Pancake Tuesday!

I’ve been home for more than a week now, and I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by. This time next week, I’ll be getting ready to head back to London, eep.

Being in UK for the last 7 years has meant I’ve forgotten about how busy it gets during Chinese New Year. It’s been rather hectic over the last few days, with all the home visits and family gatherings – but rest assured that this has not stopped me from taking lots of photos! And for once I think I may just have more photos of people than I do of food in my camera. It’s been great fun though, and things should get slightly less busy now as it usually does around the 3rd day of Chinese New Year (for those of you who don’t know, we Chinese go all out, and the celebration lasts for a full 15 days).

Although I’ve been surrounded by lots of red & gold decorations, as well as lots of Chinese/Malaysian food, I didn’t want to miss the chance to post something on Pancake Day (even though it’s not in line with my plan to have Chinese New Year related posts). I’m a massive fan of pancakes, and try to make them whenever I can. I still remember the first time I made pancakes – they were upsettingly thin and dare I even say.. not fluffy in the very least! But practice always helps, and after many many experiments, I have found my favourite pancake recipe: none other than the lovely Bill Granger’s ricotta hotcakes.

I have previously blogged about these little babies, but as it IS my favourite pancake recipe, I hope that you will forgive me for blogging about the same thing. What I can say is that I now am able to make them fluffier than I could previously – I used to flatten the pancakes with my spatula as I thought this would make it brown more evenly, but I then realised that this meant my pancakes would flatten out and be less ‘fluffy’. So the best way to do this is definitely to just pour the batter onto the pan, and resist the urge to mess around with it! πŸ˜›

Bill’s original recipe calls for these hotcakes/pancakes to be served with bananas and honeycomb butter, but as I have never been one for following recipes to the T, I’ve always served it with the fruits I have on hand. I previously served them with a mix of summer berries (which I buy frozen from Waitrose – they come in really handy I must say!), and this time, I went for blueberries instead. And of course, lots and lots of maple syrup.

You can find the recipe for these lovely ricotta hotcakes here. A special mention goes out to the lovely Mowie, who introduced me to these in the first place – for which I am very thankful!

I hope you do try these, even if it’s not today. I promise it’ll be worth it. (And if ricotta pancakes are not your thing, maybe you’ll prefer these chocolate chip pancakes.)

Happy Pancake Day, everyone!

Upper Street @ Angel, Islington

First of all, I must sincerely apologise for the shocking lack of posts in the last two weeks. Planning R’s birthday present, meal and cake definitely took my (very) fickle mind a long time, but I was quite happy with how it all turned out. Will post about it sometime in the near future – I have a shocking backlog of posts like you would not believe. Eeep! This is precisely why I respect bloggers like Lorraine, she’s amazing and manages to find time to blog everyday – no easy feat, let me tell you.

But yes, let me stop rambling and introduce you to the yumminess of Upper Street. Now, I have to admit that I had never, ever eaten anywhere in Angel before this year. Shocking really, considering it’s actually not too far from where I’ve lived for.. well. Only five years. πŸ˜› A friend who lived in the Highbury & Islington area was completely appalled by this, and thanks to her, I discovered some really interesting restaurants/cafes.

Fig & Olive is a pretty restaurant located halfway along Upper Street, which serves what they describe as “Modern European” cuisine. I’m a complete sucker for good decor, and Fig & Olive ticks all my boxes. Just look at those cool lamps!

[Please be forewarned that I could be making up the names of the following dishes as this meal took place quite a while ago.]

First up is the crabcake served on a bed of creamed spinach and mayo. I know crabcakes seem a tad boring, but this one was seriously good. The breadcrumbed exterior is beautifully crisp, and you are greeted with gooey crab goodness when you cut through it. The spinach (or what I remember to be spinach – please correct me if I’m mistaken) was a great pairing, as it had just the right amount of salt to complement the sweetness of crab meat.

The vodka flame grilled calamari salad is seriously good, and is one of my favourite ways to eat calamari. The salad itself is nothing special, but it’s worth a try for the calamari alone. There’s just the right amount of burnt-ness in the calamari, and although the you get a mild hint of the vodka, it’s by no means overwhelming.

The duck served with a cherry sauce and sauteed potatoes was interesting, but if I remember correctly – it was a little on the salty side. R felt that there were too many potatoes served on the side, and had to leave quite a bit behind.

The slow roasted pork leg with mash looked like a ridiculously huge dish, but in reality, there wasn’t too much meat on the bone (and I actually managed to clean my plate). Again, there may have been (possibly) too much mash, but I have never been one to say no to potatoes. Another thing to note that the sauce for this dish seemed remarkably similar to the sauce of the duck dish….

Fig & Olive does serve desserts, which are displayed beautifully by the entrance of the restaurant. However, we decided to not have dessert here as I had something else in mind…. cakes from Ottolenghi! πŸ™‚ This restaurant is serves simple yet delicious food with a Mediterranean influence. Now, I have never actually eaten the food at Ottolenghi as I have always been too hungry to wait it out in the long queues for a table, but I’ve had the cakes and pastries (taken away and slowly devoured at home), and I must say that they are absolutely gorgeous.

The pastries at Ottolenghi are displayed in the most beautiful fashion, with platters of delicious looking creations sitting atop colourful stools of varying heights. I didn’t manage to get a photo of the displays, but trust me when I say you’ll find it hard to not swoon if you’re a dessert lover such as myself. But it’s not just the way they display the desserts which has me constantly raving about Ottolenghi, it’s the yummy desserts….

Raspberry mascarpone tart, topped with a berry jam/coulis. The crumbly pastry crust was just delightful, especially when paired with the sweet mascarpone filling.

Vanilla cupcake, topped with a vanilla bean frosting and some blueberries. The cupcake was light and fluffy, and I really enjoyed this. I also liked that the frosting was not overly ‘sickly’, which sometimes happens with some cupcake frostings.

Lemon semolina tart. I got this because I love polenta in cakes and muffins, and I figured that semolina would taste similar. I actually find that I prefer polenta to semolina when it comes to cakes as the texture of polenta is more evident (I hope that makes sense!). It doesn’t take anything away from this tart though, as it was very refreshing – a tad too much lemon sugar syrup over the top though.

Carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting. This was lovely – just the right amount of spices to balance out the sweetness of the carrots. I think they also used cardamom in their spice mix, which I’m not a huge fan of, so that meant the cake lost some of it’s appeal. The cream cheese frosting was awesome though.(which cream cheese frosting isn’t?) πŸ˜›

Now this is where is gets tricky. I think this was a custard tart…. but I can’t say for sure. This is what happens when you buy too many desserts. I might have also semi-erased this from my mind as this was the pastry I liked the least. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t live up to my high expectations of Ottolenghi.

And whilst I’m on the subject of Ottolenghi, here are some photos of other sweet treats I’ve had here in the past: (I try something new everytime I go there, and they have such a wide selection that it’ll be a while before I revisit these)

Passionfruit custart tart, topped with a soft meringue frosting. Just look at this tart, it’s so beautiful that it was I knew I had to try it the moment I laid my eyes on it. How I wish I could pipe that well! The crumbly tart case is baked to perfection, and the passionfruit pips add texture to the soft meringue which is already delicious.

Lemon (I think) polenta cake, topped with a lovely simple sugar icing. This was the first time I had eaten polenta in a cake, and I fell in love almost instantly. I really enjoyed the textures in the cake, and I suspect there may have been some sort of ground nuts in it as well. This is a cake I would buy each time I visit Ottolenghi (unfortunately they didn’t have any the second time I dropped by, sniff).

Hazelnut meringue, with gooey caramel on the inside. I could not resist buying one of these giant meringues as they looked sooo inviting (I seriously think I have a problem). The meringue was beautifully crisp like how all meringues should be, with a great hazelnut aftertaste. The caramel slathered on the innards of the meringue was a pleasant surprise, but one I only enjoyed for a few mouthfuls as it got seriously too sweet (i.e. it hurt my teeth) after a while. Didn’t stop me from eating up the rest of the meringue though, I just left out the caramel-y bits.

So yes. These are two of my favourite places to eat in Islington, and I hope I’ve managed to convince you that they are worth a try if you happen to be in the area. πŸ™‚ If anyone has tried the (non-sweet) food at Ottolenghi, I would be very interested to hear what you think about it.

Don’t you just love the look of the stacked meringues? So pretty.

Ottolenghi
287 Upper Street
London N1 2TZ
http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/

Fig & Olive
151 Upper Street
London N1 1RA
020 7354 2605

Bill Granger’s Ricotta Hotcakes

I only got to know of Bill Granger earlier this year, when his show began to air on UKTV Food/Good Food channel. R actually started watching the show first as I was busy stressing out over exams at the time, and told me that Bill Granger cooked the “most amazing looking scrambled eggs ever”. And when I started watching his show, I grew to really like Bill, and the simplicity of his food. The sun and beaches in his show certainly lend a helping hand as well!

But to get to the point, I knew I had to make these ricotta hotcakes when I saw them on Mowie’s blog. And I must say it’s hard to describe how I felt when I first had these ricotta hotcakes – but I can tell you it went along the lines of “mmmmmm ohmygod this is so good, I must make more tomorrow”. πŸ˜›

These hotcakes are truly one of the best pancakes/hotcakes I’ve ever had, as they are delightfully light and fluffy (even lighter than my favourite go-to pancake recipe!), with the random bits of ricotta every now and then. And when topped with maple syrup and some fruit, these make for a perfect weekend brunch.

Bill Granger’s Ricotta Hotcakes
Tweaked from Mowie’s adaptation of Bill’s recipe

  • 250g ricotta
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 eggs, seperated
  • 1 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • some butter, to cook hotcakes

1. Pour milk into mixing bowl, and add egg yolks. Mix till just combined.

2. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix.

3. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, and gently fold through batter.

4. Lastly, add ricotta and mix. (Take care to not overmix as you want to have chunky bits of ricotta to bite into later on!)

5. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, then grease lightly with butter. (I tend to use a small dollop, and then wipe the excess off with a kitchen towel so it doesn’t get overly greasy.)

6. Pour 1/2 cup of batter (per hotcake) into the pan. Cook on one side until little bubbles appear (~2 minutes), flip over, and cook on the other side for about 1 minute. (I only cook one at a time, so I keep the hotcakes warm in a low heat oven.)

7. Serve with a generous sprinkle of icing sugar, maple syrup, and fruits of your choice! (I have yet to try this with yogurt or jam, but I’m sure it’d taste just as good.)

Chocolate chip pancakes

I made these today, approximately 10 minutes after waking up. Why so soon after waking up? Well… I had a dream you see. A dream that I was eating pancakes. It was such a clear dream, and I could practically taste the chocolate chips in the pancakes in my sleep. Which is why I just had to make some for breakfast/brunch. I’m terrible, I know. πŸ˜›

I’m a huge fan of pancakes, and am always on the lookout for good pancake recipes. It took me a while (and quite a few failed attempts) to find a recipe that I liked, but I finally got there a year or so ago. I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website, and have been using it ever since, as it always produces beautiful results.

Chocolate chip pancakes
Adapted from this recipe from BBC Good Food

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • approx. 120g chocolate chips (use more if you have a sweet tooth, I usually just eyeball this)
  1. Add the lemon juice to the milk, and set aside.
  2. Mix the flour and baking powder in a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the milk and the egg, and mix with a wooden spoon. (It’s okay to have some small lumps in the batter, I find that overmixing can sometimes lead to a dry and less fluffy pancake.)
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Heat some butter in a non-stick frypan under medium heat. Drop 1/2 cup of batter into the pan, and cook for approx 2 minutes until small bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake. (I like to make one pancake at a time, but you could always make 2-3 at the same time if you have a large frypan.)
  6. Once the bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, flip it over, and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side.
  7. Stacking the pancakes are a handy way of keeping the pancakes warm. Alternatively, you can keep the pancakes warm in the oven.
  8. Serve with icing sugar or maple syrup, or with both!