February 26, 2023
High pressure. Unpaid labour. No contract. Tough working conditions. Hot metals. Open flames.
Yes, I’m talking about Pancake Day. Barring Christmas, this is THE cultural festival of the year in the Driscoll household. With the passing years, and to satisfy the insatiable appetites and stratospherically high expectations of two, ever-growing teenage boys, I’ve had to become something of a pro when it comes to crepes. Pancakes are their go-to choice when it comes to birthday breakfasts too. And, as a socialist who believes in the redistribution of power, wealth, and transparency in government, I feel compelled to share my secrets. So, read on…
First, make the mix. Grab a large blender. Or a mixing bowl will do. For a double portion, in goes:
A pint of milk.
Three medium to large eggs. Cracked one handed for extra flair.
8oz of plain flour. Or 225g in new money.
“What about the salt?” you may ask. Nope. No salt. Trust me on this.
Give it a good blitz. And remember to put the lid on. And don’t confuse 4oz for 40z as my kids did a couple of years back. By the time we’d added extra milk to turn the concrete to liquid again, it meant toad in the hole for a week.
Frying pan. You can’t beat a good non-stick one. If you’ve got more than one, keep it just for pancakes, eggs and omelettes. On the hob. Heat right up. Hot enough so if you flick water at the base the droplets immediately sizzle and evaporate. A big slug of sunflower oil. Not olive oil, the smoke point is too low. And you might not appreciate the taste of tapenade with chocolate spread. Roll the oil around the pan to coat it evenly.
In goes a ladleful of pancake mix. Lift the pan an inch off the hob and swirl the mix so it’s evenly spread. Then – and this is key – leave it alone for a minute. Until you can see bubbles, under the surface. That’s when you know it’s got the integrity to take it to the next level… the flip.
After years of circular stains on the ceiling and a few minor burns from splashed oil, I reckon I’ve mastered the pancake flip. (Don’t believe me? Check out the slow-mo video on my Facebook page).
The trick is, you see, not to swing the pan up. No sir. It’s to thrust the pan forwards and then whip it back, with a sudden flick. You want a low, 180-degree spin, close to the pan; not a 720, three feet up in the air. Remember: you’re making pancakes, not launching a satellite.
Et voila. Come about 7pm on any given Shrove Tuesday and I have a steady production line going. Flip. Cook. Serve son. Cook. Flip. Cook. Serve other son. Flip. Cook. Serve my wife. Rinse and repeat. I eat last. If I’m lucky.
This year my double portion mix wasn’t enough. I had to make a second batch. In total, two pints of milk. A pound of flour. And a box of eggs.
Now for the controversial part. Toppings.
Birthday pancakes are served with a Suzette sauce: butter, caramelised sugar, orange juice & zest, and Cointreau. Flambéed. Delicious.
On Tuesday, Leon, my eldest son went for peanut butter all the way. Caroline, salmon and mango chutney. Surprisingly tasty.
My youngest son Nelson enjoys Nutella and Peanut Butter. On the same pancake. Followed by feta cheese and tomato puree. Each to their own.
To be fair, that’s not the strangest topping I’ve heard. Chilli. Pomegranate seeds? Tuna mayo?? Prawns with hummus???
As a Labour Mayor who’s had to work with a Tory Government to secure a £4.27 billion devolution deal, I’ve had to reconcile a lot of differences of opinion, but I think that one goes too far even for me.
So what’s your favourite? Tell me on my social media, or in person at my next Mayor’s Question Time on Thursday, 16th March. 6:30pm, at the Carnegie Building in Benwell. NE4 8XS.
According Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, you should learn to cherish turnip. Where’s Baldric when you need him?