This recipe is based on one from a wonderful old cookery book called Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery. Published in 1744, it is the earliest book I’ve seen which is largely vegetarian. The first half (Adam’s) is devoted to kitchen gardening, and the second (Eve’s) to recipes. It wasn’t a feminist era.
I have a facsimile edition from Prospect Books, founded by the late Alan Davidson and his wife in 1979. They specialise in cookery and food history and in addition to publishing new titles, they breathe new life into out-of-print books. You can probably tell I’m a fan.
Anyway, let me tempt you. The first recipe in the book is one for ‘Apple Pancakes, or Fritters’. This is not a pancake as we would understand it today – no flour – it’s perhaps closer to a clafoutis, or what a later recipe in the book calls a tansey. The quantities given are colossal: ‘beat up 20 eggs in a quart of cream,’ we’re told.
I’ve faffed about with it, with lots of long-distance help from my friend Steph Clubb, and after numerous tries have come up with something you might enjoy if you’d like to change things up a bit on Pancake Day – or any day.
It’s very light, in spite of the ingredients and the frying, but if you don’t like sweet eggy things you may want to look elsewhere for inspiration. I have to put this disclaimer in because, to be honest, my husband loathed it. He’d never have got kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
If you’d like to make it less brown, take a leaf out of our ancestors’ cookery books and strew it with primroses. Ah, the primrose path. Where’s that snake?
Eve's Apple Pancake
2 sharp eating apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
1 tbsp sugar (granulated, caster, soft brown, doesn’t matter)
1 generous tbsp butter
2 eggs, separated
60ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
1/4 tspn ground nutmeg
1/4 tspn ground ginger
1/4 – 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
Extra sugar and rosewater, to sprinkle
Pre-heat the grill to medium high.
In one bowl, whisk the eggs yolks with the cream and icing sugar until blended. In a second bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Seat aside.
Put an omelette pan on a moderate heat on the stove and add the butter. When it’s foaming,spread the apple slices in a single layer and cook, turning occasionally, until tinged with brown. Sprinkle over the spices, stir to coat and cook for a minute or two more.
Using a metal spoon, combine the egg whites with the egg yolk mixture, folding in lightly so as not to knock out the air but making sure they are thoroughly mixed.
Pour this over the apples, so that they are covered in a foamy blanket. Continue to cook on a low to moderate heat, until when you gently lift the side of the pancake with a spatula you can see the base is golden brown and the eggs are beginning to set, with any runniness confined to the middle. It’s difficult to be precise on timings as your cooker is likely different to mine, but reckon on six to eight minutes.
Put the pan under the grill (not too close) and brown the top. It will souffle as you do this. Once it’s cooked to your satisfaction, remove from the grill. This is your chance to show everyone how well it’s puffed up, because like a souffle it will sink back a bit and it needs a few minutes to cool and set.
Ease the sides away from the pan with a palette knife and using oven gloves, invert it by clapping a plate on top and turning it all over. You can skip this bit if you find it alarming and eat it straight from the pan.
Sprinkle with sugar – I like the crunch of demerara – and with a little rosewater. Orange flower water would be a good alternative, but don’t go mad or it’ll taste like soap. You might like to serve extra cream on the side.