When it comes to Scandinavian food, it’s all to easy to fawn over the cool aesthetic of places like Noma or think that it’s all about cinnamon buns. However, something that I really like is one of the simplest things you can make – straightforward Swedish pancakes, served the merest dusting of icing sugar and topped with lingonberry jam.
These are made with one of those handy-to-remember recipes, based on a ratio of 2-3-6. That’s 2 decilitres of flour, 3 eggs and 6 decilitres of milk. Yes, the decilitre. Odd, huh? This is something that you come across fairly rapidly if you dare to venture into Swedish cooking, but it does at first prompt a little confusion if you’re not used to it. It’s equivalent to 100ml, but as you might have worked out by now, I’ve got a bit of an aversion to volumes-based measurements. I’ll happily measure our liquids in a jug, but when it comes to dry ingredients, I always go with my natty set of digital scales. If you’ve never tried, you really need to get a set! So much easier for getting precise quantities. Never again do you need to worry about whether flour needs to be compacted or not before adding to batter…anyway…
These pancakes are similar to crepes. The batter is very thin (you would think that the flour is not enough for all that milk, but it is!), so when you add the batter to the frying pan, you need to make sure you quickly spread the batter to get them thin and round. When it comes to flipping, you need to be quite confident with these little fellows. If you use a non-stick pan, then the butter in the batter will stop them from sticking. It’s then just a case of shaking the pan to loosen the pancake, and then you need to flip them with a firm, confident motion. Do it this way, and the pancake with do a mid-air somersault that should impress onlookers. However, if you lose your nerve, then you’ll end up with a pancake that folds itself in half and sticks into a big, doughy mass. Be confident!
The lack of sugar in the batter also means that these pancakes work equally well with savoury or sweet flavours. If you’re trying the keep with the Swedish theme, I’d add some cheese or mushrooms. Otherwise, jam is a favourite, with lingonberry being the classic.
Now, you may or may now know that I am a bit of a compulsive collector of all manner of edible berries. I subscribe to the school of thought that says you should never pick things that you are not completely sure of, so if you’re going to don your country finest and go foraging for berries this weekend, just stick with what you know.
Anyway, I was on a trip to Finland and managed to come away with a decent amount of lingonberries from the forest to the west of Helsinki. They made it back to London, and have been hidden in the back of the freezer for a while now. I thought they would be perfect with these pancakes – I just popped the berries into a saucepan, added some water and a little sugar (one quarter of the weight of the berries) and within minutes, I had a simple lingonberry compote. If you’re not familiar with the flavour, it’s sweet and tart, but less sharp than cranberries, and it’s great on top of pancakes. If you’re in Sweden, you’ll even find the stuff served with meat and potatoes. Sadly it was too much like jam for me to think of it as something to eat with savoury dishes!
These are great for breakfast – I make the batter the night before, so you can whip up a batch first thing in the morning.
• 200 ml (100g) plain flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 600ml milk
• 3 eggs
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1. In a bowl, mix the flour and salt with half the milk until smooth. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, and beat well. Leave to sit for 30 minutes (or overnight in the fridge).
2. Add the melted butter to the batter in a thin stream, stirring constantly.
3. Heat a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Add enough batter to make a think pancake, tilting the pan to make sure the batter is evenly spread. Cook until set, then shake to loosen the pancake. Flip and cook the other side.
Worth making? Of course. Who doesn’t like pancakes?