Yesterday was pancake day. Normally I pay little attention to foodie anniversaries – and I doubt I’ll be marking Lent – but there is something rather cheering about a couple of warm, sweet crêpes on a February morning. (With some clementine juice - although seven of them only yielded a small glass.)
Pancakes – I’ll keep the English word for the French kind – are of course extraordinarily easy. Once you’ve made them a few times, you’ll have such a feel for the consistency of the batter, measuring scales become redundant. However, if you want, you should find the volumes below pretty foolproof.
It really does help to rest the batter - if not, it can spread somewhat unevenly across the pan, and the final product seems a bit flabbier. Half an hour gives a noticeable difference: mine sat happily overnight in the fridge. If you’re truly starving, though, it’s not the end of the world. Adding a little melted butter helps prevent the crêpes from sticking to the bottom of the pan, and brings a touch of richness.
You can stack pancakes one on top of the other, covered in tinfoil, and they’ll stay hot for a while. I’m a roller, personally, but some people prefer to fill them, then fold them in half, and then again, into the shape of a pizza slice. To make them in advance, cook up a batch and let them cool. When you want to eat them, microwave them on a medium heat for a minute or so. French housewives do this quite a lot.
In Brittany, where the crêpe originates, the locals traditionally drink cider with it. I’ll leave that part up to you, especially if it’s a weekday morning.
250g plain flour
2 large, organic eggs
600ml organic full-fat milk (semi-skimmed will do)
40-50g melted butter
Pinch of salt
Flavourless oil, such as sunflower or groundnut
Makes about eight large pancakes
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, and beat the eggs in gently. Pour the milk in, a glug at a time, to incorporate it fully into the flour. It goes without saying that this process is quicker in a food mixer. Add the melted butter and whisk until the batter is smooth. The odd lumpy bit here and there won’t matter. Rest the mixture for as long as you like, 24 hours being about the maximum.
Get a wide, heavy frying pan really hot. I use a solid cast iron job, perfect for this kind of thing. Pour a drop of oil into the pan and spread it round with a pastry brush. Too much oil will fry the pancake, making it terribly greasy. Briefly whisk the rested batter, then pour in a ladleful or so. Lift the pan and quickly swirl it round, so that the liquid reaches the edges in a neatish circle. Return to the heat and cook for 2-3 minutes on one side, then do your best flip or – like me – turn the pancake over with a spatula, and cook for about a minute on the other. Note the lovely differences between the two sides: one with a golden suntan, the other rather moley. Add your filling, and serve immediately.
Some suggested sweet fillings: caster sugar and lemon juice; jam, honey, or Nutella; sliced bananas, golden syrup and flaked almonds; apple compôte with cinammon; lightly stewed rhubarb with Greek yoghurt.
And if you fancy something savoury: cheese (grated Gruyère or cheddar - prepare and fill the pancake, then gently warm it in the pan to melt the cheese); chopped ham and béchamel; salmon with pesto and rocket; eggs and bacon; asparagus with parmesan and olive oil.