Savoury or sweet? Flipped or tossed? We put the hard questions to food blogger and linguist Maxine Ali this Pancake Day (Tuesday 13 Feb)…
When it comes to food, blogger Maxine Ali believes in embracing what you love. Luckily for us, that includes decadent desserts and breakfasts. And that makes Pancake Day a great day to get cooking…
Also known as Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day marks the day before Lent, and was traditionally seen as a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, sugar and milk before 40 days of fasting. While many of us have now ditched the fast, we’re yet to shake the delicious maple-syrup-drenched precursor. Maxine shares her tips for celebration…
London-based journalist, writer and linguist, Maxine Ali, began blogging about health and nutrition back in 2014. But you won’t find ‘clean eats’, ‘guilty pleasures’ or ‘cheat meals’ on her blog – even when it comes to posts about pancakes.
“I’m really, really interested in writing, and I think food in particular holds so many stories,” she explains, “It’s got such a personality to it. You can tell so much about someone’s heritage, personality, habits and identity by the food they enjoy or prepare.
“What I’m doing right now, in terms of taking a less clinical, more personal approach to food, is all about celebrating diversity. The idea of embracing food and not shying away from putting your own twist on it rather than trying to pull back and restrict is something people really seem to be looking for at the moment.
“I’m interested in using language to foster the idea that doing the things that bring you joy, that nourish your body and feed your soul without stress or anxiety is what truly allows you to live well.”
So how does Maxine recommend finding your joy this Pancake Day?
1. Try a new recipe or a fresh twist
While Maxine’s made plenty of pancakes in her time, she says she seldom uses the same recipe twice. Instead she scours Pinterest for recipe inspiration and enjoys getting creative with her toppings.
“My favourite thing about pancakes is they’re so diverse that you can put pretty much anything that you have in your cupboard on them,” she says, “I have to say right now I’m obsessed with Nutella, which is a little bit basic, but delicious.”
Another tasty option involves incorporating fruit and other goodies into the batter itself. Maxine’s recipe for orange, honey and ginger pancakes with a blackberry compote is a sure to hit the spot, as will this recipe for sticky toffee flavoured delights.
2. Call on websites and apps for inspiration
Maxine’s favourite source of inspiration is Pinterest. As a visual person, she says it enables her to see not only the food, but its story.
“I’ve got a board for pretty much everything. I have such a visual approach to food,” Maxine says. “I love being able to capture the context as well as the flavours. With Pinterest, you’re able to imagine how you might eat something – at a dinner party with friends, curled up on the sofa. It’s great for capturing the whole story.”
While Pinterest is an excellent app for finding food inspiration, there are plenty more available to help you in your quest for the perfect pancake – including favourites like Epicurious, Yummly and Kitchen Stories.
3. Know when to flip (and other technical tricks)
While pancakes are pretty simple, there are a few tricks to master. Unsure if your pan is hot enough? Maxine recommends the water test.
“Most recipes require a medium hot pan. If you can hear water sizzle when you flick a small amount across the surface, you’re ready to pour in your batter,” she says.
Other simple mistakes include mixing too much, neglecting to re-grease your pan between pancakes, and flipping your pancakes too early. And when it comes to flipping? Maxine says wait until bubbles form on the top and the edges are firm, then flip and cook on the other side for another 45 seconds to a minute.
4. Make it a celebration
Pancake Day is a great excuse to get together with family and friends. You could even ask your guests to bring their favourite topping to share in the spirit of diversity and celebration.
“This year I’ll be with family and no doubt we’ll be failing at flipping some pancakes,” Maxine says, “We’ll probably have a big counter with all the different toppings and put everything on. It will certainly be a celebration.”
5. Don’t throw away your first pancake
Remember, trial and error is all part of the process.
“I know most people say the first pancake is the one you throw away, but that’s the most fun,” Maxine says, “Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it.”
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