Today is my sister-in-law’s birthday. Happy birthday, swine sis! I hope you have a lovely day, or at least a slightly above average day. It’s Wednesday, so I’m assuming you’ll spend the day at work, trying to pass down your knowledge to a classroom full of hyperactive or excessively lethargic monkeys. Hopefully they’ll sing you a song, perhaps your co-workers will be nice to you, and maybe after work, there’ll be a little party, a pleasant dinner or something else to render the day more festive than all of the other days of the year.
For the record, you share your birthday with Prins Bernhard (late husband of late Dutch queen); Vasko Popa (failed Yugoslavian poet); Ole-Johan Dahl (some Norwegian geek); and Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (the man with the most amusing name in the world). No interesting people whatsoever were born on your birthday, and I think this was meant to be, so that all the world’s attention could be saved for you. A birthday kiss from me, then, your swine sister, and from all the rest of the world!
The birthday as a festive day has its origins before the rise of Christianity. Back in the old days it was believed that people attracted evil spirits on their birthday, and to protect themselves, they would invite family and friends over. The guests would keep the birthday boy or girl happy and make lots of noise, to scare the evil spirits away. The celebration of birthdays as we know it was probably brought to western Europe by Roman soldiers, who got it from Mithraic cults in the east.
Being a pagan custom, the birthday was condemned by Christianity, although they now collectively celebrate the world’s most famous birthday on the 25th of December. Some Christians (such as Jehovah’s witnesses) still disapprove of birthdays. Some other niche religions, such as LaVeyan Satanism (does that even still exist?), consider it one of the most important days of the year, if not the most important one. And although I generally think they’re a bit silly, I completely agree with them on that one. A birthday is the most important day of the year.
I love birthdays. I get overly excited about mine and even about those of others. One of my most memorable birthdays was my seventeenth. I had a fantastic party, got drunk with some of my best mates, then tried to clean up so my parents wouldn’t wake up to the mess we made and in the process almost set the house on fire. Another brilliant birthday was my nineteenth, which I spent in Thailand. As opposed to the bleak and depressing weather I can usually expect for my birthday in January, I had a scorching 30 degrees Celsius and I went out for a barbecue.
So, a festive birthday recipe then, for a nice dessert: crêpes with raspberry sauce. It looks and sounds a lot more complicated than it is, I actually made this on a perfectly normal Thursday. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday as far as I was aware.
For the crêpes:
– 50g plain flour
– 1 egg
– 150 to 175ml milk
– 1/2 tbs sunflower oil, plus extra for frying
– pinch of salt
For the sauce:
– 200 to 250g raspberries
– 120ml water
– 50g sugar
– some red fruit (I used raspberries and strawberries)
– ice cream (with a fairly boring flavour like vanilla or cream)
Make the sauce in advance. Make sure the raspberries are clean and put them in a small saucepan with the water and the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly so the sugar doesn’t turn into a black layer of pure evil on the bottom of your pan that will stare at you from the sink for as long as you can’t bring yourself to just throw it out and buy a new one. Once it’s nice and hot, turn down the fire and leave it to simmer for ages, occasionally stirring. It has to become fairly thick so you want a lot of the water to evaporate. Once it’s thick, strain the lot through a wee sieve and leave it to cool.
Now make the batter for the pancakes. Put the flour in a bowl, add part of the milk and the eggs, stir well so there’s no lumps left. Stir in the rest of the milk and the oil so that you get a fairly thin mixture.
After dinner you can start getting everything ready. Heat a frying pan with some oil in it. The first pancake you try will be horrible, deformed and mediocre: throw it out. Use the following ones. Fold them onto a plate and top with some ice cream, the red fruit and finally the sauce.
I tend to think that a dessert without any booze in it can’t possibly be a birthday dessert, but I think this one’s good enough as it is, and knowing my swine sis, the wine will probably be flowing generously anyway. However, if you’re determined to make this dessert more interesting, you can changes the crêpes into lazy style crêpes suzettes, pouring over some Grand Marnier as you serve them (and setting that on fire if you wish). Alternatively you can add a little Chambord or brandy to the sauce. If anyone gives any of this a shot, leave a comment and let me know how it was!