Tag Archives: simple

pancakes!

This is a recipe for my gorgeous cousins, who are back in Italy with most of a bottle of maple syrup that needs an accompaniment (because lets face it, pancakes are just an excuse for eating maple syrup right?). I promised to teach them how to make pancakes before I left, but unfortunately that was among the long list of things that didn’t get squeezed into our last few weeks in the northern hemisphere.

So, pancakes have been done before: But this is the recipe that I cooked every Sunday morning from as soon as I could see over the top of the stove. The proportions and preparation are incredibly simple, the result delicious. Oh, and I should mention that these are large flat pancakes, not the smaller risen ones.

The basic recipe below has had one minor adjustment in recent years, as I’ve started substituting half of the plain flour for oat flour. This improves the taste and texture of the pancakes, although I wouldn’t promise anything about healthiness, remember the maple syrup!

The amounts below can be multiplied to infinity. Remember, you can always put leftover pancakes in the fridge and eat them the next day.

to make

(serves 2–3 people)

1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup plain flour

Butter for cooking

Mix the egg, milk and flour together until there are no lumps. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Set up a heavy bottomed frying pan, two large plates, the pancake batter with a ladle, butter and an egg flip.

Heat the frying pan on a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of butter, swirl it around the pan to coat the bottom and wait for it to start sizzling. Then, add a small ladle full of batter and swirl the pan to form a circle of the mixture.

Leave the pan alone! Wait for the pancake to be almost totally set on top (you can test it by gently touching the top of the pancake with the egg flip). Once it’s set, flip the pancake over to cook the other side. The second side won’t take quite so long.

Remove the pancake to a plate and then cover with the second plate (this will keep the cooked pancakes warm while you cook the others).

Repeat, repeat, repeat. Keep adding more butter in between each pancake and make sure the butter is sizzling before you add the batter.

Serve the pancakes with your favourite toppings and enjoy!

Buon appetite ragazze, spero che ci vediamo fra poco!

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Irish-ish soda bread

In my last post I introduced you to some of my Scottish ancestors. Today’s recipe is a tip of the hat to the Irish peasants in my lineage.

A few weeks ago I decided to have a go at making soda bread. This Irish staple is about as simple as bread making can be – flour mixed with water, salt, bicarbonate soda and (traditionally) buttermilk. The dough takes no kneading or rising — just mix, form and throw in the oven. In other words, this is the bread recipe for lazy or baking-shy sods like me!

My traditional-ish loaf.

Another advantage of soda bread is that the rising isn’t dependent on the gluten in the flour (as with yeast bread). Instead the bread is given lift through a reaction between the bicarb soda and the acid in the buttermilk. This means lower-gluten (‘soft’) flours can be used without compromising the chemical reaction.

I trawled the internet a bit to find the right recipe (read: the recipe with the fewest ingredients) and ended up trying two options. The first used yoghurt in place of the buttermilk. I also used a mix of Kamut and regular flour for this loaf. The dough was very sticky, but came together fairly easily.

The second loaf was made using a recipe from the very endearingly named Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread website. This site has a comprehensive history section, which informs their slightly prescriptive statements about what is ‘true’ soda bread. My yogurt loaf wouldn’t have qualified, however delicious it was.

The revolutionary yogurt loaf.

The recipe from the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread website stuck close to tradition, although I made two adaptations. I substituted rye flour for the wholewheat flour and also used an instant soured milk in place of buttermilk, as the latter is impossible to find in Italy.

To make instant buttermilk mix one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into one cup of milk. Leave for a few minutes and it is ready to use.

The second dough was much drier than the first, although it rose well in the oven. On balance I think I preferred the yogurt loaf, but only marginally. Both loaves were gobbled up quickly in our house of six people. The bread was quite dense but toasted beautifully. The taste was a little like English scones, particularly when slices of toasted bread were paired with butter and plum jam!

All in all soda bread was a fun experiment, and something I’ll definitely cook in the future. It wouldn’t lend itself to all uses – I can’t imagine making sandwiches or bruschetta on this bread – but for afternoon tea it can’t be beaten.

Soda bread with yoghurt

450g wholemeal flour (I used half kamut, half white flour)
2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda
300ml whole yogurt
150ml warm water
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix flour, bicarb soda and salt then stir in the yogurt and water.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead just until the dough comes together. Form into a round ball and place on a flat baking tray. Cut a deep cross into the top of the dough.

Bake for 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 20 minutes. To test if the loaf is ready tap the bottom – if it sounds hollow it’s done.

Traditional(ish) soda bread

4 cups wholewheat flour (I used rye)
2 cups white flour
1.5 teaspoons bicarbonate soda
2 cups buttermilk
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 220°C. Mix the dry ingredients and then gradually mix in the buttermilk.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead just until the dough comes together. Form into a round ball and place on a flat baking tray. Cut a deep cross into the top of the dough.

Bake at 220°C for 25 minutes then reduce the heat to 180°C for a further 15 minutes.

simple pasta with white zucchini and cherry tomatoes

We eat simple pasta dishes like this all the time in Italy. In fact this recipe almost counts as complicated because it has two main ingredients in the ‘sauce’!

Like most very simple dishes this works thanks to a little bit of precision in the cooking, so the order of adding ingredients does matter. If you can get your hands on some white zucchini this is a perfect way to use them. Alternatively asparagus is amazing in this kind of pasta dish.

to make

Serves 6

500g short pasta
2 cups white zucchini, halved lengthways and diced
1–2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon mint, roughly chopped
pecorino cheese, grated
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Get the pasta cooking in salted boiling water.

Put a frying pan on a medium–high heat. Add olive oil and the garlic cloves. When the garlic is just sizzling add the zucchini and sauté until they are just softening and have a little colour. Add the cherry tomatoes and continue cooking until they are warmed and just beginning to soften. Season to taste, but remember that the pecorino cheese is quite salty.

Drain the pasta and add half to a large serving bowl. Add half of the zucchini mix, half of the mint and a good grating of pecorino. Add the remaining pasta, sauce, mint and some more pecorino and then stir everything well. (Adding everything in two layers helps to distribute the sauce and cheese evenly.)

Serve, preferably at a table set with daffodils:

J