Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Pancakes 2.0

One of the things that has made me think it's time to let this blog go is that I keep re-visiting old recipes. I have started to do the thing that has always panicked me in conversation with others and also in my professional writing life: I have started to repeat myself.

Good writers have a decent routine and get it out over and over again. They get out the same phrases, the same stories, the same hang-ups all the time and hope that no-one notices. Great writers, really brilliant ones, never repeat themselves. They're that fucking crazy that they have enough new things churning around in their melons to always have something new to say.

I fall somewhere between the two in that I occasionally repeat myself, but try not to. The overwhelming urge to repeat yourself comes from either having to hit a deadline and having not enough to say or from the frustration that you said this once before and it really felt like NO-ONE WAS LISTENING!! So maybe the thing to do is say it again!?

And now I find myself struggling more and more not to repeat myself - both in life, just generally, and also in the kitchen.

I started off writing this blog only really wanting to be able to make one or two kinds of dinner, a good chocolate cake and roast potatoes. But I took things waaaaay to far and now I know how to de-bone a duck and make profiteroles.

And American pancakes! Actually forget all the other stuff, it was pancakes that I wanted to be able to make. I am so unreconstructed. While the Hemsley sisters are busy torturing courgettes and Ella is being deliciously vegan or whatever she is, (too scared to find out), I just want to stuff my face with white carbs, butter and maple syrup.

Not every day, you understand! I eat fish and greens for dinner most other days (blork) but on Saturday morning we have PANCAKES. Ever since Sam has been able to amuse himself for five seconds in the mornings and I have had both hands free, we've had pancakes.

I used to fuss about with all manner of wizardry to make these fluffy pancakes - adding baking powder and bicarb of soda and sugar and god knows what to plain flour. And then I discovered that all you need to do is use bloody self-raising flour and you're away!

The benefit of this is that the kids can help. Or maybe that's really not a benefit.

So here we go, American pancakes 2.0

makes about 6

7 heaped tablespoons of self-raising flour (or as close as the kid can get to it)
1 egg
some milk, enough to make a thick batter, which is probably about 200ml
maple syrup

1 Put a frying pan or crepe pan on the hob over a low heat to warm up. Non-stick would be handy

2 Get kiddo to heave out the flour into the bowl, then you - or it - can swizzle it about with a whisk

3 make a space somewhere in the bowl and crack an egg into it. Let the kid do it if you're feeing patient

4 Pick bits of eggshell out of the bowl

5 Swizzle the egg into some of the flour until it's a sort of paste.


7 Swizzle this milk into your egg and flour, adding a bit more flour, then another sloop of milk, then more flour until you have a runny batter, not really runny, like milk, but quite runny. But not thick, thick, like cake batter. With me? Whisk briskly. You might notice some weeny lumps in the batter, don't worry about this.

8 Leave this to stand for a few minutes. Really only a few minutes, I know that children are impatient and want their PANCAKES PANCAKES PANCAKES. PANCAKES NOW MUMMY. PANCAKES PANCAKES NOW. PANCAKES NOW. PAAAAAAANCAAAAAAAAAKES. I LOVE PANCAKES. PANCAKES NOOOOOOOWWWWWW but the thing is that the batter will thicken slightly on standing and you might want to add some more milk to the mixture unless you want to get an actual CAKE in your pan.

9 Turn up the heat under the pan until it is really quite hot, but not smoking. Dollop in your mixture the best way you can see how and then wait for a few little bubbles to emerge on the top then flip them. This always goes wrong for me, so I can't see how it can go that right for you, but don't worry, the kids won't care.

10 Now butter the topside of the pancakes while they are still in the pan and cook the bottom for a bit. Not long, maybe 2 minutes if you want to put a timer on.

11 Put on a plate and drizzle with maple syrup. Do not let kiddo help with this part.

By the way I have just made the most amazing discovery which is that when you want to pinch a big green thing of snot out of your kid's nose and don't have a tissue what you do is wipe it on THEIR clothes, not yours! You're welcome.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Buffalo wings for the boyz

I'm going to try hard in the next few years not to become the Woman Who Has Forgotten.

It's already starting to go, to fade - you know... the horror.

I remember the nightmare of two children under 3, in that it was awful, I hated my life every day for weeks on end. But I'm starting to forget why. I remember screeching, the frustration of having to be in two places at once, of doing two completely different things at once, or someone would start crying. The constant bending and wiping. Was that it? Was that what was so bad?

I took a selfie about eight months ago of me sitting in my kitchen looking out of the window because it was the first time since Sam was born that I was just sitting, having a moment to myself, while the kids pottered about. Up until then every moment that both my children were awake, I was on call. I wanted to remember that moment, to remind myself never to take my free time for granted again. I wanted to remember not to forget.

Here it is:

It's not like now I'm just lazing about having my nails done, but I'm freer and lighter. Yesterday I took Kitty and Sam up the road for an ice cream and back and we left the buggy behind. Watershed moment.

But I never want to be that woman, who has forgotten. Who blithely asks friends with small children if they'd like to come round for lunch "Oh the baby can nap upstairs?" I might say airily. No! Never. Least. Relaxing. Thing. Ever. Or offer things like a long walk to someone with a toddler. Or lunch in a pub. Or a complicated trip to some sort of safari park. You must never forget what it's like. I must never forget what it's like.

My mission, in the next few years, as day-to-day life gets easier, while my childrens' emotional and intellectual needs and demands become more complicated, is to attend to those evolving needs, while also Never Forgetting.

There's something else on my mind that you need to know. And that is that it might be time soon to put Recipe Rifle away. Not delete it or anything, but, you know, move on. Write a very last post, say goodbye. Draw a line.

The project is sort of over. The original aim of this blog, to teach myself how to cook, has been accomplished. I am now as good a cook as I ever set out to be, as I could ever functionally need to be. The secondary subject of this blog about having small children, is now fading as they start to get on with their own lives. I know many excellent writers who write about their older children, the hilarious and mad things they say, the challenges of primary school and so on. But I don't think that's for me.

I was traumatised by my children when they were very small - and doubly traumatised when they were both really small, at the same time. It produced huge questions to which I sought the answers from other people, and from inside my own head.

But life now is so prosaic, we just bumble along. And I've completely let go. I don't twist myself up in knots about anything much these days, despite Kitty being a bit of a lunatic and Sam having genuinely the most frighteningly bad diet of any child I know. We can do the things we can do and we can't do the things we can't do. And soon we'll be able to do whatever we want.

It's not that I've answered all the questions, it's that I know now for certain that there aren't any answers.

It's not quite time to say goodbye, though. There's a bit more left to say. But I want to prepare you for the fact that one day, soon, it will be time to go.

In other news about not forgetting to remember, I had some old friends from university round for dinner the other night. And I remembered that I did actually have some friends at university, though I will swear blind that I didn't know a soul and never left my room and had to sleep on the streets because no-one would share a house with me.

But there they were, Tom and Chris and Will, larger than life, on my doorstep. We sat in my kitchen and talked about university and then Tom and I talked about our kids until Will and Chris, who don't have kids, were practically passing out with boredom. Then they all left.

So, Q: do you give boys who come round for dinner? A: beer, wings and ribs.

I came across the most fantastic buffalo wings recipe the other day from a very ambitious book called What Katie Ate At the Weekend, by the very ambitious and super-smiley Australian food blogger princess Katie Quinn Davies.

If you make the sauce, (which you dribble over the wings before serving), for these in advance they are a total pisstake of an easy thing to do for dinner. After a lot of consultation with my butcher, Hot Sam (in order to differentiate him from Baby Sam - but also because he is Hot), we decided that six wings per boy would be enough with a large salad and some ribs on the side. If you don't want to have ribs on the side for fear of meat sweats, then you could have small baked potatoes instead.

The sauce is a very strong, spicy, vinegary thing, which I absolutely love and, (and I don't mean to be sexist here), boys LOVE. But it's not subtle.

Anyway so here we go - I have changed some things about this so as usual this is not Quinn Davies' exact recipe but it's very close

For the wings

12 chicken wings
1 tbs plain flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp garlic granules

For the buffalo sauce

250ml white vinegar
2 tbsp honey
11/2 tbsp hot sauce (I used Encona's hot pepper sauce - do not use tabasco)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp butter

Please do not be put off by the list of ingredients. This makes a lot of sauce and whatever you don't eat the first time can be frozen and used another time. It's worth it, I promise.

1 Preheat oven to 200C (fan 180C) and grease a couple of baking trays (you may only need one depending on how big your trays are.

2 Cut the wings in half at the joint and discard the tips. This isn't a very nice job.

3 Put the flour, cayenne pepper, paprika and garlic granules into a bag with no holes in it and give it a shake to mix it up. Then put the wings in and shake all over to coat.

4 Spread the chicken wings out among your baking trays and bake for 30 mins. Then turn them over and cook for another 30 mins. This seems like a long time but it's fine.


1 Put the vinegar, honey, hot sauce, paprika, garlic granules and 125ml water in a saucepan. Bring this to the boil then simmer for 10-15 mins.

2 In a small cup or egg cup mix the cornflour with 1 tablespoon of water until smooth. Whisk this into the sauce, then simmer it, whisking all the time, for a few minutes until thick.

3 Stir in the lemon juice then reduce the heat and cook for another 2 mins.

4 Take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter to make the sauce nice and glossy

I put these in a large bowl lined with Bacofoil, which is more malleable and user-friendly for this sort of caper than greaseproof paper.

Some celery sticks would be nice with this, too.

Eat, while chatting to your friends about the past and thinking about your future.