Maungatoroto District School was a country school typical of its time and every year it held a school Fair. As country and farm children, we would bring our pet dogs, cats, lambs, piglets or calves to be paraded around and judged. But another competition was a baking one. I remember the first I entered. I was 6 years old and I made pikelets. I came First! This was the beginning of my serious interest in baking. I immediately dropped chocolate fudge as my pièce de résistance because, well I had moved on. I could now make first prize winning pikelets.
For those of you who don't know, a pikelet is a kind of pancake common in New Zealand and Australia but they are somehow lighter and more delicate than pancakes. They are cooked, put on a tea towel and then eaten warm with butter and jam. Well, they were when I was a child. In recent years, however, they've had a bit of an international revival and even Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson include pikelet recipes in their repertoire. Now we sometimes eat them for breakfast and serve them hot like pancakes (hotcakes in the US) with syrup and fruit. I eat them either way but there is something about the taste of them eaten the traditional way, slightly warm with butter and jam that immediately invokes that sense of childhood and growing up on a farm in 1960s New Zealand along memories of my mother making butter in a churn and the hot smell of wild blackberry jam simmering away in the preserving pan before being poured into jars to set.
Here is the recipe, my mother's recipe - originally my grandmother's. I have tried others but somehow I always come back to this one.
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk
Melt the butter and golden syrup together and set aside for a few minutes to cool.
Sift flour, cream of tartar and baking soda into a bowl. Add the sugar and salt.
Beat the egg with the milk. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg and milk mixture along with the butter and golden syrup. Stir gently to combine. Don't beat as this will knock out the air. It's ok if it looks a little lumpy. The mixture should be a little thicker than double cream but not doughy.
Heat a lightly buttered non-stick pan on a medium heat. Drop a tablespoonful of the mixture into the pan (but don't overcrowd the pan as it will making turning them over difficult). When they've bubbled on the top, turn and cook the other side.
Serve warm with butter (or cream) and jam for afternoon tea. Or for breakfast/brunch with fruit, maple syrup and yoghurt.