With the challenging morning ritual of filling school lunchboxes comes the dilemma of finding something appetising and somewhat healthy to put in them.
There aren't too many kids I know who will refuse a pancake, and with fruit and vegetables hidden within, these are a tasty and satisfying way of ensuring vegetables are on the school menu. If your children are old enough, they might like to help prepare or cook the pancakes themselves.
The idea of combining fruit and vegetables in pancakes was initially came from my daughter, who decided she wanted to put everything in hers. The combination of flavours lends a slight sweetness, which she loved. Just remember to squeeze out the juices from the apple and the vegetables, so you end up with dry, crispy pancakes that should keep fresh in a lunch box without going soggy.
The combinations are endless, and depending on the palate of your little diners, you can add spices, different cheeses or herbs.
If you are serving them hot, a few dollops of Greek yoghurt adds body and balance.
On the hunt for picnic food ideas, I came across an old recipe of mine for Scotch eggs. This retro was all the rage when I was a kid, but seems to have vanished off the face of the earth, along with Tupperware and Globite school bags.
The likely fall from favour of the Scotch egg was probably because they were deep-fried. This recipe is baked in the oven, with the additional kick of herbs and spices.
The other reason to drag my recipe into the 21st century was because a friend's ravenous teenage son came to stay with us. He tried a Scotch egg for the first time and the double protein hit of meat and egg provided perfect fodder for his school lunchbox.
For this demographic, split a bread roll in half, remove some of the bread from the middle of each half and nestle the Scotch egg inside. Add tomato sauce and you have enough protein and carbs to keep the wolf from the door for a teenage boy at lunch or in the after-school fridge raid.
Fruit and vegetable pancakes
1 cob corn
1 zucchini, skin on, washed and finely grated
1 carrot, finely grated
1 green apple, skin on, washed and finely grated
squeeze of lemon juice
1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾⁄ cup milk
2 tbsp natural Greek yoghurt
½⁄ cup tasty cheese, grated
1 tbsp olive oil
Remove the husks and silk from the corn cob, and slice the end off so it has a flat bottom. Standing the cob up on a board, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels from the corn cob.
Using your hands, squeeze the grated zucchini, carrot and apple to remove the excess juice (the juice is delicious to drink). Place in a large bowl, add the squeeze of lemon juice, and mix until well combined. Add the corn kernels.
Sift the flour and baking powder together into a separate bowl. Whisk the milk, yoghurt and eggs together in a jug and add to the flour, mixing until well combined and the batter is smooth.
Add the batter and the grated cheese to the zucchini, carrot, corn and apple, and mix well together.
Heat a little of the oil in a large, non-stick frypan over a medium heat. Spoon two tablespoons of the batter mixture into the pan to make one pancake. Cook pancakes in batches, for three to four minutes each side until golden through.
Using a spatula, transfer pancakes to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with remaining oil and batter.
Serve with extra yoghurt.
5 large free-range organic eggs
½⁄ cup flour
sea salt and ground black pepper
100g Krummies crumbs or dried breadcrumbs
400g best quality sausages
1 rasher finely chopped bacon
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
good pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a tray with baking paper.
Place four eggs into a large saucepan of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce it to a simmer and cook the eggs for eight minutes.
Drain the saucepan and run the eggs under cold water from the tap, then peel them and set aside. You can do this ahead of time and leave the eggs in the fridge, unpeeled, until you are ready.
Place the flour in a shallow bowl or plate and season with salt and pepper. Break the remaining egg into a second bowl and beat lightly. Place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl and line up all the bowls in a row, starting with the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs.
Squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings into a bowl and discard the casings. Add the bacon, thyme, parsley, nutmeg and cayenne pepper, mixing with your hands until evenly combined.
Flour your hands, then scoop out a large ball of sausage meat and flatten it into an oval shape in your hand. Wrap the sausage meat around the egg, pinching it together at the seam, smoothing the meat around the eggs, making sure there are no gaps where the egg is peeking through.
Dredge the sausage-covered eggs in the flour, tapping off excess. Set the wrapped eggs on the lined baking tray. Once all the eggs are floured, dip in the beaten egg, making sure they get coated, then roll in the breadcrumbs, ensuring they're fully covered and pressing gently.
Place back on the tray and into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are crispy and the sausage is cooked through. The surface should be crazed, cracked and crunchy.
Scotch eggs can be eaten warm, cold or at room temperature. Store in the fridge for up to three days.
>>Debbie Skelton is a Canberra food writer, debsravingrecipes.blogspot.com