Cat Thomson of The Scotsman is indeed a good friend to Tom's Food! A few weeks ago she gave us a fascinating introduction into the work of Food Heritage Scotland. I had actually asked her for a recipe. In fact I got two articles in one. After her piece for On The Side, she followed it up with reflections on pancakes and her sweetcorn fritters recipe. I thought this would be excellent for the build up to Pancake Day. Over to Cat.
So this got me all misty eyed and nostalgic about my granny's drop scones or Scotch pancakes. When we visited we would be woken not by an alarm clock but by the sound of my granny thumping the ceiling in the kitchen below with her washing pole. We would rush down stairs and feast on pancakes made freshly cooked on a cast iron flat griddle. Uniformly sized and shaped apart from when she or my aunt Jenny would magic up a cat-shaped version complete with a bushy tail and pointed ears and whiskers.
When cooked they were stored warm in a tea towel, and our small hands searched out the hidden food treasure. Just sweet enough and served with lashings of butter which would melt and drip down your chin.
I mourn the loss of so many family food memories. There was a carefully guarded Christmas cake recipe cut out of a newspaper from the 1920's. It had been cherished through all the hardships of a world war and rationing only to be lost carelessly.
But there were other highlights, a real bible of culinary delights called The Cookery Year, published by The Reader's Digest which gave me a glimpse into another culinary world, stuffed full of exotic ingredients that you wouldn't find in any shop that we went into.
Another staple recipe book which came from SWRI (The Rural) was stuffed full of proper country cooking. A blue cover and a white ring bound spine, it had real treats like sheep's head broth, tongue, sweetmeats and potted hough. But if I'm honest, it was the well thumbed sweets section that piqued my interest, delights such as coconut ice and barley sugar twists, which I would gamely try to master despite having no idea what a soft or hard ball stage of sugar looked like.
So here is my recipe contribution to the virtual vault, with the proviso that I'm not a chef so I chose a really easy and forgiving recipe. But if I can make it, anyone can. Although not really Scottish it is still a regular feature at our family Christmas meals for 40 odd years and it is my definition of real comfort food. I think it came from a blue edged St Michael's (Marks and Spencer) recipe book in the 70's featuring frozen food recipes. But we have always used the stuff in tins.
Large tin of sweetcorn; 170g (6oz) plain flour; 2 medium sized eggs (mine come freshly laid from the chooks in our henhouse); a good pinch of salt (see below. Cat recommends Blackthorn salt from Ayrshire; oil and butter to fry.
This recipe is so simple it relies on the holy trinity of flavours, sweet, salt and fat being perfectly in balance, so seasoning is key. Salt it until you think that is too much! Then it will probably be just right.
Throw everything into a bowl, crack the eggs in and mix. If it is too thick add some milk. You are aiming for thick lumpy batter that you can spoon into a heated frying pan.
Test the heat of the pan by hovering your hand above the surface (but don't burn yourself) Melt a large knob of butter then add the melted butter to the batter mix. Heat a table spoonful or so of oil and coat the surface of the frying pan to prevent sticking before dolloping a spoonful of mix into the pan. You can turn down the heat a bit to make sure the fritters will be cooked thoroughly inside. If the pan is too cold you will end up with pale limp fritters (no one wants that) and too hot you will have burnt outer and raw liquid inners. Turn over after a minute or so and cook the other side. When you turn the fritter over you can give it a wee squash with your fish slice, some of the batter will leak out of the edges. That is a satisfying experience.
A word to the wise: don't over fill the pan and try to make too many at one time. I suggest a maximum of three. Ideally you want the finished article to be golden brown with the batter caramelised and light fluffy innards with piping hot sweetcorn kernels. Set them aside on a plate or bowl and keep them warm with a clean tea towel.
At Christmas they are served as a side vegetable but they are best eaten piping hot straight from the plate. You can upcycle them up with chives, or wild garlic but I'm a plain and simple gal so I stick with basic being best.
Plain and simple gal, my foot. Cat is, by a country mile, the finest food writer employed by Scotsman Publications (or whatever they call themselves these days). Her Wednesday articles on Scotland's Food Producers are well researched and informative, and her restaurant reviews for Scotland on Sunday never fail to elicit a chortle or two. Many thanks, Cat, for taking the time to contribute.