I grew up on a farm in a fairly isolated part of Northland, New Zealand in a place called Mararetu. To get to our school 10 miles away in Maungatoroto, my sisters and I would catch a school bus. The route went along treacherous unsealed roads - and oh how we sneered at the "townies" who would drive the long way around, an extra 30 miles because they could do most of it on sealed roads. We only knew the luxury of sealed roads when we took the occasional trip to visit family in Auckland or go on the rare shopping trip to the nearest largest town, Whangarei.

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 egg
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. 

Remove from pan and keep warm in a clean tea towel.

Serve warm with butter (or cream) and jam for afternoon tea. Or for breakfast/brunch with fruit, maple syrup and yoghurt.
Watched Come Dine With Me last night; yes I do enjoy it usually because it's always the person who, believes truly and utterly that they're the best chef and yet more often than not they almost always come last, or rarely first anyway. That aside, I did notice that one of the desserts was Pikelets! I also heard them being described as a kind of crumpet. Hmmm ...

There's nothing like a warm, freshly made crumpet eaten with jammy butter oozing through the bubbly holes. As regular customers at the Cat will know, I've made these occasionally over the years and put them on the menu as a Sunday brunch special served with a plum, blackberry or blueberry butter.

I've tried a number of different recipes over the years but always come back to this one, a variation of Bill Granger's crumpet recipe.

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
5 grams dried all purpose yeast
375g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200ml water


Heat the milk until tepid and stir in the sugar and yeast. Make sure the milk is not too hot otherwise it will kill the yeast. Leave to stand for 10 minutes or so until the yeast has started to rise and bubble.
Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. Make a well in the centre and gradually add the yeast and milk. Beat until completely smooth. Cover and leave in a warm place for an hour or so until doubled in size and very bubbly.
Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water. Using the electric beaters, add to the yeast batter.
Heat a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat. Grease the pan with melted butter then grease 3 or 4 metal rings (the number depends on how many you can easily fit into the pan without them being too crowded). Lower the heat to low.
Pour approximately 1/4 cup of the batter into the rings and cook very slowly for 5 minute or so until the surface is full of large bubbles.
Remove the rings and turn the crumpets over to cook the other side. This should only take a minute or so.
Place on a clean tea towel and cover to keep warm.