Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Lightest Breakfast Pancakes

My favourite breakfast is probably pancakes. I adore them, drenched, nay, swimming in maple syrup with crispy bacon, fresh fruit and a good dollop of thick Greek yogurt all on the plate at once. So many tastes, so many textures, all at once, yet it works!

I have had a problem though: my pancakes never came out as dreamily light and fluffy as I needed them to be if I was to reach breakfast nirvana. The solution came to me outside the underground station one day though, and so I pass it along: whisk the egg whites. I don't know if this is an original idea, but it has never been an element in any of the recipes I have ever seen. Admittedly, it is an extra step which may seem like a chore on a Sunday morning, but trust me, it's worth it. And it's not like you're making meringues and the consistency is crucial - we're just trying to add a little extra oomph and whoosh of air.

So, to the recipe. I give spoon measurements as I don't weigh anything out when making pancakes. This is supposed to be a nice, relaxing Sunday morning potter in the kitchen, after all. I refuse the tyranny of the scales on these occasions.

  • 2 eggs, carefully separated
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 pint milk
  • 5-6 tablespoons self-raising flour
  • vegetable oil for frying

  • Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and milk, then fold in the flour and salt. Leave to stand for 20 minutes (you can be preparing the fruit during this hiatus, or just drinking a cup of tea).

    Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat a tablespoon into the milk and flour mixture any old how (to lighten it slightly), then fold in the rest more carefully. The mixture needs to be thick enough that when you pour it into the frying pan it doesn't spread out to the thinness of a crepe - it should be more like custard than cream - so add the extra spoonful of flour if you think this is not the case.

    Heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan. When you think it is hot enough, pour or ladle in enough batter to make a puddle about 3 millimetres thick and 10 centimetres in diameter. If the pan is at the right temperature it will sizzle and start to set immediately on contact. (Since there is no scientific way of knowing whether this point has been reached without testing it, expect to have to guzzle the first pancake yourself without letting anyone else see it is a bit soggy/scorched.) When the pancake looks like it has almost set on top, about 1 -1 1/2 minutes, lift the edge and see how well done the underside is. Once it is golden, flip the pancake over and cook for a further minute. Once cooked through, place on a kichen towel lined plate in a warm oven whilst you cook the rest.

    Serve with syrup, bacon, fresh fruit (mangoes, raspberries and strawberries are all fabulous) and Greek yogurt. Yum!

    Chicken and Stilton Roulades

    This is what I made for my first ever "dinner party": chicken breasts stuffed with stilton, wrapped in bacon and baked. I was about 9 and my sister, 11. We pored over my mother's cookery books for ages before coming up with our menu. If I remember correctly, we started with prawn cocktail, then had these with duchess potatoes and some sort of vegetables, followed by chocolate mousse. The guests were my parents and an older couple who, though childless themselves, liked children very much and would not have been terribly upset if the dinner to which they were invited had not gone entirely as planned...

    I believe the book this came from has now been discarded (criminal!) but was called The Dairy Cookbook. (If you search for that on Amazon, most of the titles it comes up with are for dairy-free diets - I guess times have changed.) First time round, I cooked this without booze, using chicken stock instead: if you don't want to open a bottle, though Heaven knows why not, just grab the bouillion powder.

  • 2 chicken breasts, skinned and boned
  • 8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
  • 70g (ish) mature blue stilton
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon butter (approx. 25g)
  • 200ml white wine
  • 100ml water
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced finely
  • 1-2 teaspoons flour
  • black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 180°C.

    Tear off a square of cling film and lay it on the counter. Place a chicken breast on one side of the film and fold the other side over on top of it. Pummel with a rolling pin or other heavy object (I have used tins of chopped tomatoes and even a butternut squash for this in the past) until the chicken is a bit less than a centimeter thick all over, trying not to tear the meat anywhere. Repeat with the other breast.

    In a small bowl, mash the stilton with 1 tablespoon of the butter until well combined. Unwrap the chicken and spoon half of the cheese mix into the middle of each. Wrap the meat around the filling by drawing up two sides and then folding in the ends. Try to get it so that all of the filling is completely encased. Around each chicken parcel, wind 3 or 4 rashers of the bacon. If you are scared that the roulades are a little lopsided, or are likely to fall apart when cooked, use a few wooden cocktail sticks to secure them.

    Scatter the finely sliced onion over the bottom of a medium casserole and place the roulades on top. Pour over the wine and water then put a little knob of butter on top of each parcel. Grind over a spinkling of black pepper. Place the lid on the casserole and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes start checking, and when you do so, baste the meat with some of the pan juices to prevent the top drying out.

    When the chicken is cooked though (the easiest way to check is to stab one with a small, sharp knife and look to see if the meat is white throughout), remove from the oven. Lift the parcels out and put on a plate and cover with foil to keep them hot whilst you make the sauce. To do this, sprinkle the flour into the casserole dish and whisk over a high heat until thickened.

    To serve, place a roulade on a plate and pour over a little of the sauce. It should be sitting in a little pool, but the plate should not be flooded. Any leftover sauce can be put on the table in a small jug. These are quite substantial, so I usually omit potatoes or any kind of pure starch and opt instead for a root vegetable of some description (carrot and swede mash is a good match, the sweetness complementing the salty richness of the roulades) and a green number (say green beans or mangetout).

    Saturday, June 2, 2007

    Blueberry and Almond Muffins

    If you want a tasty weekend breakfast, but also need to get moving and do stuff in the morning (such as take your flatmate's dog out for a long walk to make up for short-changing him all week whilst she was away), muffins are my suggestion. They're easy to make (it's important not to stir the mixture for too long), quick to cook, and you can stick a couple in your handbag for later if you manage not to eat them all in one go.

    Since this is my first recipe posting, it seems appropriate to start with a classic, hence, blueberry muffins. However, plain old blueberry muffins are a bit, well, plain. So we're going for blueberry and almond muffins.

  • 75g unsalted butter, plus a little for greasing the tins
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon each baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g light muscovado sugar
  • 200ml milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 egg
  • Approx. 150g (i.e. 1 small punnet) blueberries

  • Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tray*. Preheat the oven to 190°C, placing a shelf in the middle.

    Melt the butter in the microwave. Meanwhile, measure all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and give them a stir. Break up any lumps of the muscovado sugar with your fingers or a fork. Beat the egg and almond essence into the measured out milk, then pour this over the dry ingredients, stirring with a fork. When all the milk and egg is in the bowl, add the butter, still mixing with the fork. Stop mixing as soon as the butter is incorporated - don't worry that it doesn't look perfectly smooth or aerated, it shouldn't be. Check that all bits of stalk and leaves are removed from the berries, then fold them into the batter.

    Dollop the mixture into the tin, trying to distributed it evenly between the 12 holes. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until golden on top and cooked within (check by poking one with a cake-tester (, a skewer, a cocktail stick or even a piece of spaghetti - it will come out free of batter if they're done).

    Let them cool for 5 minutes in the tray, and then remove to a wire rack and eat as soon as temperature allows.

    Then go and walk the dog.

    *I have a non-stick muffin tray, and find that nothing sticks to this. If, however, I use paper liners, half the muffin stays attached to the paper when I try to peel it off, which is deeply irritating. By all means use paper liners if you are not confident of successful release from the tin without them.


    Welcome to Eleanor Eats! Eleanor loves food and drink, and indulges in both as often as possible. She likes to talk about it, shop, read and think about it too. Now we are going to try and write about it. Stop by from time to time for recipes, reviews and general chit-chat!

    Bon appetit!