‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’ ‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’ ‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.
Reading this quote from A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, I can’t help but smile. In just a few short sentences, the author manages to capture both the thrill and satisfaction of finding pleasure in food. Any foodie worth their salt (or should it be honey?) will always have thoughts of their next meal ticking over gently at the back of their mind, and after the enforced fasting that comes with a good night’s sleep, there are few greater pleasures than waking up and deciding what to eat for your very first meal of the day.
Breakfast can be a pretty underwhelming meal if you get it wrong. Sugary cereals, feeble tea, soggy white toast and cardboard bars masquerading as the answer to every commuter’s ‘on-the-go’ needs seem to have infiltrated our society. But get it right and breakfast can be a thing of absolute joy, exceeding even Pooh’s expectations in the excitement stakes and setting you up for the best possible day. Thick cut bacon sizzling in a pan, free range eggs with molten orange yolks, crusty bread and salty butter, toasted nuts and seeds drizzled in honey, creamy yoghurt, the freshest fruit, the sweetest juice and a morning spent at the kitchen table, sun streaming through the window and papers strewn across your lap.
Oh, and pancakes. I forgot to mention pancakes.
In our household, and many others I suspect, the humble pancake has been all but relegated to the annual indulgence of Shrove Tuesday, where so many of the things are consumed you vow never to look at sugar and lemon laced dough in the same way again. I think there’s also a perception that they’re a bit of a pain to make; whisking batter, leaving it to stand, frying and flipping it in batches. . . it’s all a little more time consuming than popping some bread in the toaster and pressing a button.
But the minimal effort is absolutely worth it. Pancakes are one of the earliest foods known to mankind – a primitive quick bread combining carbohydrate rich flour with protein rich liquid to create the ultimate fast food – and there’s a reason they’ve stood the test of time. They taste good. From fluffy American hotcakes to French crêpes, Italian crespelle, Russian blini, Indian dhosa and Australian pikelets, every culture has their own version of these lovely little cakes, all of varying size, thickness and flavour.
The recipe below is adapted from a Dan Lepard post on The Guardian website – his version features rye flour and dill where mine substitutes buckwheat and coriander, but you can mix and match herbs and flours to suit your tastes and toppings on the day of making. Just make sure you include the oats as they provide a beautiful depth of flavour without making the batter heavy; these pancakes are beautifully light and a world away from the dense, doughy shop-bought versions you can get.
I served mine with coriander and chilli laced guacamole and thin slices of oak-smoked salmon, Carniverous Boyfriend topped it all off with fried eggs, and I can imagine they’d also be delicious with some soft cheese or simply spread with butter. If, like Pooh, you’re off a sweeter disposition and want to add honey, I’d omit the herbs altogether.
However you decide to make them, please do try this recipe soon. It’s definitely a breakfast worth getting excited about.
Oat & buckwheat pancakes (adapted from a Dan Lepard recipe)
50g rolled oats
350ml boiling water
75g natural yoghurt
1/2 fast action yeast
200g buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 medium free range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
Handful finely chopped coriander, dill or other herb of your choice
Butter, for frying
Put the oats in a bowl, pour over the boiling water and leave to stand for 30 minutes, until the mixture has cooled down to lukewarm. Stir in the yoghurt and yeast, then mix in the flour and salt. Leave for three to four hours so the yeast can do its thing. I left it overnight which is absolutely fine too; the longer you leave it, the stronger the yeast flavour.
When you’re ready to eat, beat the eggs, baking powder and chopped herbs into the batter. Add more water if necessary – keep the mixture thick if you prefer mini scotch/American-style pancakes, or thinner if you like them more like a French-style crêpe or galette.
Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan until it sizzles. Drop a spoonful of batter into the pan and allow to spread naturally, checking the batter’s consistency: you want it just to colour on the base when the top is almost set. Cook your pancakes in batches, carefully flipping them over halfway through cooking. Keep the cooked ones warm in a low oven while you make the rest.
These pancakes also freeze very well, layered between sheets of kitchen paper and placed in a freezer bag.