NO-MESSING PANCAKES

breakfast, Desserts, Kids favourites

Ah, the humble breakfast pancake. Incredibly simple, yet incredibly delicious.

START WITH THE DRY STUFF

Add 100 grams (3/4 of a cup) of plain flour to a bowl & add 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder.

THEN ADD THE WET STUFF

Pour in 150 millilitres of milk, a little melted butter & a splodge of honey (or sugar). Whisk to a smooth batter. If you are feeling adventurous, try adding a handful of raisins or sultanas into the mix.

NOW COOK IN A MEDIUM-HOT FRYING PAN

Add a smidge of butter to the pan & swirl it around in the pan to coat the cooking surface. Add a dollop of batter (about a tablespoon size) to the pan & if you have space keep adding dollops, but allow plenty of space in-between (unless you just want one, big pancake that is). After a minute or so, watch for the little air bubbles to emerge on the surface of the pancake & then flip them over. A minute later, flip them back again – if they are a beautiful golden brown colour on both sides, they are done. Personally, I tend to leave them in a bit longer as I like mine a tad crispy.

ADD ACCOMPANIMENTS

And when it comes to what to add to your pancakes, you can’t go far wrong with bacon & maple syrup, although other options many include; chocolate spread, lemon juice & honey, sliced bananas, jam or just plain sugar.

(When it comes to bacon (or meat in general), don’t go for the cheap stuff – it really is an insult to the animal that died to make it. Aim for the best quality stuff. I often aim for food with a Royal recommendation – if it’s good enough for Her Majesty, then it’s good enough for the likes of me & my team.)

A cast-iron skillet containing a stack of breakfast pancakes, delicious crispy bacon, drizzled with sticky, maple syrup.
Young dawdler, tucking into campfire breakfast pancakes & bacon

MARVELLOUS MINESTRONE

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Throughout the world there are certain dishes that utilise left-overs from one meal to make a completely different one. In the UK we use mashed potato & veggies to make Bubble & Squeak, in China, they add odds & ends to fried rice & in Italy, they make minestrone soup.

Possibly as old as the hills, Minestrone soup is an ideal one-pot soup to make in the hills. This is my interpretation of the Italian classic.

Start with a Soffritto

The soffritto (aromatic) stage is not about searing, browning or burning, it is about slowly releasing delicious flavours from aromatic ingredients – so don’t be hasty. Begin by chopping the onion, carrot & celery into roughly 1centimetre cubes & slowly sweating them off* in a pan with a tablespoon of oil, over a low to medium heat. If the veg starts to turn brown it is too hot – take the pan off the heat for a moment, or add a dash of wine to cool the pan. Once the vegetables are softened & the onions translucent, add finely chopped garlic & not-so-finely chopped tomato, along with whatever herbs take your fancy (just don’t over do it). Sweat-off for a further few minutes &…

*Sweating-off simply means to heat something up until the moisture starts to ooze.

then add a little protein

Many folks like to add beans as the protein source, but I personally like to add left-over cooked chicken, bacon or Italian sausage (or all three if I’m feeling extravagant). Mix the proteins around with the aromatics & then deglaze the pan with a slosh of dry white wine (if you have some), ensuring you loosen any fats & juices that are congealing on the base of the pan. Then…

pour in some stock

If you live in a perfect world, now is the time to add some freshly made stock, lovingly made from veal, pork or chicken bones, that have been simmering away for a few hours. Or, you could just add some water & a stock cube. Stir around &..

chuck in some carbohydrates

A minestrone wouldn’t be minestrone without pasta, but don’t over do it. Drop in one small handful of dry pasta per person to the pot & after 5 minutes simmering…

maybe add a clip of tender vegetables

Green, leafy veg doesn’t take long to cook & will rapidly disintegrate if over cooked. At this stage I like to add a floret or two of broccoli, mushrooms, kale, or kalettes if they are in season. Simmer once again for a further 5 minutes or so…

and then taste & season, taste & season

When the pasta is near enough cooked to your liking, it is now time to taste the soup. When it comes to seasoning with salt & pepper, add a little at a time – remember once it’s in, it’s in. Also, tomato dishes also have a tendency to be quite acidic, which can be offset by adding something like honey or sugar. (If you are feeling a tad Cordon Bleu, look-up how to make a ‘Gastrique’ to improve the taste of a tomato dish).

don’t forget the flourishes

Now that your soup is cooked to perfection, add-on a few add-ons if you fancy. Grated parmesan, chopped parsley, crispy onions, caramelised pancetta – the choice is yours. For me, a chap of simple rustic tastes, I am quite partial to a few finely chopped chilis & some pan-fried herby croutons, but hey, the world, as they say, is your minestrone…

INGREDIENTS FOR ONE

  • 1 small onion (or 2 shallots)
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small stick of celery
  • A clove or two of garlic
  • Oil (Olive oil, vegetable oil or butter)
  • Herbs of choice: Oregano, thyme, sage
  • 1 large tomato (or a few small ones)
  • Protein of choice
  • A glug of dry white wine
  • A pint of stock
  • A handful of pasta
  • A clip of tender veg
  • Salt & pepper
  • Flourishes

Brewing Up

Kids favourites

Tea – the undisputed conversation catalyst of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. For us Brits, there is nothing quite like enjoying a lovely cuppa with friends to promote camaraderie & friendship. It is also just happens to be a great way to start the day.

Although it has been around in China for a few thousand years, tea is a relative newbie to this country, being allegedly introduced to British society by Catherine, the Portuguese wife of King Charles the Second, circa 1680 something. The process of adding milk to tea was implemented just a little while later, in an effort to stop the fragile china cups from China, cracking with the heat from boiling water. Our adoration of the hot coloured liquid continued, prompting heavy taxation (what a surprise). Smuggling & adulteration of the product ensued with unscrupulous dealers cutting the brew with tea-looking substitutes, such as dried garden leaves & even, sheep dung (“Excuse me Sir, my tea tastes like s**t”). This was stopped by William Pitt the Younger in 1784 when he slashed the tea taxation. Hurrah for Bill.

During the First World War, the British Government recognised the morale boosting importance of tea, not only to the boys in the trenches, but also to the members of the public & took control of its importation to prevent price over-inflation. Similarly, the government controlled the flow once again, during & after the Second World War, finally letting go, at the end of rationing, in 1952.

As we march forward to modern times, ‘getting a brew on’ is still an absolute necessity for most Brits, especially those taking part in military shenanigans. Each squaddie carries within their personal equipment, a ‘brew kit’, which typically comprises of a lightweight stove, a metal receptacle & a variety of ingredients. For those who are vehicle based though, then it is common to find what was known as a ‘brew-box’, ‘morale box’ or a ‘little box of joy’. This is usually an old metal ammunition box, which contains a more robust brew-kit, complete with a frying pan for cooking ‘egg banjos’, as well as other essential items, such as biscuits, chocolate bars, comfy-bum (soft toilet paper), an assortment of ‘artistic’ magazines & possibly, even a bottle or two of beer.

I may have dropped the uniform & the two sugars many years ago, I still carry on the good practice of brewing up when I am out in the field. In my possession I have some of what I consider, the best bits of brew making kit, known to man. The first is the MSR ‘Pocket Rocket’ stove, the second is their titanium kettle & the third is a wood burning Bushbuddy (BB) stove. There are times when there is a need to have something hot & wet as fast as possible, favouring the instant ferocious heat of the MSR. But when I am out on my slow-travels, in true dawdler fashion, I don’t need much of an excuse to stop & fire up the BB – although, the process involved to light & actually make a brew, can sometimes be comparable in time to a full-blown Japanese tea ceremony, but hey, who cares about time, right kids?

For car travels, the MSR, kettle & BB all take their place in the family brew-box, that lives in the car boot. This green, wooden box (actually made by my old dad), contains all the necessary items required for a makeshift family meal at the side of the road. As well as pans & a variety of cutlery & plates, it contains essentials such as penknives, clothes pegs, string, playing cards, duck tape (‘black nasty’ as it is known in the army), sachets of porridge & hot chocolate powder, as well as metal skewers to toast marshmallows over the embers in the BB. My children still talk about the day when Daddy parked up for a spot of lunch in a wooded lay-by near Durdle Dor in Dorset, only to discover it was right next to Bovington tank range. No sooner than we had the sausages sizzling in the pan, then the tanks started firing from the other side of the copse, making the ground shake with every boom. It was also the day when the children learnt a new ‘adult’ word from Daddy – “What the f**k was that??