Monday, 11 February 2013

Flippin' Lovely...

As I discovered while in America last year, a time spent practically living in aluminium and leather clad diners, chomping down on Cobb salads and slurping malted milkshakes whenever given the opportunity; pancakes are a hungry girl’s best friend. The star-spangled showstoppers of an American breakfast menu, I ate them speckled with banana polka dots, topped with fresh berries and Chantilly cream, and even smothered in hot apple sauce and sizzling sausages. Yup, I was indeed hungry a lot, and pancakes helped me out of the notorious hunger-induced personality coma on more than one occasion.

From all those plate sized, pillowy stacks that I consumed by the bucket-load in the US, to the infinitely more flippable, paper-thin creations that us Brits douse in lemon and sugar and try to avoid getting stuck to the ceiling, who would’ve thought that a bit of flour, egg and milk would be such an enduring hit? Yes, although they are essentially just a few small ingredients away from the gloop we all remember using to stick newspaper to a balloon at primary school, pancakes have been flipped and feasted upon since prehistoric times- beating porridge and even the humble loaf as the world’s first cereal based favourite. And for good reason, all you need is a few cheap-as-chips ingredients, a pan, and this one is kind of essential, some kind of heat- Well, the cavemen didn’t make fire for nothing...

As the perfect host for a huge variety of both sweet and savoury toppings and fillings, pancakes bask in the same levels of kitchen popularity as Justin Beiber does on Twitter; at every turn there is another delicious ingredient desperate to get involved with these ridiculously versatile rounds of batter (the pancakes I mean, not the Beibernator.) There is of course the quintessential Shrove Tuesday staple of lemon and sugar, with bottles and bags of the stuff pushed right to the front of the supermarket shelves as the big day approaches, but why not take a break from all the familiar sprinkling and squeezing and push the boat out a little this year?

How about the old-American favourite streaky bacon and maple syrup? Or maybe bananas and pineapple cooked in rum and brown sugar; with some delicious coconut yoghurt (Rachel’s Organic is amazing)? Chocolate chips, stewed cinnamon apples, blueberries, nutella, icecream; the possibilities are pretty much endless. Even if savoury is more your thing; try filling a few thin crepes with roasted butternut squash, walnuts, spinach and blue cheese, rolling and placing in a dish, before smothering in crème fraiche and parmesan and baking in a hot oven.

For me, the flipping is going to begin at Breakfast. Yup, as this blog probably makes unavoidably clear, I am a huge lover of any kind of cake; so, on the day that we are actually encouraged to eat them in preparation for the Lenten fast that we will no-doubt all be embarking upon on Wednesday (PAH), I am not going to waste any time. Inspired by the fruit filled, unbelievably delicious, big-as-your-face pancakes that I ate for (very late) breakfast in a Philidelphia last year, these gorgeously light ginger and oat American pancakes, smothered in strawberry and rhubarb compote and topped with natural yoghurt are definitely on the menu in the Gaffer house. Inspired by the beautifully pink forced rhubarb that I spotted in the greengrocers, I just make the compote a day or so before, whip up the batter and whaddya know, your brekkie is ready in a flash.

And if cooking a breakfast any more complicated than Readybrek on a school-day still sounds a little too much like hard work (I don’t blame you), then these are the perfect lazy weekend treat. Double or triple the recipe depending on how many sleeping shapes you have managed to accumulate on your sofa or living room floor, they will love you for it, this is a very impressive, and totally moreish start to the day. And if you are feeling slightly less virtuous than topping your breakfast with rhubarb, maybe throw some chocolate chips in to the batter and top with sliced banana and syrup; it is the weekend after all!

 However they reach your table, as you sit with one hand holding the Sunday paper, and the other happily engaged in transporting yummy forkfuls to your mouth, you will never look at those coco-pops again...                 
Gingery Oat Pancakes with Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote. Serves 5 hungry people...


4 sticks of rhubarb, chopped
8 strawberries, quartered
2tbsp light brown soft sugar
2 tbsp caster sugar
Juice and Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp syrup from a jar of stem ginger


200g plain flour (wholemeal works well)
120g rolled oats
2 heaped tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
5 Large eggs
2tbsp natural yoghurt
200ml milk
2 balls of stem ginger, chopped, plus 3tbsp of the syrup

Honey and natural yoghurt, to serve.

To make the compote, put all of the ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit is soft and the compote is quite thick and syrupy. 
Make a day or so in advance and keep in the fridge if you are short for time, or just fancy a lie in!

Now, make the pancake batter; in a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients, make a well in the centre and whisk in the eggs and yoghurt.

Beat in the milk and ginger (including the syrup) to make a thick batter.

Heat a slightly oiled pan until quite hot. Spoon large circles on to the pan, cook until bubbling, flip and cook on the other side until golden.

Stack on to a plate, top with the compote, spoon over some natural yoghurt and a drizzle of honey. Yum!

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