Pancake-making has a special place in this cook’s heart, and I have a vast collection of recipes to prove it. The plain ‘Scotch’ variety remind me of my mother, watching Dr Who on Saturday afternoons and High Tea at Scottish aunties’ houses in the summer holidays. The Moroccan semolina type, dripping butter and honey, take me back to our honeymoon. The taste of sugar and lemon on the ‘Pancake Day’ variety always feels like a celebration. Whenever I get up in time to make them for the kids’ breakfast it never fails to make me feel like a proper, good Mummy – and that’s one of the best feelings there is!
A trip this week showed there are genius pancake recipes to be found in the unlikeliest of places……
As I was checking out of my hotel in Bangalore the other morning, I caught the tail end of an NDTV dispatch from the G20 Summit in London and heard the reporter signing off with a cheery, ‘Well, we can only hope the outcome of the summit won’t be as bland and disappointing as British food’.
It’s depressing enough that people still believe we specialise in taste-free cooking, but the commentary hit me particularly hard as I was in town at the beginning of a quest to track down what I believe is the rich culinary legacy of Britain’s long and eventful stay in India.
To most people, Bangalore is the epicentre of flat-earth economics but I was in town to meet Bridget Kumar, leading chronicler of all things Anglo-Indian. By the time I arrived at her home, with the Indian TV reporter’s words still ringing in my ear, I was praying that she might find it in her heart to say something polite about the food of my and some of her forefathers but secretly wondered if the whole project was doomed.
I needn’t have worried. As we munched our way through a plate of shortbread that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Scottish Highland tea-room, it became clear Bridget is a lifelong fan of British food and has the Woman’s Weekly recipe clippings to prove it. She’s also on her own mission to record what she believes is the rich food heritage of the Anglo-Indian community. Her five self-published books are crammed with recipes and anecdotes, many with a clear British pedigree, like Dak Bungalow Chicken and Mulligatawny Soup, some passed down from her Mother and Grandmother.
As a modern-day Scot in exile, I was particularly excited by the various recipes which seemed to have a clear link to our ‘Second Sons of Empire’ (the landless offspring of titled Scottish families who came to India to make their fortune in the eighteenth and nineteenth century). Bridget has inherited recipes for Plum Pudding, Porridge and, our national dish, Mince and Tatties, all of which she cooks regularly, and with relish, for her own family.
She also has a wonderful pancake recipe so it was with a new-found pride in our culinary capabilities that I rustled up Bridget’s ‘Anglo-Indian ‘Scotch’ pancakes’ for my own children when I got back to Delhi.
Anglo-Indian Apple ‘Scotch’ Pancakes
Adapted from Bridget’s book ‘Flavours of the Past’
1 cup maida (plain flour)
quarter teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 eggs beaten
half teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon ghee (butter)
1 cup milk
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1. Sift flour and baking powder. Stir in salt and sugar.
2. Add eggs, vanilla essence, ghee and milk and beat until batter is smooth. Stir in the apple
3. Smear a little ghee onto a medium-hot non-stick frying pan and put dessertspoonfuls of the apple-y mixture.
4. Cook on both sides until golden brown and serve with butter, jam or honey.
We all slurped these up for a leisurely weekend breakfast, so there’s a good chance they’ll become a permanent feature of our kitchen.
I love this recipe because although it clearly has British, probably Scottish lineage, and is recognisably the pancake of my childhood the addition of ghee makes for a thrillingly Indian variation, the extra egg makes it more substantial. The apple – Bridget also suggests banana – is one of those subtle but when you think about it, blindingly obvious, innovations which result in truly great food.