Would you like a wee scone with your tea son or will I make you a pancake?
My Gran always asked this fairly typical west of Scotland question when I visited. As she got older I’d phone to tell her I was coming so the doorbell didn’t surprise and frighten her, but if I’m honest it was probably also in the knowledge that if the tin was empty the cooker would quickly be lit for more than just the kettle and sustenance would be provided. It’s for this reason that I love pancakes and love to cook them, to try and get the temperature right so they’d have the same colour as when she cooked them, that perfect light golden brown. I’m not quite there yet. If the ability to make mince properly is anything to go by then it’ll be a long time before I am there.
Maybe it’s because my Gran always used margarine and not butter. I asked my Mum why. ‘Because it was cheaper and more manageable’ came the answer. And it’s true, in the post-war pre-central heating days butter must’ve sat like a brick in the kitchen, only warmed when the cooker was lit at mealtimes. However despite the warming childhood memories of Stork and Summer County, margarine or ‘cooking fat’ as the Lofty Peak cookbook advised is somewhat anathema to me so I struggle on with my butter. However when it comes to pancakes the girdle is a great leveller that the frying pan never can be. Flat and true this sheet of steel was made for the glorious mixture of butter, sugar, eggs, flour and milk.
If the love of my Gran played a huge part in my childhood the absence of the man who fabricated the girdle I cook on, my Granddad, has loomed large over my life. The only person I can honestly say I truly wish I’d met, passing away three years before my birth. There was a magical connection cooking on something that was lovingly fabricated by his hand and that I’d had restored long after my Gran had also left us. They may only be pancakes but they feel like an heirloom.
I’ve followed many recipes for pancakes, or Scotch pancakes or drop scones or whatever you choose to call them. I’ve tried the one in the lofty peak book my Gran always had in the kitchen but I struggled with its quantity and method so I use this one. I’ve kept the units imperial for nostalgias sake and all I’d say is judge by eye and don’t ‘droon the miller’, the batter should fall of the spoon, not run off it.
8 oz Self-raising flour
2.5 oz Caster sugar
Large pinch salt
8-10 oz milk
1 oz Butter – melted
Oil for cooking
1. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt and egg then add in the first 8 ounces of milk and mix;
2. Add the melted butter and mix again and then the rest of the milk until you get a batter with thick creamy consistency that drops off the spoon but doesn’t pour;
3. Heat the girdle over a medium heat and rub with oil to season, when you can feel heat on your palm just over the surface then the girdle should be hot enough;
4. Cook one pancake to test by dropping one tablespoonful of batter onto the surface. When the bubbles start to form on the surface flip over, watch it rise then let cook through for around 30 seconds;
5. Keep the surface oiled and cook the rest of the batter in the same way. Serve with butter, jam, honey or just on their own.
Alternative – if using a frying pan again use a medium heat and keep the surface oiled or buttered.