KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 — It’s December and everyone is in the mood for Christmas. (The shopping malls certainly are, with their competing Yuletide décor, each towering Christmas tree higher and bespangled with more bling than the previous one.)
There is time yet for the sprawling spread that is the quintessential Christmas meal — roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie, rum-soaked fruitcake and an equally alcoholic bowl of nutmeg-dusted eggnog.
But there’s no reason why we can’t have a little bit of seasonal cheer in our kitchen in the days and weeks. leading up to the main event. Something simple such as pancakes can be levelled up, Christmas style, with a Yuletide strawberry compote spiced with nutmeg and candied orange peel. A bit of kooky humour can be injected with some edible little Santas — made from fresh strawberries and Greek yoghurt.
Simple enough but so much fun!
Santa Claus Pancakes With Yuletide Strawberry Compote
It may seem as though this recipe has many moving parts — three separate sections, to be precise — but it’s really quite easy since the strawberry compote can be prepared well in advance. The little Santas (inspired by a friend, who came up with her version so her children could make them too) involve no cooking at all and are a hoot to assemble.
The only part that might take some decent wrist action is the pancakes. Just do what I do and don’t serve the first pancake or two. These tend to be less than perfect, as you’re adjusting to the heat of the fire and the amount of butter and batter to use.
(They still taste really good though, so do snack on them as you make the rest of the pancakes — the ones you are serving.)
You may notice that there is no sugar in the pancake recipe; this is on purpose as the strawberry compote, though slightly tart, is sweet enough when eaten with the pancakes. Also, if you go for the optional dusting of caster sugar over the pancakes, that’s extra sugar already.
Part 1: Yuletide strawberry compote
500g ripe strawberries, hulled
Juice from 1 large lemon, freshly squeezed
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
A few slivers of candied orange peel
Cut the hulled strawberries into half (or quarters if they are very large). Put the strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, nutmeg and candied orange peel in a pan over medium heat. Gently heat it till the sugar dissolves, mashing the strawberries along the way to release their juices.
Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture to a simmer. Turn the heat off and cover the pan, allowing it to cook in the residual heat for 5 minutes. Allow to cool before using.
As you can store this compote in the fridge for up to two weeks, try making it in advance so you only have to prepare the little Santas and Christmas pancakes on the spot.
Part 2: Little Santas
150g strawberries (about 1 cup)
50ml Greek yoghurt
2-3 dried cranberries, cut into tiny pieces for the eyes
Cut the tops off the strawberries, about two-thirds of its overall height. These will be the little Santa caps. Place all the bottom portions of the cut strawberries on a piece of parchment paper or a plate so it will be easier to move them later.
Place a tiny spoonful of Greek yoghurt on each of the strawberry bottoms. Cover these with their little Santa caps (i.e. the strawberry tops). Add a little bit of Greek yoghurt on each of these caps to mimic the snowy tufts.
Finally add two small pieces of dried cranberry to the middle Greek yoghurt part of the little Santa, for the eyes. Keep the completed little Santas in the fridge until ready to be served with the Christmas pancakes.
Part 3: Christmas pancakes
200g plain flour
3 large eggs
Pinch of salt
Butter, for frying
Optional toppings: caster sugar, honey, butter
Whisk the flour, eggs, milk and salt in a large mixing bowl. Once the batter is smooth, rest it for half an hour to allow the mixture to combine further.
Preheat a non-stick pan over a medium heat. Once it’s warm, melt some butter before ladling a little batter into the pan. Space out each ladle so that you have 2-3 small pancakes in the pan. Make sure they are not touching. If your pan is small, cook only one pancake at a time.
Makes about 20 pancakes. If you like, top each stack of pancakes with a pat of butter, dust with caster sugar and drizzle with honey. Serve immediately with the strawberry compote and little Santas.
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