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Little Potato Pancakes – In The Kitchen At Parties

When you’re hosting a party, you’re always looking for things you can do beforehand. Peeling veges, setting tables, chopping herbs, cooking dishes that can be re-heated, chilling drinks, mixing and storing dressings in the fridge – anything you can do to minimise cooking and time away from guests.

There are some shortcuts that I long ago gave in to such as bags of pre-washed salad mix and job lots of par baked dinner rolls. They are quick, easy and decent quality. There are some shortcuts though that I won’t take such as buying dips, pre-prepared cheese plates, garlic bread or hot finger food. None of these things are particularly difficult to make but more importantly, the versions you buy in the shop are never as good as the ones you can make yourself.

Then, there are the shortcuts you can take and no one is any the wiser. I was throwing a little shindig for our friend Josie to celebrate her return from Russia. TIFFIN loves a good theme so all attendees were required to wear their best Babushka scarves to get into the Eastern Bloc spirit whilst drinking Eastern Bloc spirits. To soak up the vodka and slivovitz, some zakuski or snacks were in order. I took the opportunity to try out a recipe from Nigella Express that had intrigued me for ages but I really hadn’t had a reason to make. Potato Pancakes.

Small potato pancakes topped with sour cream and slivers of beetroot and capers

These little potato pancakes are like a blini though they have no yeast so can be whipped up at a moment’s notice from store cupboard staples. The shortcut in this recipe is the potato. There is no laborious peeling, grating or mashing. The potato used is in fact instant mashed potato. Deb (or Smash if you’re in the UK). Now, don’t go all judgey on me. I too had reservations but thought ‘How bad can it be?’. The answer is, ‘Not bad at all’. Some of Nigella’s shortcut ideas work remarkably well but some have not been as successful. It’s a process of trail and error. This shortcut turned out to work very well indeed. I wouldn’t go serving instant mash at a dinner party or anywhere else for that matter but as a shortcut  ingredient in potato pancakes, it works!

You can make a large batch prior to the party and serve at room temperature or turn out a quick batch in no time flat and have someone else top and serve them. Smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill is a given but try horseradish sour cream with beetroot for a vegetarian option. This recipe makes dozens and dozens of canape sized potato pancakes or, you can cook them the next day as savoury pikelet with bacon and fried mushrooms for a hangover recovery breakfast.

And you will never find me in the kitchen at parties…

Little Potato Pancakes
(Nigella Lawson)


  • 60g instant mashed potato granules
  • 40g plain flour
  • 1/2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 125ml milk
  • 2 x 15ml olive oil
  • 1 x tbsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/2 tspn lemon juice


  • In a bowl or wide mouth jug, whisk eggs, milk, olive oil and chives.
  • Stir in potato granules, flour, baking powder and salt until smooth. Add lemon juice and stir.
  • Heat a non stick frying pan on a medium heat and drop tablespoonfuls of batter into pan.
  • Cook for 30 – 45 seconds until bubbles appear in the pancake and then flip.
  • Cook for another 30 seconds and then remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  • Repeat with remaining batter. Allow pancakes to cool or keep warm in an oven over a very low heat until all the mixture has been used.
  • Decorate with sour cream, caviar or other suggested toppings and serve.

Makes 30 – 40 small pancakes

Small potato pancakes topped with sour cream and slivers of beetroot and capers


  • This batter can be prepared up to a day in advance and stored in the fridge however, add only 100ml of the milk. Hold back the other 25ml of milk to loosen the mix when you are ready to use as it will have thickened. You can add another tablespoon if the mix is still too thick.
  • The original recipe called for dill but I substituted this for chives as dill is not to everyone’s taste. Play around with finely chopped parsley or chervil.
4 comments… add one
  • Heather May 1, 2014, 2:04 pm

    I’ve always wondering what the instant stuff was like. Mini pancakes are always a winner in my book!

    • Fiona Ryan May 1, 2014, 3:25 pm

      I remember wishing for it as a kid and then having some at camp. It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Since I wrote this post, I’ve actually seen a bread recipe that also uses it. Versatile!

  • Mel @ The cook's notebook May 4, 2014, 2:03 pm

    I ALWAYS underestimate how much time I need to prepare for dinner parties. I really should be more organised!

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