Pine, pancakes & pollen

Pine, pancakes & pollen

The New Nordic
Simon Bajada

I’m not suggesting you eat your Christmas tree but pine needles have a minty, fresh flavour that is perfect for infusing broths, soups and syrups. Not all pine is edible. Some trees, such as the Australian pine (she-oak) and some varieties of casuarinas look like they have pine needles but they are actually not pine trees at all. Fir and spruce are the best options. Harvest tender new-growth tips when they first emerge from their brown papery casings. This recipe tells you how to make one large stack of pancakes to cut into wedges. You can also make stacks of mini pancakes, as shown in the photograph.


Quantity Ingredient
150g plain flour
250ml full-cream milk
125ml lukewarm water or lager
3 tablespoons caster sugar
4 large eggs
80g unsalted butter, melted
50g dried pollen, to garnish
runny honey, to serve

Pine custard

Quantity Ingredient
500ml full-cream milk
2 x 10-15cm spruce pine branches, tips or needles picked
or 2 pine teabags
6 large egg yolks
110g caster sugar
30g cornflour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
150ml whipping cream, whipped, (optional)


  1. First make the custard. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it is just steaming; do not let it simmer. If you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 60–80°C. Add the pine tips or needles or the pine teabags and infuse for 10 minutes. Taste, and if you can detect the pine flavour, strain the milk into a jug. If you’d like a stronger flavour, leave for a few more minutes.
  2. Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl. Stir in one-quarter of the infused milk and whisk vigorously. Pour in the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth. Return the custard to the pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, whisking vigorously. Cook for 1–2 minutes, still whisking, until the mixture thickens. Set the base of the pan in an ice-cold water bath or place in the freezer to cool, stirring frequently so that the mixture remains smooth. When it is almost cool, stir in the butter, then chill in the refrigerator.
  3. While the custard is cooling, make the pancake batter. In a bowl or using a food processor, combine the flour, milk, water or lager, sugar, eggs, half the butter and a pinch of salt; it should have a thick but pourable consistency. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  4. When you’re ready to cook the pancakes, place a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Using paper towel, coat the pan with the remaining butter. Pour 2–3 tablespoons of batter into the pan. Lift, tilt and rotate the pan so that the batter forms an even, very thin layer. Cook for 30 seconds –1 minute, until golden underneath then flip over the pancake and cook for the same amount of time. Stack the cooked pancakes on a plate and cover with plastic wrap or a slightly damp clean tea towel, while you cook the rest. Leave to cool.
  5. Whiz the custard in a food processor for 10 seconds. If you would like a lighter, airier custard, fold in some whipped cream. Layer the cooled pancakes with the custard, reserving some to spread on top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, spread the remaining custard over the top. Sprinkle with the pollen, drizzle over some honey and cut into wedges.
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