Tuesday is pancake time. In all their shapes and forms, they are a real favourite in our household. It isn't just our children who get excited - I adore pancakes and love an excuse to make a real feast of them. There's something so pleasingly simple, so supremely comforting about a perfectly browned pancake, unchallenging and uncomplicated, but always delicious.
We'll make all different sorts of pancakes on different years, and often on the same day. I love thin pancakes - they're called crepes in France, where they're usually made with some buckwheat flour. I like to eat them rolled up with lemon and sugar, or the perennial favourite, Nutella! We like to make thin pancakes as a savoury treat too, omitting the sugar and making a creamy mushroom filling with bacon and perhaps some Gruyere cheese.
If you'd like to make your pancakes a little more elaborate than just a squeeze of lemon and sugar, you can try this divine orange butter recipe, opposite, that we often make at the cookery school.
At other times, we like to make big, fluffy American pancakes, served with rashers and plenty of maple syrup. I've written recipes for blueberry and lemon pancakes in these pages before, as well as in a number of my cookbooks.
The Italian recipe here is a totally different take on pancakes that I've made on Pancake Tuesday in previous years. It was inspired by a conversation I had with the great Italian chef, Aldo Zilli. He told me a wonderful story about his mother using light pancakes as an alternative to pasta in certain dishes, and I've discovered that they work wonderfully with rich tomato sauces. The Italian baked pancakes with tomato sauce recipe, opposite, uses the pancakes in place of lasagne sheets, which adds a fluffiness to the dish. It's a perfect family dish and would make a great centrepiece to a Shrove Tuesday dinner table.
Adding melted butter to the pancake batter will make a real difference to the pancakes' flavour and texture. It also makes it possible to cook them without having to grease the pan every time.
Makes 25 small or 12 large.
You will need:
170g (6oz) plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
225ml (8fl oz) milk
225ml (8fl oz) water
2 tablespoons melted butter, see my Tip, above
Sieve the plain flour, the pinch of salt and the sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually incorporate the flour from the sides. In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the milk and the water. Slowly add the milk and water mixture to the flour and egg mixture and beat it until the batter is covered with bubbles.
Let the batter stand in a cold place for a while - a couple of hours if you have time. Just before you cook the pancakes, stir in the melted butter.
Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat. When it is hot, pour in a small ladleful of batter, or just enough to coat the base of the pan with a thin film. The batter should cook immediately - loosen it around the edges with a rubber fish slice, flip it over and cook the pancake for a few seconds on the other side. Slide the cooked pancake on to a plate, and serve with your chosen filling, either sweet or savoury.
Pancakes with orange butter
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