Feb 09 – Rob’s pancake recipe

pancakePancake Day is one of those days when every parent or grandparent has to “give it a go”. What can be cheaper to do than pancakes? Not only is it relatively cheap to cook but the value that everybody gets from having hours of fun together in the kitchen is immeasurable.

Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday does have a serious religious message. It was the feast dinner before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. What follows is 40 days of fasting till the arrival of Easter. Shrove Tuesday allowed early Christians a chance to cook eggs and fats that where likely to go bad during the fast. On the same day Christians are encouraged to go to confession where they would be “shriven” meaning “absolved of all sins”. A special pancake bell would ring from churches in London to summon parishioners to confession. Even in lean times pancakes where eaten on Candlemas Day-the day that all candles are blessed-and still are-for use at home and in church during the following year. Around the world many would process through the streets with lanterns and the blessed candles. In Paris women and children would walk along the river singing hymns and at the end of the procession they would indulge in a feast of crepes.

Now here in the UK and around the world we can indulge in pancakes any time of the year. There are indeed many worldwide varieties of pancakes such as the Scottish one (similar to dropped scones) or Russian versions called blinis used as a traditional garnish for caviar and off courses the well know French crepe-simple with butterscotch sauces or Suzette style with Grand Marnier and orange zest.

Tossing also stems form the Candlemas feast and many issues of fortune telling games. If the lady of a household can toss a pancake perfectly on the first go then she will never be short of money. If however it fails then the first pancake would be given to the chickens so that they would lay eggs in abundance during the forthcoming summer or it may be thrown into a tree for the crows to eat so that they would show gratitude by giving warning if the fox was about.

Whatever flavour you decide to do this year, sweet or savoury- just have fun. As a chef I say that whenever you do any food it is all about the organisation. Pancake Day however is different its about having a go. It is one of our most humble of fares soaked in festive history. See what is in the fridge chop it all together and chuck it in.

As for the tossing if you want to impress members of your family you may need to practice secretly first. The tip for a good “toss” is to have the pancake of the right thickness and indeed nicely cooked on the bottom side. You need the minimal amount of fat so it does not go all gloopy and then a good firm flick of the wrist.

My Recipe

Ingredients for basic batter:

  • 200g flour
  • 250ml milk
  • 150ml single cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • knob of butter

Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the cream, eggs, sugar and oil and beat all well till a smooth batter. Leave to rest for 1 hour. Beat again just before cooking. The above will make 20 pancakes 15cm or 6 inches in diameter. To cook them melt a little butter in a shallow frying pan or crepe pan if you have one. Pour of any surplus fat. Tilt the pan a little, pour in some batter and swirl it around the pan to spread evenly and waffer thin. Once golden and firm on the bottom either toss or flip with a wide palette knife.

To serve: Fold the pancake in half and sprinkle with caster sugar and squeeze of lemon juice. Fold into quarters and serve. Top with fresh vanilla ice cream. Ideas for fillings; apricots in rum, hot chocolate sauce, maple syrup and almonds, wild mushrooms, goats’ cheese and watercress, bananas and butterscotch, cherries and sour cream, pineapple and coconut or honey and lime.

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Feb 09 – Fairtrade Fortnight

fairtradeFairtrade Fortnight 2009 runs from 23 February to 8 March.

This is an annual event which aims to encourage people to make a difference to the lives of producers in the developing world by choosing fair trade.

Here Rob Rees tells us his views…

It is fair to say that I have been around the block a few times when it comes to cookery demonstrations and talks. Many of those are within our education system or perhaps Women’s Institute Groups, big food festivals and so on.

Most of the times as I give out the key messages around food safety or healthy eating the audience are engaged, happy and quite content with the hour or so entertainment neatly arranged for them. However, as with the issue around “Zero Waste Week” last month, the subject of fair trade truly gets people animated, excited and often with split opinions.

The youth of today, you know the ones that always get labelled by us blinkered older generation who often judge books to hastily by their covers, embrace the concept of fair trade so much better and openly than those of us who have formed habits and ideas through years of purchasing and misplaced consumerism.  Maybe it is the information highway and the fact that schools in Gloucestershire can reach out to third world education systems and global influences at a touch of a button, or perhaps it may be just because they care and purchasing power makes a difference. Either way the new generation, the future generation, get it!

I do too. I just have a few things to facilitate the debate for you guys on the blog – devil’s advocate again people….

  • Do fair trade products taste better than say organic or local or food sourced from elsewhere?
    (I love the vanilla @ Cotswold Ice Cream Company, which is a great fair trade product by the way.)
  • If it isn’t about taste is it a product only purchased for the ethical reasons? If that is the case is it truly sustainable as a concept?
  • Can the concept of fair trade, such as long term fixed price contracts for the farmers and producers, be applied to UK production? Shouldn’t that be the norm?
  • How can I trust it? Who enforces such a standard when it is applied on such a grand scale?
  • Does my money really make it to the person who needs it the most?

To quote the BBC Food website:  “There are sceptics who regard fair trade as unfair interference that encourages overproduction of certain crops and makes farmers dependent on handouts.”

What do you think?

Anyway I’m behind the principles of fair trade and look forward to the fortnight that starts on the 23rd February. 

To find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight go to http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/get_involved/fairtrade_fortnight/fairtrade_fortnight_2009/default.aspx