I piled the pancakes untidily on to a plate, their blackberry and apple filling peeping teasingly at the edges, then poured a jug of cream around them and brought them to the table. The result of an hour or more’s work – making a batter, turning pancakes, peeling and stewing fat bramley apples – the fruit-filled bundles were gone in minutes.
I find you have to be in the mood for making pancakes; but once you get going, the task becomes a delight. Each one becomes easier than the last until all the batter is gone. I make a point of not using too much melted butter in the pan (just the thinnest film – often wiping the excess off with kitchen paper), then tilting the pan back and forth as I pour in the batter, a movement that encourages an even coating of the base of the pan. The first wafter-thin cake from the pan is usually a disaster, the torn and crumpled mass becoming the cook’s perk with a squeeze of lemon and some gritty caster sugar. First one over and the radio on, you can get a batch done in no time.
There is a back and front to a pancake. The one you want to show is the first side you cooked – the pretty one – that looks like golden-brown lace. Make sure this side faces the work surface, so your stuffing goes on the less attractive, blotchy side. It is worth remembering that overstuffed pancakes are tricky to roll.
Before our blackberry and apple pancakes we had eaten a tomato salad with a dressing of feta, peas, cucumber and mint. (One course, surely, has to be effortless.) The red, white and green was refreshing even before we piled it on top of bruschetta and gave it a further olive-green shower of oil. Use a variety of tomatoes if you have them.
Tomatoes with peas and feta
A simple salad, but wonderful with its salty cheese and verdant green dressing, this could take a few jagged croutons of torn ciabatta, fried crisp in olive oil, or be piled on bruschetta. The tomatoes must be joyous – ripe and peppery and warm from the sun. Serves 2
olive oil 6 tbsp
mint leaves 8
parsley leaves a large handful
tomatoes 4, medium
peas 200g (shelled weight)
basil leaves 10
Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a blender jug. Add the olive oil, mint leaves and parsley, then season with a little salt and process to a thick, green dressing. Pour into a mixing bowl, then add the feta, crumbling it into small pieces with your fingers, then toss together gently and set aside.
Put a medium-sized pan of water on to boil. Slice the tomatoes thinly – about as thick as a £1 coin – then lay them, slightly overlapping, on a large plate. Season with ground black pepper. When the water is boiling, tip in the peas and let them cook for 3 or 4 minutes until tender, then drain and cool under running water.
Peel, seed and finely dice the cucumber and add to the feta. Shred and add the basil. Scatter the peas over the sliced tomatoes, then spoon over the feta and herb dressing and serve.
Blackberry and apple pancakes
Once you have added the blackberries, avoid stirring the apple mixture – unless you want pink pancakes. Serves 6
For the pancakes:
butter 30g, plus a little extra for cooking
plain flour 100g
caster sugar 1 level tsp
egg 1, large plus an extra yolk
For the filling:
cooking apples 1.2kg (bramleys etc)
caster sugar 80g
blackberries 250g, plus a few to serves
To make the pancakes, melt the butter in a small pan, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Sift the flour, along with a pinch of salt, into a large bowl. Mix in the sugar, make a well in the centre and add the egg and extra yolk and the cooled, melted butter. Stir, drawing in the flour, and add the milk, to give a smooth batter. Leave to rest for half an hour.
To make the filling: peel the apples, core them and slice or chop into small pieces. Put the apples in a heavy-based pan with the sugar (no water, tempting though it is) and leave over a low to moderate heat, stirring regularly so stop them sticking, until the apples have collapsed. Stir in the blackberries – cutting them in half if they are large – and leave to cook for a couple of minutes until the berries’ juice has bled a little into the apple. Set aside.
Brush a 20-22cm nonstick frying pan or crêpe pan with melted butter and place over a moderate heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, stir the batter, then pour enough for a wafer-thin layer, tipping the pan so the batter covers the base very thinly (a small ladle should be enough for one pancake). Cook for a minute or so, until the underside is golden in patches. Loosen the pancake all the way round with a palette knife then, sliding the knife carefully underneath, turn the pancake and cook the other side.
When the second side is brown in blotches, lift it out and set aside, then continue with the rest of the batter. You should end up with about 6 pancakes, allowing for the first couple to be less than perfect.
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Place a pancake on the work surface, spread generously with some of the blackberry and apple filling, then roll up or fold into a triangle as you wish. Place in a shallow baking dish, then continue with the rest. You may well have a little filling left over for breakfast, which is a thoroughly good thing. Heat the pancakes for 10 minutes then serve with a jug of cream and a few extra berries.
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