When I was young, the first dish my Mum taught me how to cook was pancakes. Her recipe was never written down, and I’ve known it off-by-heart for years.
The ingredients are ridiculously cheap, and this amount makes about 5 pancakes of a diameter of around 30cm. Perfect for one person (but you’ll be ridiculously full) or for two people to share with some more substantial accompaniments, like chopped fruit or ice cream.
I should mention that these are crepe-like pancakes, not the thicker American-style pancakes. While I’m on the subject, the American love of bacon with pancakes confuses me terribly. Sweet and light with fatty and meaty? It’s not a combination I like, but hey, each to their own. I can’t say I understand it.
Here is my family recipe. It’s such a reliable winner. Note that the very first pancake you fry in a batch will be your weakest – unless you really enjoy your butter. I tend to skip eating the first one (I feed it to my dog… I’m sure that doesn’t meet the vet’s recommendations) because all of the rest are clean, not greasy at all.
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon of oil (rice bran oil is my preference, but vegetable or olive oil will do)
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2/3 cup water
- Butter for frying
Whisk together the flour, egg, oil, milk and water in a big bowl, until all lumps are removed. This should be quite a quick process. You’ll get a feel for the right consistency with practice, but the batter should be quite thin. The final result you are looking for is a crepe-like thickness of about 1 millimetre, so a thick batter won’t give you the best result.
Near the stove, collect your tools: a frying pan, ladle, flipper, butter knife and the butter. I also like to line up a plate, and switch on the oven in case I need to keep the plate or the pancakes warm (it’s just a matter of practice how fast you cook, and if you are cooking a very large batch, you might need to keep them warm if you want to serve everyone at once).
Switch on the stove, heat the pan on high. Take a small knob of butter, pop it in the pan and lightly grease the whole of it by swishing it around the pan as it heats.
As soon as the pan is greased, take a ladle-full of pancake batter and pour it into the pan. Working quickly, swirl it around the pan until the surface of it is covered.
Leave the pan on the stove to cook, but don’t walk away! The pancake should be flipped over (another talent you’ll master with practice) as soon as you can see the exposed side of the pancake firm up. Another good indicator is when the pancake moves easily when you shake the pan gently. If you’re still not sure, take the flipper and have a peek on the other side of the pancake. If it is golden, it is time to flip.
Fry the other side of the pancake. This will be quicker, about a minute. You’ll know it’s ready when it slides in the pan easily, or when it looks golden.
Use the flipper to remove the pancake from the pan, and put it on to your plate (warm it up in the oven in advance, if you think you need to). If you aren’t serving immediately, sit it in a low-temperature oven until you’re ready to serve it. The oven should be a temperature less than 100°C or the edges might crisp up.
Repeat for as many pancakes as your batter allows.
Serve with creativity! Goes well with lemon and sugar, or strawberries and ice cream, or bananas and honey… use your imagination. As a child, we used to just have them with a teaspoon of sugar, and I still love that simple pleasure.