I don't have a pancake phobia, but for some reason, illogical though you might think it, I had thought pancakes were difficult to make. They rather worried me. They involve batter and while I can usually make Yorkshire Puds, my Toad-in-the-Holes have been a bit dismal. But an article in a newspaper announced that 90% of Brits couldn't cook a pancake if their lives depended on it and laid down the gauntlet, challenging me to face my batter fears.
So some weeks before Shrove Tuesday, knowing that we would have a full house of hungry mouths to feed on Pancake Night, I decided to have a trial run. No pressure. No fear of being caught scrubbing bits of batter off the ceiling. None of the squawking associated with greedy young chicks.
All the recipes I researched seemed pretty much the same. They roughly agreed on quantities, ratios and standing time for the finished batter. However, I did read that old English pancakes were often made with ale. So I halved the amount of milk and added a bottle of San Miguel lager to see if it made any difference to the resulting batter, (the beer was past it's sell-by date but still slightly fizzy).
And so to the pancakes. I used my favourite omelette pan, untouched by anything other than butter and eggs for the past ten years (apart from the unfortunate night that a friend tried to make rosti, nearly her last night on earth for oh so many reasons). I wiped the pan with a lightly oiled paper towel and carefully ladled 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan, with all the attentive concentration and precision of a scientist.
It was a doddle. Eureka! I thought. The pancakes were light and fluffy, although I'm not sure that the beer made any difference at all. The point was it was working and by the time the Guinea Pigs turned up that evening, I was turning out pancakes like a pro and the Guinea Pigs happily devouring the fruits of my experiment.
Pancake Night itself was a bit of a mixed bag. The Guinea Pigs were quite happy to have sweet pancakes. But I'm a savoury sort of person, so I decided to come up with something that didn't include several pounds of sugar, lemons and Nutella and decided to make a kind of 'crespelle,' a savoury stuffed Italian-style pancake.
My previous skill at pancake making had rather deserted me, the perils of overconfidence, I suspect. But I finally managed to produce a dozen or so reasonable looking pancakes to use as my base. I adapted an old cannelloni recipe and made a stuffing of rindless goats cheese mashed up with pesto. I put a dollop of this mixture in the middle of each pancake, adding a few roasted halved cherry tomatoes. I folded up the pancakes into parcels and put them into a baking dish. I added homemade tomato sauce, topped the lot with freshly grated parmesan and baked it in the oven for about 25 minutes.
My efforts were graciously received but the Guinea Pigs were sadly more interested in getting their sugar fix. Using the remainder of the batter, we made more pancakes and added a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of caster sugar. Very traditional. I'm not sure what happened to the Nutella, but I think it was forgotten in the feeding frenzy.
Each of the Guinea Pigs had thoughtfully brought around a bag of lemons, so if I can only think of what to do with half a hundred-weight of lemons . . .