- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The last thing you need to worry about on Christmas morning is what to serve your family, freshly hungry after opening their presents and in no hurry to help with KP.

Nigella Lawson comes to the rescue in her new cookbook, “Feast: Food to Celebrate Life” (Hyperion), with a couple of make-ahead recipes that allow the cook to enjoy the family get-together.

“I tend to make special muffins for the family on Christmas morning,” Ms. Lawson says. “There is a recipe in ‘Feast’ for gingerbread muffins, which make the kitchen smell welcomingly seasonal as they bake. Plus they are very easy to make.

“To be honest, though, the children are generally too excited to eat much and have anyway been eating too many chocolates out of their stockings since the crack of dawn, no doubt.”

For the hungry adults, Ms. Lawson’s recipe for sticky toffee pancakes is special enough to become a family tradition to serve year after year. The pancakes are based on the ingredients in the popular sticky toffee pudding, “a version of the many fruited puddings the English have always gone for,” Ms. Lawson says.

“To my knowledge, the pudding comes from a hotel in the Lake District of England. All I did was simplify matters enormously by making my version much easier in terms of process. And although we call this ‘sticky toffee,’ the key factors are that the pudding is dark, it includes chopped dried dates, and the toffee in question is more a molasseslike syrup.”

The award-winning British author and TV host of “Nigella Bites” and “Forever Summer” feels the holidays serve “a central purpose: to bring the family together around food, to celebrate being together.”

“Feast” is organized around the holiday year and “the way we use food to celebrate life,” she says.

Unless you want an excuse to head for the kitchen to get away from the hubbub, you can prepare the muffins and pancakes up to two days ahead. Before reheating the muffins, pancakes and sauce in the microwave or regular oven, you might fry some sausage or bacon.

Offer some of the fresh grapefruit or pears you’ve been given, and serve plenty of coffee, tea and milk. Then you can sit back and enjoy the day — perhaps reading “Feast.”

Ms. Lawson introduced her book in Washington recently at a fund-raiser for the D.C. chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, an organization of outstanding women in the culinary arts. The money for the Anne Crutcher Professional Fellowship Fund provides scholarships for continuing culinary education and grants designed to help inner-city women enter the work force.

Sticky toffee pancakes

With a nod to the famous British dessert by the same name, Ms. Lawson created sticky toffee pancakes. Even those who think they don’t like dates won’t notice them. Trust me, the buttery caramel syrup is to give up your diet for.

Should you have any leftover syrup, reheat it gently and serve over ice cream, poundcake or angel food cake.

This recipe is from Ms. Lawson’s “Feast: Food to Celebrate Life.”


3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons dark corn syrup

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup heavy cream


1 cup dried chopped pitted dates

2 cups boiling water

1 teaspoon baking soda, divided

2 tablespoons butter

2 eggs

11/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup Greek or whole-milk yogurt

2/3 cup milk

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Sliced bananas (optional)

To make the sauce, put the sugar, syrup and butter in a pan and slowly — so the butter melts and sugar dissolves — bring to the boil. Let bubble away for a couple of minutes before adding the cream. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the sauce is thick, sticky and glossy.

Now get on with the pancakes, and you can do this before you sit down to brunch, keeping them warm — once cooked — wrapped in aluminum foil in a 300-degree oven. (Or prepare a day or two ahead, cook, cool and refrigerate. Reheat in the oven or microwave.)

Soak the dates in the boiling water with ½ teaspoon baking soda while you potter around with everything else. Melt the butter and set aside. Separate the eggs, whisking the whites until firm, but not too dry or stiff.

Measure out the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and ½ teaspoon soda into a large bowl; whisk to blend well. Beat the egg yolks with the yogurt and milk; pour into the dry ingredients and mix till smooth. The batter will be thick at this stage. Drain the soaked dates, squeezing out the excess liquid. The author chops these until “squidgy” with a mezzaluna cutter before folding them into the batter.

Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet on medium-high. Meanwhile, fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, followed by the melted butter. Fill 1/4 cup about 3/4 full, and dollop the batter onto the heated griddle. Regulate the temperature so the pancakes don’t burn. Cook about 3 minutes on the first side and 1 minute after you flip them.

Eat with a good scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired, and a molten swath of dark sticky toffee sauce. Makes about 20 pancakes or 4 to 6 servings.

Thinking-ahead New Year’s Day note: “These pancakes also make the ideal hung-over breakfast, though more helpfully so if the person making them is not also suffering,” Ms. Lawson says. “But the first thing I’d ditch is the ice cream and substitute some slices of potassium-boosting banana.”

Gingerbread muffins

Changing her approach after a number of years, Ms. Lawson says, “I have recently ousted my Christmas-morning muffins from the culinary equivalent of the box of decorations to be brought out each year (which is really what seasonal cooking is about) and replaced them with these.” This recipe also is from “Feast.”

Note: To makes these especially fancy, Ms. Lawson suggests brushing the tops with a little edible gold leaf when you take them out of the oven. The warmth will make it stick.

12/3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 egg

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup whole milk

1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

6 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil

4 tablespoons dark corn syrup

4 tablespoons molasses

Edible gold leaf (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees . Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices in a large bowl. Whisk the egg in a large measuring cup, then add the sugars, breaking up any lumps.

Add the milk and vinegar, then measure in the oil with a tablespoon. Use the same oily spoon to add the syrup and molasses so they don’t stick to it. Whisk the mixture to combine; add to the flour and spices.

Stir until mixed but still fairly lumpy — the mixture may be more runny than you expect for muffins, but you need the dense stickiness of gingerbread, rather than a caky crumb.

Spoon or pour the mixture into the muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes until the tops are dry; the muffins will still feel squidgy when you take them out of the tins to cool on a rack. Note that because the mixture is moist, these muffins will not have the hump-topped look of store-bought ones. Unlike other muffins, these still taste gloriously good a couple of days after baking. Makes 12 muffins.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide