Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Pikelets (Τηγανίτες Νέας Ζηλανδίας)

I make these often enough, I'm surprised I haven't presented them to you before. 

One late autumn day when I wasn't at work and the weather had turned quite cold, I decided to make some of my favorite soup, leek and potato potage. As only half the family likes it very much, and another quarter likes it only a little bit (while the remaining quarter refuses to even taste it), there had to be another meal available to them, so I cooked up a boureki which I had prepared and frozen from the summer. In that way, there was something for everyone to pick from for lunch, and there would be something leftover for another meal, kind of like a 2-for-the-price-of-1 deal.

In the early evening, just before my husband took my son to basketball practice, he asked me how many souvlakia he should buy after the session, which ended at 9pm.

"None," I called out to him. "I'm making τηγανίτες." I had already prepared the pikelet batter, and would wait until just before my basketballer was due home to cook them. Pikelets are the down-under take on pancakes. They are smaller and thicker than regular pancakes. They make a tasty sweet supper with some tea or milk.

Later in the evening, I made the pikelets and put them in the oven to keep them warm. My daughter could smell their aroma wafting in the air, which worked up her appetite. She told me she was feeling hungry, and asked me to let her have her share of the pikelets a little earlier than the others. I despise it when one of the family members won't hold out for a few more minutes until another family member comes home, so that there will be at least three (not two) of us having a meal at the same time. In our house, with a great amount of conscious effort, we've managed to hold onto one of the last bastions of family life in this day and age, which is why I don't want to break this tradition; in any case, it will automatically break off once the children fly away from the family nest. It's one more way of making me feel unique in the faster-paced modern globalised world we live in.

"Hold on a few more minutes, sweetie," I said to her, "they'll be home very soon."

She went back to watching a DVD, but pretty soon, she dropped off to sleep, which made me feel even more guilty. I had to wake her up (not a nice scene at all). I invited her into the kitchen to have her pikelets, while I warmed up some soup for my own supper, just to keep her company. I brought out the tray with the condiments (jam, honey and Merenda chocolate spread), the plates and the butter knives, and laid the table to have it ready for the others' arrival. As we ate, we waited...

... and waited...

... and waited. I kept looking out the window, hoping to see the car lights come gliding up the hilly road.

"Aren't they supposed to be home by now?" my daughter asked me. "They're probably eating souvlakia, Mum." I had the same idea in my mind about my missing men; great minds think alike. "Will they bring me one too?" she asked me.

"But you've just had your supper!" I reminded her. "Surely there's no more room for anything esle  in there, is there?" I added, something I often say to remind them that eating too much has repercussions.

"If they have one, I want one too," she replied, all in the name of fairness.

We had practically finished our dinner when Dad came home with son, carrying with him the familiar plastic bag with the local souvlaki shop's logo. He must have had a craving for some umami, a feeling I can fully understand, because we all crave junkfood every now and then, especially when we over-eat healthy vegetarian meals too often. While everyone got stuck into their souvlaki, I got up to take away the pikelets and condiments, thinking that they would make a nice breakfast the next day.  

"What are you doing, Mum?" asked my son. he had other ideas for the pikelets. "That's dessert!"

Pikelets are smaller and thicker than pancakes.

"Surely you won't eat everything tonight?" I fired away my habitual question. Without the souvlakia, the pikelets would have formed the main evening meal for that night, together with a cup of warm milk.

"I think I'll manage," he said.

"And I'll eat one more pikelet after my souvlaki, just so I can have dessert, too," said my daughter, who'd already had three before the souvlakia arrived.

Growing children have growing appetites; my saucepans and pots have suddenly grown overnight.

*** *** ***

Pikelets are easy to make. They're unusual in Cretan cuisine, as this kind of sweet is usually syrup drenched and deep fried. The only trick is to ensure that the heat of your pan is at the right temperature to make sure that your pikelets cook right through as they are browned on both sides. I make my pikelets according to a standard recipe, as given, in my old copy of the iconic Edmonds Cookery Book, which is often the average Kiwi's first guide to basic Kiwi meals and food preparation.

You will know that the pikelets are ready to be turned over when you see bubbles forming on the top of the uncooked batter.

You need:
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk (approximately)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
25g melted butter (optional; I always replace this with olive oil)

Pikelets are traditionally topped with jam and cream. But neither are as popular in my house as honey and chocolate spread.

Beat the egg and sugar until thick and add with the milk to the sifted flour, salt and baking powder. Lastly add the melted butter, if using. Mix until smooth. You can let the batter rest at this point and re-mix it when you are ready to cook the pikelets. Cook in spoonfuls on a hot saucepan, turning over once, to brown on both sides.

If there are any left over in the evening, have them for breakfast the next day.

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