As a reader, a Neil Gaiman fan and a somewhat-foodie, I had to break my recent blog-fast with an unexpected delight: the real-world recipe for the lemon pancakes mentioned in Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean At The End of the Lane.
Gaiman writes modern mythology with quirk and wit and I’ve been following him since I read his fantasy epic, American Gods, a couple of years ago. Since then I’ve gobbled up as many of his works as possible (all strangely delicious and deliciously strange). When I first got the new book, I was a little disappointed. It’s so thin! I went straight to the last page and the number was less than 200! That seemed like a mere morsel compared to the extended feast I was anticipating.
Then I read it over the course of this past Saturday and found myself lost in this dark yet comforting tale of a little boy caught up in big world magic. It was a truly satisfying read and I recommend it for all readers who appreciate the fine art of story-telling.
Anyhoo, at some point of the story, our hero is fed lemon pancakes at a Surrey farm and I was charmed by the idea of pancakes with lemon squeezed on them. Lo and behold, just this morning I read an interview with Gaiman that included the recipe. So here you go, I haven’t even tried to makes these yet but I hope to soon!
Nail Gaiman’s Lemon Pancakes
Excerpted in total from Joe Hill’s interview on Omnivoracious.
JH: There’s a lot of wonderful food writing in this book. I had to put the thing down several times to rummage desperately through my fridge. Can you give us the recipe for the Hempstocks’ lemon pancakes? Please don’t let that part be make-believe.
NG: There is no make-believe in cooking. There were few things I took as much fun in cooking, when I was a boy, as pancakes. (I liked making toffee, too, because it was a little like a science experiment.)
Right. The night before you are going to make them, you mix:
1 cup of ordinary white flour
a pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups of milk and water (a cup and a half of milk and a cup of water mixed)
1 tablespoon of either vegetable oil or melted butter
(You’ll also need some granulated sugar, and a couple of lemons to put on the pancakes, along with other things like jams and possibly even maple syrup because you’re American.)
Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Crack the eggs in and whisk/fork the egg into the flour. Slowly add the milk/water mixture, stirring as you go, until there are no lumps and you have a liquid the consistency of a not too thick cream.
Then put the mixture in the fridge overnight.
Grease or butter or oil a non-stick frying pan. Heat it until it’s really hot (377 degrees according to one website, but basically, it has to be hot for the pancake to become a pancake. And these are crepes, French style, not thick American round pancakes).
Stir the mixture you just took from the fridge thoroughly because the flour will all be at the bottom. Get an even, consistency.
Then ladle some mixture into the pan, thinly covering the whole of the base of the pan. When the base is golden, flip it (or, if you are brave, toss it). Cook another 30 seconds on the other side.
For reasons I do not quite understand (although pan heat is probably the reason), the first one is always a bit disappointing. Often it’s a burnt, sludgy, weird thing, (always, in my family, eaten by the cook) (which was me). Just keep going, and the rest will be fine.
Sprinkle sugar in the middle. And then squeeze some lemon juice in, preferably from a lemon. Then wrap it like a cigar and feed it to a child.
(You can experiment with other things in the middle, like Nutella, or jam, or even maple syrup–but remember that these pancakes are not syrup-absorbent like American style pancakes.)