Grey Days and Double Crumpets

On grey days I like car­bo­hydrates and a good laugh. This week­end I’ve savoured spring bulbs, a new pair of hole-free wel­lies, an old-fashioned joke and a plate of home-made crumpets.

Crum­pets and I have a long his­tory. I wrote recently about child­hood memor­ies of my Great Auntie Susie’s plain, hon­est Lan­cashire hot­pot. My great auntie cooked sup­pers of hot­pot, ham salad and stew, with the occa­sional out­burst of potato frit­ters or cherry pie. But my mum, who worked long hours, always made sup­per on Mondays. The food was exotic, glam­or­ous and occa­sion­ally down­right revolu­tion­ary (I’m think­ing par­tic­u­larly of rhu­barb soup, tried once and never repeated). Instead of hot­pot, she made risotto, chicken with white wine and asparagus, ginger cake with cof­fee cream filling.

There was no con­nec­tion between the food we loved on Mondays and the recipes we enjoyed the rest of the week. The only over­lap — food that appeared in both rep­er­toires — was pickled beet­root, fish and chips… and crum­pets. There were saus­ages too, I sup­pose, but one ver­sion was charred to black­ness, the other barely glanced the side of the pan.

Crum­pets — my child­hood cros­sover food — are per­fect for grey days. They’re drilled with holes; deep canyons down which melted but­ter can dive. They’re very Brit­ish — if you’ve never tried them, you really must. If you’ve tried them but never cooked them… you really, really must.

CRUMPETS

Makes around 10

You will need a non-stick fry­ing pan with a lid and four non-stick 8cm cook­ing rings

  • 225g plain flour
  • 300ml warm water
  • 150ml warm, semi skimmed milk
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 1tablespoon caster sugar
  • Scant 1/2 tea­spoon salt
  • 1/2 tea­spoon bicar­bon­ate soda

Sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the yeast to the warm water in a sep­ar­ate bowl and stir.

Add the milk and sugar to the yeast mix­ture and stir once again. Pour the mixed liquid into the centre of the flour and, with a whisk, gently com­bine the ingredi­ents until you’re left with a smooth, runny bat­ter. Allow the bat­ter to rest for ten minutes and then add the salt and bicar­bon­ate of soda. Stir them in and let your bat­ter rest for a fur­ther ten minutes.

Place the non-stick pan on a mod­er­ate heat. Once it’s hot, place the rings in the pan and ladle enough mix­ture in to reach the half-way mark.

Bubbles will form after about a minute. Put the lid over the pan and allow the crum­pets to cook for around five minutes. By this time, the mix­ture will be just about set. Using a plastic spat­ula, flip the rings over. Push the crum­pets down so that the tops of them are now touch­ing the sur­face of the pan. Allow them to cook for a fur­ther minute, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove them from the pan and release them from the rings. Repeat the pro­cess until you’ve fin­ished the bat­ter. Either eat the crum­pets straight­away with but­ter or save them for later, toast­ing them in the toaster to warm them through.

There was a daft phase in com­mer­cial bread-making, when a large man­u­fac­turer attemp­ted to sell oblong-shaped crum­pets. Any­one who’s been brought up on crum­pets could have told them it was a ter­rible idea. I think of myself as someone who was brought up on crum­pets not once but twice — on Mondays and every other day of the week too. If the bread fact­ory had only asked me about rect­an­gu­lar crum­pets, I could have saved them an awful lot of trouble.