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.
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.