fish slice and cook the second side. The blueberries will break up slightly and ooze into the mixture which makes it all the more delicious.
I like to drizzle mine with pure maple syrup and add some slices of banana. Yum.
Felicity Cloake in the Guardian online’s Word of Mouth cookery blog has been looking at the elements that make up the perfect fish pie.
Felicity rates Nigel Slater’s recipe as “one of the simplest I can find, and when it comes to comfort food, the man can do no wrong.” Being a big Slater fan myself, I would have to agree with her statement. But after finding his pie, ”comfortingly thick, but undeniably, and perhaps deliberately bland”, Felicity checks out some other celebrity versions.
Tom Aikens produces a recipe which is ”deliciously rich” but “disappointingly refined”; Marco Pierre White uses stock in his, and abandons the traditional white sauce; Nigella uses cheese and Angela Boggiano prefers a pastry topping, which for traditionalists cannot compete with mounds of fluffy mashed potato.
Felicity took the best of the versions above and came up with the recipe below. What do you think makes the perfect fish pie?
Felicity’s Fish Pie
1kg floury potatoes, eg Maris Piper or King Edwards
Splash of milk
500ml fish stock
100ml white wine
Small bunch of parsley, separated into leaves and stalks
350g white fish fillets and / or salmon
350g smoked white fish
200g small peeled prawns
50g plain flour
200ml double cream
2 anchovies, finely chopped
Handful of white breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized chunks. Put in a large pan, cover with cold water, add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain, and allow to sit in the colander for a few minutes, then mash until smooth, and beat in the butter and a splash of milk. Season well and set aside.
2. Put the fish stock, wine and parsley stalks into a large pan, and bring to a simmer. Add the fish, and simmer for five of minutes, then lift out with a slotted spoon, remove the skins if any, and cut into large chunks. Discard the parsley stalks.
3. Melt the butter in a medium pan over a lowish heat, and then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let it brown. Gradually stir in the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.
4. Take the sauce off the heat, stir in the double cream, parsley leaves and anchovies and season. Add the fish and prawns and toss to coat.
5. Put the seafood and sauce into a baking dish and top with the mashed potato. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and bake for a further 15, until the top is golden.
Lorraine Pascale is the latest cook to hit our screens and I am really enjoying her BBC programme, Baking Made Easy. In the first episode, she did a fabulous cake, but easy it wasn’t. This week’s programme did have some nice easy recipes to try, such as her simple flapjacks. Flapjacks are one of those things that never seem to turn out quite right for me, but watching Lorraine I’ve been inspired to give them another try.
- 175g/6oz butter
- 175g/6oz golden syrup
- 175g/6oz muscovado sugar
- 350g/12oz porridge oats
- ½ lemon, finely grated zest
- pinch ground ginger
So I haven’t made this cake yet, but am planning on doing so over the weekend. It sounds so easy and I love using apple in cakes as it makes them nice and moist. These are all store cupboard ingredients for me, including the dates, which I like to use as a sweetener, reducing the amount of sugar I use.
Date and Apple Loaf
- 300g self-raising flour
- 250g pitted dates, chopped
- 100g soft light sugar
- 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 270 jar apple sauce
- 2 medium eggs
- Set the oven to 160C. Tip the flour into a bowl and stir in the dates, sugar cinnamon and salt. Add the apple sauce and eggs to the bowl and 5 tablespoons water. Stir to combine.
- Spoon the mixture into a 2lb loaf tin and level the surface
- Bake in centre of oven for about 1 hour or until the loaf feels firm to the touch
- Remove from oven and leave to cool in tin for 10 mins, then turn it out onto wire rack and leave to cool completely
I am not really a Christmassy sort of person. Memories of sad Christmasses past have made me this way. So I’ve been in denial about its rapid approach over the past few weeks. I know it’s a truism to say it starts earlier and earlier, but this year, I found it almost obscene the way it started just after Halloween, but I guess the shops have to start making some money somehow. I just hate the over-hyped commercialism of it all.
But it’s time to put all the bah-humbugging aside. Ireland has had its first fall of snow and while we got off lightly here in East Clare, the festive mood it created is contagious and I have to face it, Christmas is a coming whether I like it or not, so I may as well get in the spirit. And for me that means only one thing…Christmas baking. I do enjoy that one aspect, planning what I will cook over the festive season, filling the kitchen with warm smells of cinnamon and spice.
This year I am going to try out Dan Leppard’s version of mince pies – a kind of apple and mincemeat streudel version of the traditional Christmas pie. Although the version I give here contains instructions for making the pastry, it seems a bid fiddly to me, and I shall be stocking up on shop-bought filo pastry instead, metinks.
350g plain flour, plus more for rolling
75g light soft brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
275g cold unsalted butter, cubed
225ml cold milk
400g jar mincemeat
2 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
Demerara sugar, to finish
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger in a bowl, add the butter and stir in the milk. Mix until it just comes together, then chill for 30 minutes.
Using lots of flour, roll the dough out to 1cm thick, fold it in by thirds, then roll and fold again. Repeat this sequence twice more, chilling the dough for 30 minutes at the end of each set.
Cut the block in half and roll one half to 30cm square. Cut into six equal pieces, brush lightly with water, put two teaspoons of mincemeat in the centre, along with a good pinch of apple.
Fold in two, twist the edge to form a ”pasty” and place on a tray lined with baking paper.
Brush with water, cut two notches in the top of each, sprinkle with demerara and bake at 200C (180C fan-assisted)/390F/gas mark 6 for 25 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Last week I received, well not a letter, but an e-mail from America. It came from my friend Lily who writes the eclectic Lily’s Blog. I first met Lily through her blog, and what I love about it is that very eclecticism - you never know what you will read there, but you are sure to come away having learned something new.
At present Lily is in Minneapolis on an extended stay as her son undergoes surgery. It has been terrific to read her observations of her new life in the US. I particularly relished her story of a roadtrip she took earlier this month and the stunning images of autumn beauty she took along the way (check them out and also her images of the local downtown market are well worth looking at too).
Lily and I have had many interesting discussions over the past year on what makes a good blog and I’ve always found great inspiration in her posts. A combination of things have meant that I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging here (and it is a habit – if you want to be a good blogger, you have to blog consistently). Lily reminded me that I’ve been neglecting my blog and so it’s time I did something about it.
Inspired by Lily’s American sojourn, I want to write today about cornbread. Native Americans were using ground corn for cooking long before European explorers arrived in the New World. Cornbread is a popular item in “soul food” enjoyed for its texture and scent. Last year when I was visiting the States, I fell in love with Whole Foods blueberry cornbread and brought back a packet of their cornmeal to try making it myself.
I’ve tried out many cornbread recipes and the one below is my healthiest yet – free of fat or sugar. This is the most basic recipe, which I tweak each time according to what I have in my cupboard or fridge. Blueberries are my favourite addition, but I’ve also experimented with grated sweet potato (deliciously sweet), lemon and orange rind. You can also make savoury cornbread muffins, which is next on my to-do list.
This recipe makes 12 muffins
1 C. cornmeal
1 C. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 C. lowfat buttermilk
1/4 C. clover honey or agave syrup
2 Tbsp. olive or sunflower oil
1. Preheat oven to 180 C and lightly grease a muffin pan.
2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to mix evenly, then create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.
3. Add the eggs, buttermilk, honey or syrup and olive or sunflower oil to the middle of the mixing bowl. Whisk to combine, then incorporate the dry ingredients from the sides of the bowl, whisking just until evenly mixed.
4. Place the batter in the muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
This morning I looked at the bunch of carrots which stared forlornly back at me and thought I better make something with them before they end up in the composter, so I dug out my tried and tested recipe for these muffins. I always feel quite virtuous making them as they are pretty healthy and I’ve been working on reducing the amount of sugar. The recipe calls for 100g but I usually add between 50-70g, using the sultanas as a sweetener instead. They are also quick and easy to prepare, well apart from grating those carrots. The addition of wholemeal flour makes these muffins a little dense, so they are more like scones than light muffins.
Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with squares of baking parchment, pushing them down to make little cases. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk together the wet ingredients with the carrots then stir this into the dry ingredients, but don’t overmix – it’s better if it’s a bit lumpy.
Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until risen.
I came across a recipe on a another wordpress blog and was really taken with it. It’s an easy peasy microwave chocolate cake – in a mug – all done in 5 minutes! The author of this blog adapted her recipe from an original gluten free recipe. If you want the gluten free version, then click here. I can’t wait to try it out for myself.
50g dark chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons plain flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons milk
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Set aside to cool.
- Add flour and sugar to a small mixing bowl, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and mix well. Add the melted chocolate and mix again.
- Pour the mixture into a large microwavable coffee mug. Microwave for 2 minutes on medium, 1 minute on high. It should be cooked (skewer test comes out with moist crumbs), but still a little moist. Remember, it will continue to cook while standing.
- Allow to cool a little
*The recipe above included cinamon but I am going to leave that out for my own version. I googled chocolate mug cake and there seems to be plenty of versions online if you want to try another – some include oil instead of butter.
Nothing will ever beat my mother’s brown bread and there was never any point in asking her for the recipe, as she is of the old I don’t measure anything school of baking, and I haven’t reached the stage in my life, when that works for me. I’ve tried out many recipes and I think I’ve hit on the one that most resembles Mum’s. The only thing is every time I bake it, it seems to turn out different.
- Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Grease a 900g/2lb loaf tin.
- Put wholemeal, wheat bran, sugar, salt and sieved bread soda into a mixing bowl and mix well together.
- Add the oil, milk and yoghurt and stir until well blended. Mixture will be quite wet.
- Transfer to the prepared tin. I like to sprinkle some linseeds on top.
- Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour.
- Bread is baked when tapped underneath and it has a hollow sound.
- Wrap in a clean tea towel and allow to cool.