February 16, 2010, 12:01 pm
Filed under: yummy in the tummy

Happy Pancake Day!  AKA Shrove Tuesday, AKA Mardi Gras…  Apparently, the tradition comes from the need to use up yummy larder staples like butter, sugar and eggs before the ritual fasting associated with Lent.   Sort of like the homier (is that a word?) version of drinking yourself silly at a Mardi Gras celebration?  I’d never heard of this tradition at home in the States, but it’s big news here in the UK.  Which is ironic to me, because the way that pancakes are usually made here, they seem to me to be more crepes than pancakes.

Ergo, my pancake recipe, for PROPER American pancakes, albeit with a healthy/yummy twist of course.  Granted, some restaurants here — usually the ones that make an attempt at brunch rather than just a full English breakfast — do have “American style pancakes” on their menus.  But the ones I’ve tried are rather — hmm, how to put this nicely? — leaden.  I’m not sure why — too much flour?  too much mixing?

Ironically, I didn’t know much about making pancakes before moving here, since ours was a Bisquick kind of family.   But, as with ranch dressing and mac and cheese and sponge cake, I’ve learned that — despite a lifelong affinity for these pretty packages, which are next to impossible to find here — some many most everything is better if you make it yourself.   (OK, OK, I confess to little splurges at Partridges now and then, only for the sake of nostalgia of course.  And that I probably was marginally happier before I realized that homemade buttercream frosting was in fact just a lot of butter, and cream, and even more sugar.  But this is good for me right?  I mean to know, not to eat…sigh.)

Without further ado, here is my current go-to pancake recipe, adapted from the Blueberry Cornmeal pancakes recipe from the classic Better Homes & Gardens cookbook .

YIELD:  About nine 4-inch pancakes

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 T cornmeal
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1 beaten egg
1 cup buttermilk {or 1T lemon + milk to make 1 cup; stand 5 minutes before using}
2 T vegetable oil

Mix the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre.  Mix the wet ingredients and then add all at once to the dry ingredients; stir until *just* blended.  The batter will be lumpy — leave it this way because if you keep mixing your pancakes will be too heavy.

Heat a griddle or large, heavy nonstick pan on medium/medium low until a drop of water sizzles; melt a dab of butter to coat.  Pour batter into three- to four-inch pools on the griddle.  {Note, if you want to add blueberries or another fruit, now is the time — doing it now rather than adding to the main bowl of batter will keep your pancakes from turning completely blueberry-coloured.}  Cook gently until bubbles form and the surface of each pancake just lightly starts to glaze over, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes.

Serve warm with butter and REAL maple syrup (not the other kind — you know what I mean — which is not common here and is one thing I definitely don’t miss from home), and fruit, of course.


February 4, 2010, 9:35 am
Filed under: frocks + finery

I’m loving this new venture:  The London Frock Exchange.   Freepost them a dress you don’t want, choose a dress you do.  Pay the £30 administration fee and the new-to-you dress is yours.  I’m thinking the £30 is a wee bit steep for a fee, but it seems a good way to clear out dresses that had a bit too high of an investment-to-wallet ratio to just relegate to the charity bin.  Happy frock swapping!