Who doesn’t like pancakes? Sweet or savoury, this simple, yet delicious dish is celebrated all over the world in one form or another. They are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner all over the globe and are also known as crêpes, potato latkes, Irish boxty, Russian blini, Welsh crempog, Indian poori, Hungarian palacsinta, and Dutch pannenkoeken.
They are no less loved in South Africa too and outlets like Harry’s Pancakes outlets in Graskop, Dullstroom, Pretoria and Cullinan, Pick-a-Pancake in Hartbeespoort or Harrie’s Pancakes in Pretoria – are hugely popular destinations for fans of pancakes. Or Fancakes as they are sometimes called!
The beauty of pancakes is that they can be filled with almost anything. For those whose penchant is for something sweet, they usually choose sugar and cinnamon or fillings that feature honey, fruit or ice cream. Others with a savoury palate prefer their pancakes filled with cheese, savoury mince, bacon, chicken or veggies.
But what a lot of people don’t realise is that the humble pancake dates back thousands of years and have been a favourite staple in many cultures’ diets. Analyses of starch grains on 30 000-year-old grinding tools suggest that Stone Age cooks were making flour out of cattails and ferns, which researchers guess was likely mixed with water and baked on a hot, possibly greased, rock. The result was a flat cake, made from batter and fried. By the time Otzi the Iceman set off on his final hike 5 300 years ago, pancakes seem to have been a common item of diet. Otzi, whose remains were discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991, provided a wealth of information about what he ate. His last meals, along with red deer and ibex, featured ground einkorn wheat and the bits of charcoal he consumed along with it suggest that it was in the form of a pancake, cooked over an open fire.
In ancient Greece and Rome, pancakes were made from wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk and called tagenias (derived from tagenon, the word for frying pan). Fifth century BC Greek poets Cratinus and Magnes wrote about pancakes in their poetry and Shakespeare mentions them in two of his famous plays (All’s Well That Ends Well; As You Like It).
Back to present day and to celebrate this perennial favourite, we asked Capsicum Culinary Studio chef Bernice Warner, from the school’s Port Elizabeth campus, to share her favourite pancake recipe. Here’s what she sent us:
Gourmet Pancakes with Brandied Berries
Ingredients for pancakes:
Cup of milk
Cup of water
5ml vanilla essence
5ml lemon juice
Grated lemon zest of 1 lemon
60ml vegetable oil
375ml cake flour
10ml baking powder
Mix together the eggs, milk, water, lemon juice, lemon zest, oil and vanilla essence.
Sieve all the dry ingredients and blend with the wet mixture in a mixing bowl with a whisk until a smooth thick batter is achieved. You may want to adjust the consistency slightly if it looks too thick with a little water.
Fry off your pancakes pouring a ladle full of batter at a time into a non-stick frying pan. The pancakes should be golden brown on each side. Stack the pancakes and allow to cool.
Pastry cream filling
4 egg yolks
150 g castor sugar
70g cake or pastry flour
500ml full cream milk
5ml vanilla essence
Cream the egg yolk, sugar and flour together till smooth.
Heat the milk in a saucepan to a simmer, now temper by adding a steady stream of the heated milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly until combined.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat until thick and the flour has been cooked out. Allow filling to cool before spreading onto your made pancakes.
250g mixed frozen berries
45ml castor sugar
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and allow the mixture to thicken slightly.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool before serving with the rolled and sliced pancake.
Place a sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface large enough to form a rectangle. Place the cooled pancakes down, slightly overlapping on the sides to form a rectangle.
Spread a thin layer of the pastry cream filling over the pancakes.
Roll up the pancakes making use of the plastic wrap to form a cylinder. Once rolled, wrap it tightly with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle castor sugar on top of the roulade and brûlée with a blow torch before cutting it into 2cm thick slices.
Serve two slices per person with a heaped tablespoon of the brandied berries.
To watch Chef Warner in action go to: