Happy Pancake Day

Today is a very happy pancake day indeed. Why? Because it’s the first time in years that I have remembered to cook pancakes on pancake day. Although it almost didn’t happen… again. Last night I told the kids we would have pancakes for breakfast. So I got up this morning and starting making a fruit salad. Luckily my son breezed into the kitchen and cheerily mentioned pancakes.

Now because I was a bit flustered at my forgetfulness I made these slightly differently from the recipe I usually use for 2 reasons. Firstly, I usually add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the batter, but I forgot (it didn’t seem to matter a jot). And secondly I thought I’d try using self raising flour instead of plain, with less baking powder. These beauties puffed up a treat so I won’t look back.

So hoorah and huzzah we feasted on a pile of pancakes this morning. Pretty impressive for a Tuesday morning. These are lovely and simple, both to make and in flavour, which means they present themselves as the perfect carrier for any delightful topping you might fancy. I will always go for blueberries and maple syrup but around the table there were artful combos made from peanut butter, chocolate spread, honey, bananas etc etc.

This recipe makes a lot of pancakes. There are 5 of us and we all love to eat. One of us ate 7 pancakes this morning, you know who you are. So if you are a little less greedy than us you could reduce the quantities or just make them all and freeze your leftovers or, if you’re feeling generous share them with your neighbours.

Classic Pancakes

Serves 5 greedy people


Ingredients

  • About 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 450ml whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 330g self raising flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • A couple of tablespoons of sugar (optional)

Method

  • First, in the pan you are going to cook your pancakes in, melt the butter then take off the heat and leave while you whisk the other ingredients together.
  • Whisk the milk and eggs before adding the dry ingredients and keep whisking until there are no lumps.
  • Now pour in the melted butter and whisk again .
  • Heat your pan (it really needs to be non-stick) over a medium heat and add big dollops of pancake batter and leave to cook without touching until little bubbles start to appear on the surface. Flip and cook on the other side for a minute or so.
  • You can eat these as they are ready or keep them warm in a low oven while you finish cooking the whole batch.

Simple Elderberry Syrup

If you go down to the woods today… you might be lucky enough to find an elder tree dripping with deep dark red elderberries. Sorry to disappoint those with a penchant for picnics and teddy bears. But on the plus side you might not have to venture as far as the woods to find these treasures. There’s a lovely old elder tree right next to my suburban garden. 

If I catch them at them earlier in the year I love to pick the elderflowers and make homemade elderflower cordial.  I’d love to make elderflower champagne but I’m a bit worried about exploding bottles. I need to learn to live a little closer to the edge before I attempt it.

This year I missed out on the elderflowers so I was determined to get my hands on the berries.

Elderberries are absolutely chock a block with antioxidants, which give our immune systems a massive boost. So making a syrup now and digging into it over the autumn and winter months is a great way to help ward off colds and flu.

A word of caution with these berries – you really have to cook them or you might risk an upset tummy.  When raw these little berries are obnoxiously sour so you’d probably want to cook them anyway – nature’s way of keeping us safe. Also make sure you discard the leaves and stalks as these can be toxic.  A little vigilance is totally worth it for the sweet elixir you end up with.

This syrup is made with sugar but you could absolutely make it with honey, which would also cram in yet more healthy delights. I added a couple of slices of fresh ginger and a couple of cloves and the result is that the finished syrup is slightly reminiscent of cola. So when my youngest was under the weather a couple of days ago he slurped down his ‘medicine’ no questions asked. If you prefer, keep it simple and just go with the berries and sweet stuff.

You could use this as a cordial, drizzle over greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, add a dash to a cocktail or simply down a small shot when you feel your body needs a helping immune boosting hand.

Simple Elderberry Syrup

Ingredients

  • 500g elderberries
  • 400g sugar
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Optional flavour enhancers: a couple of slices of ginger and a couple of cloves

Method

  • First and foremost make sure you remove all of the stalks and leaves from the berries as these are toxic. Also discard any green berries.
  • You can gently pull the berries off the stalks or use a fork. I really like the fork method, which also cuts down on the staining of your fingers.
  • Give the berries a wash.
  • Tip them into a pan and cover with water (the water should be about 1cm over the berries). Add your ginger and cloves if you are using them. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  • Now strain through a sieve. Pour the liquid back into the pan along with the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Once cooled you can either bottle this and keep in the fridge or, to make it last even longer, freeze in ice cube trays.

Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Bananas are perfect for delivering that much needed energy boost first thing in the morning.

My kids are going back to school soon and I predict a struggle in the morning. They’ve not had to rise from their beds before 9am since March! So a quick and easy smoothie will be just the ticket for a quick brekky before bolting out the door.

All of my children have hearty (that’s putting it mildly) appetites but if there are any first day back butterflies it might be easier to stomach a fruity drink than a hearty meal.

You can use any kind of milk for this: coconut, soya, cows milk, whatever you have in the fridge really. I added about a tablespoon of honey but to be honest it was a little too sweet for me. Just go with what you fancy.

I would hugely recommend a teeny bit of cinnamon and if I was using cows milk I might add a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract.

Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Makes 4 glasses

Ingredients

  • 500ml coconut milk (or whatever kind if milk you favour)
  • 2 ripe yellow bananas
  • A tablespoon of honey (optional)
  • A pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract (optional)

Method

  • Put all of your ingredients into a blender and whizz until smooth.

Luscious Lemon Layer Cake

Yesterday I asked my eldest son what kind of cake he would like me to bake. I always hold my breath sightly when I ask this as my kids often come up with some pretty inventive cake ideas.

After a little thought he asked for a lemon cake. Specifically a round lemon cake with a crunchy lemon drizzle topping with lemon curd in the middle.

With a smile of relief I thought I had all the ingredients at home but it turned out I only had a drop of lemon curd left. It was pouring with rain and frankly I couldn’t be bothered going to the shops so I also added a layer of clotted cream, which turned out to be absolutely delicious and the perfect match to the cake’s citrus burst.

This is a wonderfully zingy crunchy lemon cake the like of which I’ve never had before. I’ll definitely be making this again and again…

Luscious Lemon Layer Cake

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 210g self raising flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g room temp butter
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3 tablespoons of milk

For the lemon drizzle

  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 80g granulated sugar

For the filling

  • 3 tablespoons of lemon curd
  • If you like add cream or butter cream too

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4. Grease 2 x 20cm round cake tins and line the bases.
  • Put the flour, sugar and cornflour into a food processor and blitz to combine.
  • Now just chuck in the rest of the ingredients and whiz until combined.
  • Pour and scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tins and smooth over the tops.
  • Bake for 25 minutes until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out of the cakes clean.
  • Leave the cakes in their tins to cool a little (about 10 minutes) and then turn one cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Leave the other cake in its tin.

For the drizzle:

  • Just mix together the sugar and lemon juice. Take the cake that is still in its tin and prick it all over with a fork. Gently pour over the drizzle mixture and leave to cool in the tin on the wire rack.
  • Once both cakes are cool take the bottom cake layer (the one without the drizzle) and place on a plate or cake stand. Spread with the curd and, if you’re using it, the cream and pop the crusty topped cake on top.

Sumptuous Bannoffi Pie

I don’t have to tell you that banoffi pie (banana / toffee) is already oozing with sweet, bronzed caramel so there’s really no requirement for additional caramel in any shape or form. Well, that’s easy for me to say as I confess that I am not overly keen on caramel.

However, I live in a house of rabid caramel adorers to whom there is no such thing as too much caramel. So as I was finishing this sweet treat off with an elegant grating of quality chocolate, along came my son with some chopped up chunks of Cadburys Caramel. It was declared a triumph by all.

If you have a delection for sweet sweet confection you simply have to make this pie. If you did want to tone the sweetness down a notch you could stir a pinch of salt into your caramel and of course go right ahead and omit the chocolate caramel decoration.

Sumptuous Banoffi Pie

Ingredients

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 1 can (397g) or jar of caramel
  • Optional pinch of sea salt
  • 2 – 3 bananas
  • 300ml of double cream
  • About 20g chocolate, grated
  • 1 – 2 bars of chocolate enrobed caramel

Method

  • First of all pop your biscuits in a large bag and crush them with a rolling pin until your have nice fine crumbs.
  • Mix them with the melted butter then tip them into a 20cm pie dish or springform tin. Press them down firmly with the back of a metal spoon. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  • If you have opted for the salted version, mix the sea salt into the caramel. Pour your caramel over the cool biscuit base and spread out gently so you have an even layer.
  • Slice your bananas and scatter them over the caramel.
  • Whip your double cream until it forms soft peaks. Spoon on top of the waiting pie.
  • Finally sprinkle over your chocolately adornments.
  • Chill, preferably for at least a couple of hours, before devouring.

Light & Fluffy Scones

These scones are so light and fluffy they are cloud-like, they are probably what angels eat for afternoon tea. Add some lightly whipped cream and a jewel-like spoonful of ruby red jam and I could feasibly be in heaven.

For me scones are the ideal goodie on any day of any season, but the lightness of these does rather make them ideal for a Summer afternoon tea treat in the garden.

While I am no stranger to the joy of baking I’m no expert on its alchemy. The magical chemistry behind using just the right of amount of each surprisingly plain ingredient to conjure up the tastiest of morsels remains largely a mystery.

But what I have found when making scones is that the less I mix and handle the dough the lighter the scone. I also recently discovered extra fine self raising flour which has resulted in not only angelic scones but impressively well risen sponges (not something I can always attest to). It’s more expensive than your everyday self raising flour but I’d say a worthy investment.

Serve these with your favourite jam and, if it’s Summer, a couple of ripe strawberries. You can’t beat a dollop of clotted cream but on this occasion I happened to have some double cream in the fridge, which I lightly whipped at the last minute as the kids were complaining about the absence of clotted cream (honestly!). No cream? Just jam is delightful or a light spread of butter.

Light & Fluffy Scones Recipe

I usually make 8 – 10 depending on the size of cutter

Ingredients

  • 225g self-raising flour (or extra fine SR flour)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of caster sugar
  • 70g chilled butter, diced
  • 150ml milk

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 230 C / 210 C fan / gas 8
  • Lightly butter a baking sheet
  • Sift your flour and baking powder into a large bowl, then stir in the sugar
  • Plop in your diced, chilled butter and rub it into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Make a well in the middle of the breadcrumb like mix and pour in the milk. Start to mix the flour into the liquid with a metal spoon. Once it is all mixed you should have a lovely soft dough. If it’s too sticky add a little more flour.
  • Lovingly tip your dough onto a floured surface and gently pat out to a thickness of about 2cm. Cut the scones into rounds and place on the baking tray.
  • You will have to reform your dough and pat out again to continue cutting the scones, until you have used up all of the dough.
  • Now pop the tray of scones in the oven and bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes. At this point your scones should be gloriously risen and golden brown. If they are not quite perfect just leave them for another 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack. In my opinion they are best eaten when still slightly warm… who could wait any longer.