Sometimes, on winter evenings, my granny would make drop scones for tea.
Granny's work for most of her life was her kitchen and her garden; acutely dyslexic the only job she'd ever had was a very brief spell as a semi-spy for MI6 during the war. She was tasked with highlighting suspicious characters, and promptly marched out of the office when she spotted most of her relatives on the list (she never told me this, the postman did, after she'd died. A one-time Headmaster and full-time romantic, he lived in gentle awe of her, and they would gossip through the glass when she went to get her pension. 'What a woman, your grandmother,' he'd say, with a little sigh. He'd look out into the distance dreamily through his glass window, before remembering himself and sticking a stamp onto my letter).
She’d mix a simple batter in seconds, yellow with the eggs from her hens, blob it onto the Aga hob, flipping each disc with her beloved small spatula with the melted handle and then tucking them up inside a clean tea towel to keep them warm. She’d bring the bundle to the table and we’d open it, inhaling the sweet steam and lifting the little limp brown-and-yellow pancakes out and onto our plates. We’d eat them spread with salted butter – greasy in the heat – and her homemade alpine strawberry jam, 8 or 9 in a sitting.
The kitchen was as hot as hell, outside a howling gale, and my grandmother the usual mixture of warmth, whimsy and wrath. We’d play a memory game used to train spies where she put dozens of small objects on a tray, hid them under a tea towel, and then revealed them to us for 20 seconds before covering them again with great mock hurry. She would then remove one, and we had to spot which it was. She’d be over by the sink, her back to us, halo of mad hair aglow, fiddling with the tray to remove and stuff into her apron pocket a pencil, a pin, a post-it.
NO LOOKING NOW!
Over a thousand miles away, on a windy Sunday morning in February; a small, sweet, floppy disc of English childhood sits on our Sardinian plates. He lights the fire and I tell him my Scotch Pancake memory.
‘Yes, you English are so good at enjoying winter, with your board games and your buttery foods' he says. ‘Here winter is just something we endure’.
Board Games and Buttery Foods could be the title of her memoir.
Dropped Scones, or Scotch Pancakes, literally ‘dropped’ or dolloped onto a griddle or pan, are some of the easiest things to make, and make the best weekend breakfast or tea. Children adore them. These in particular are enriched and made delicious (and fluffy) by the addition of ricotta, meaning that they have wonderfully moist, custardy insides. I like to add lots of citrus zest too, making them firmly Italian, zesty and fresh. Blood orange season is in full swing, so this is what we ate them with.
This recipe does involve separating eggs, but it is worth it for the soufflé effect of the finished pancakes. Even the batter has the most wonderful, voluminous and foamy texture.
Serves 2-3, Makes around 9
2 eggs, separated
100g plain flour
finely grated zest of 1 large blood orange or 2 small
2 tbsp honey
1 packet of lievito or 2 tsp baking powder
good pinch of salt
110 ml whole milk
honey, to drizzle
extra ricotta if you like, or yoghurt
blood oranges cut into pinwheels
Whisk the eggs yolks with the ricotta in a bowl until smooth.
Add the flour and whisk well until incorporated (it will look very thick but don’t worry).
Add the baking powder, orange zest, honey, salt and milk and whisk until you have a smooth batter. It needs to be pouring consistency. If it still looks too thick add a splash or two more of milk.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. As it’s a small quantity, this is easily done by hand, and I often do, just for the perverse pleasure of it. If you prefer use an electric whisk.
Fold the whites into the batter gently, and then warm a griddle or frying pan over a medium heat. Melt some butter or drizzle a little cooking oil onto the pan.
Drop large spoonfuls (or small ladle-fulls) of batter into the pan. Watch as they bubble and then flip after a minute or two.
Once cooked on both sides serve, with blood oranges, honey and extra ricotta as you see fit. Fires and nostalgia optional.
Have also been proven popular with cats.