This wasn’t what I’d been expecting them to ask. The truth was: we hadn’t eaten breakfast at all that morning because I was in trouble at school and my mother was mad at me, but I was too embarrassed to say that.
“You don’t remember?”
“Pancakes,” I burst out desperately.
“Oh yeah?” Ray looked at me shrewdly. “Your mother make them?”
“What’d she put in them? Blueberries, chocolate chips?”
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch has been on my shelf for a couple of months now, but I've not been able to face the thought of adding this weighty tome to my daily commute (even in paperback form). Thankfully, a recent trip to catch some of the last of the summer in Marrakech provided me with the perfect opportunity - to eat good food, wander the souks and plunge into The Goldfinch while enjoying the sun on our rooftop.
Leaving our rooftop was tricky...
I devoured the book in a matter of days; it's completely gripping. It's also, happily for me (and for this blog) littered with references to food. It follows protagonist Theo from the age of thirteen, when a visit to the Met with his mother sets an extraordinary series of events in motion. It might have been a very different story had he actually stayed at home and enjoyed the pancakes he imagines in the scene above.
These pancakes scream "all American mum/dad" - they're light, fluffy, loaded with fruit and chocolate and perfect vessels for an excess of maple syrup. They're a real special occasion breakfast; I certainly couldn't handle them every Sunday, which means they don't nudge crêpes (which I could eat daily) from the top of my sweet breakfast list. However, despite them not being a part of my childhood, they do manage to impart a strong sense of nostalgia. Perhaps it's the years of imagining a big plate of them in front of me, inspired by countless diner scenes in American films.
Embrace the American vibe these pancakes suggest. Serve these with a bottomless mug of coffee and have a large bottle of maple syrup within arm's reach.
ps. This is the beginning of a Goldfinch-inspired weekend - come back tomorrow for another recipe from Theo's life.
Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Makes about 8
40g butter (+ extra for greasing the pan)
230g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bi-carbonate of soda
100g chocolate chips
Large mixing jug (or bowl)
Second smaller bowl
Heavy-bottomed frying pan
1. Heat your oven to its lowest possible setting - around 60C - to keep the pancakes hot as you finish the batch. Melt the butter and set aside to cool a little.
2. Sieve the flour, baking powder, bi-carb and salt into a large mixing bowl (or jug) and whisk the ingredients together.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, milk, melted butter and egg. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk all ingredients together to just combine. It's easy to over mix, so as soon as there are no large dry lumps in your batter, stop whisking. Fold in the blueberries and the chocolate chips.
4. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat, and add a small pat of butter to the pan. Once the butter is foaming slightly, ladle spoonfuls of the batter into the pan until 12cm pancakes form. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes until bubbles have formed over the whole surface, then flip the pancake and cook until the underside is golden (less than a minute). Transfer to a baking sheet in the oven, until the batch is complete.
5. Share out and eat at once - pancakes are not nearly as good reheated the next day. If you do fancy a batch, but are not serving guests/flatmates/other family members as well, the uncooked batter will keep for a day in the fridge. It won't rise as well, as the bi-carb will have expired, but it's worth keeping for a second pancake round!