Pancakes for your valentine

Chocolates, roses and jewellery may flood the shops in advance of valentine's day and card shops groan with pink endorsements of love, but I find it all a little prefabricated for my tastes. Whilst it is a wonderful thing to celebrate love in all its forms, surely I can't be the only one who finds the whole thing a little unsettlingly commercial? This is not a contest in wallet size, but a chance to put yourself out a little and show that you care by doing something a little more thoughtful or time-consuming than you would in the everyday bustle.

My favourite way to let someone know I love them is to get up a little early, put a cast iron pan on the heat and make them some pancakes for breakfast. I will have soaked the pancake mix the night before and maybe cooked up some tender pink stalks of rhubarb or roasted a few pears. I'll make sure there is some good organic butter, maybe a little paté and a bowl of creamy yogurt so that those pancakes can be adorned in whatever way my beloved sees fit.

When the pancakes are done, I'll cut heart shapes from a few of them and scatter them over the stack of pancakes - like the fairies came and sprinkled a little magic over the breakfast table.

Then I'll tell my beloved
how much I love them and we'll eat breakfast together quietly, remembering all the pancakes that have come before and imagining those yet to come.

Heart Shaped Pancakes
makes about 10 pancakes (10cm diameter) more if smaller

These pancakes are grain free and soaked overnight using live yogurt. The friendly bacteria in the yogurt digest antinutients in the almond and chestnut flours and resting the batter makes for a fluffier pancake. For a simpler pure almond pancake, try this recipe - or check out the blinis or squash drop scones in my book, River Cottage Gluten Free.

100g ground almonds
50g chestnut flour
150g Greek yogurt
60-70g water or milk
2 large eggs
pinch sea salt
2 tsp ground psyllium husk
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Butter to fry
heart shaped pastry cutter

  • Put ground almonds, chestnut flour, yogurt and enough water/milk to make a stiff dropping consistency batter - the mixture should fall off the spoon if you give it a little flick, rather than sliding off if you just hold the spoon up. If you use runnier yogurt you may not need much water at all. Cover and set aside for 6-12 hours at room temperature.
  • When you are ready to make pancakes, whisk in eggs and psyllium husk and set aside for a minute while you get a heavy frying pan on a low heat.
  • When the pan has heated through, put a knob of butter into it - this shouldn't sizzle too much, but just melt quickly. Wipe the butter around the pan using some folded up kitchen paper, just leaving a film of butter.
  • Quickly and thoroughly whisk the bicarbonate of soda into the batter and place spoonfuls into your pan - they will expand a little, so don't crowd them. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes, until the edge of the pancakes look matte and then flip gently, giving then 30-40 seconds on the other side. If they seem dark on the bottom, turn down the heat and give a little less time to the next ones.
  • Keep your pancakes warm under a very low grill or in a warming oven, whilst you cook the rest. When they are done, cut heart shapes out of them with a pastry cutter and eat whilst still warm.