Many moons ago I had a miserable (and consequently brief) stint in a big kitchen in London. My boss thought I was a moron. Now she may have been entirely justified in her opinion of me. I may indeed be the dimmest fairylight on the Christmas tree. But I’d like to think not.
Problem was I didn’t understand a single word she uttered. So whenever she spoke, I just nodded and smiled. “Your hollandaise is splitting.” Grin and nod. “Get me the lard.” Grin and nod. “Your apron is on fire.” Grin and nod. With hindsight I can appreciate why she thought me a blithering idiot.
Was she speaking English? Well, yes. Theoretically. But being from up north somewhere, it wasn’t exactly what one would call BBC English, and my unsophisticated ‘Sefafrican’ ears just couldn’t cope. It seemed rather rude to tell her that her accent is k** and it’s all her fault. So I did the honourable thing. I packed my bags and went to France – where I figured I would face similar comprehension challenges, but at least the cheese would be good.
As if it’s not bad enough that the 400 odd million English speakers in the world all throw wildly different accents into the mix, there’s also the rather unfortunate habit of calling things by different names.
Take crumpets. At least that’s what I call them. Most folks in South Africa call them flapjacks. Now in the UK a flapjack is an entirely different thing – a sort of biscuity bar made with oats. Whatever you call them, this old-fashioned treat should be part of your in-a-flash repertoire. Just 15 minutes from putting on your apron to warm crumpets on your plate – dripping with butter, golden syrup (Lyle’s of course) and, if you appreciate excess, whipped cream too.
Some recipes use baking powder. My gran made hers with bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar. The chemical reaction is impressive to say the least, leading to crumpets/flapjacks that have bigger holes and are lighter and less stodgy than the baking powder variety. Serve them for breakfast, lunch or tea. Your kids will love you.
All you need is…
1½ cups cake flour
a very generous pinch of salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp castor sugar
2 tsp golden syrup
1 extra large egg, beaten
1 cup milk
butter or vegetable oil for frying
Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a knob of butter or a drop of oil. Add the batter, a tablespoon at a time, leaving space for the crumpets to spread.
Fry over medium-low heat until bubbles appear on top and start popping. Turn over and fry for a further minute on the other side until golden brown and cooked through. Serve immediately while warm with toppings of your choice.