Pancakes


socca

In the UK, 24th February 2009 is Shrove Tuesday or ‘Pancake Day’. Is it celebrated in your country? What sort of pancake will you be eating? Well, here it’s becoming increasingly popular – and commercialised. There are several fun pancake races in the morning, and many restaurants offer pancake menus. Speciality pancake restaurants – which are increasing in number – also hold pancake making demonstrations and competitions.

Pancakes are one of those foods that are found in some form or other in all countries and cultures. I’m sure you are familiar with the usual egg and flour versions, so I’m giving a recipe for socca – the legendary thin, crepe-like chickpea flour pancake from Nice. It happens to be vegan, probably gluten-free (though I don’t know for sure, so it’s best to check with a medical advisor if you have a gluten allergy), and baked in the oven rather than cooked on the stove top.

There are countless versions of socca all over Italy, India, and other parts of the world, too. So chickpea flour is available in large supermarkets, Indian stores, and Italian and French delicatessens.

In Nice, socca is eaten as a fast food snack wrapped in a newspaper – much like fish and chips in Britain, except that it is much healthier. My recipe is for a plain pancake, but you can add finely chopped fresh herbs (particularly a little rosemary) if you wish.

Socca is packed with protein, and makes excellent accompaniment to ratatouille, lightly braised vegetables such as fennel and chicory, and delicate stews made from haricot and flageolet beans. Or it can be eaten on its own with a hot or cold drink as a snack. Serves 4 as snack or accompaniment.

5 oz/ 125g chickpea flour (garbanzo flour)
8 fl oz/ 200 ml water
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil (Provencal, if you have it)

To serve:
Coarsely ground rock salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 220 C/ 425 F/ gas mark 7.
2.    Place the chickpea flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add water, and whisk the flour and water together until well amalgamated.
3.    Add salt and 2 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix thoroughly. If necessary, strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps, pressing down firmly on the mixture. (Alternatively, steps 2 and 3 can be followed using an electric hand blender to make the task easier). You should be left with smooth, thin chickpea flour batter.
4.    Swirl the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy, non-stick round baking pan or gratin dish. Heat the oiled dish in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes.
5.    Then remove the dish from the oven, and pour in the batter evenly, taking care not to splatter in the hot oil. Bake the pancake for about 10 minutes. Do not overcook. Meanwhile, pre-heat the grill (broiler) on medium heat.
6.    Remove the pancake from the oven, and place under the grill until the surface is dotted with a few brown spots.
7.    Remove from the grill, and let the pancake cool in its pan for a couple of minutes. Cut into wedges, and sprinkle with coarsely ground salt and black pepper. Serve hot.

stack-of-breakfast-pancakes

This recipe isn’t traditionally Swiss – but the original, rather plain and straightforward version (simply comprising Swiss muesli, eggs and milk) was given to me by a Swiss chef in Switzerland. Hence ‘Swiss inspired’. I have adapted it quite a bit, adding fresh and dried fruit. I have suggested apricots and figs to keep with the ‘Swiss muesli breakfast’ theme, but use any dried fruit of your choice.

The batter for these pancakes should be fairly thick, but add a splash or two of more milk if you think it needs it. The pancakes are similar in concept to drop scones. They are ideal for a leisurely weekend breakfast, especially when you have guests staying over. Serve with fresh fruit or fruit compote, honey, or thick creamy yoghurt. Makes around 24 small pancakes/ serves 6.

2 oz/ 50g medium oatflakes
1 large egg, beaten
5 fl oz/ 150 ml milk
Small pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped
2 ready-to-eat dried figs, chopped
2 tablespoons sultanas or raisins
1 tablespoon chopped mixed nuts
1 small apple, cored and coarsely grated
1 small baby carrot, trimmed, peeled and coarsely grated
Small pinch of cinnamon powder

Mixture of unsalted butter and light, unflavoured oil for frying

Icing sugar for dusting

1.    Combine well all the ingredients for the pancakes in a bowl. Leave the mixture to rest for 30 to 60 minutes, so that the oatflakes have a chance to plump up.
2.    Heat a mixture of butter and oil in a non-stick frying pan, a little at a time. Turn the heat to very low. Drop in the pancake batter by tablespoonful, two or three at a time. Flatten the pancakes into circular shapes with the back of a spoon. Cook gently for approximately 3 minutes until the edges begin to set. Flip over and cook the other side until lightly browned. Repeat the process until the mixture is used up, working as quickly as you can (use another frying pan if necessary).
3.    While you are making the pancakes, place the cooked ones on a warmed plate, and wrap them in a clean tea towel so that they don’t go cold.
4.    Dust the pancakes with icing sugar. Serve as warm as possible.

Pancakes are not just for Pancake Day! This delightfully different idea for lunch or a light dinner is livened up with a touch of chilli. Makes around 20 small pancakes.

225g/ 8 oz plain flour
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Salt
340g/ 12 oz medium cornmeal
240 ml/ 8 fl oz milk
115 ml/ 4 fl oz plain unset yoghurt
90 ml/ 3 fl oz corn oil
170f/ 6 oz canned sweetcorn, drained and rinsed
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Half teaspoon cumin, dry-roasted in a pan and crushed in a mortar
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 red birdseye chillies, finely sliced

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

2. Heat a large frying pan, and drop 2 tablespoons of batter, flattening it with the back of your spoon in a circular motion as you go. Flip over and cook the other side. To speed up the cooking time, cook 3 or 4 pancakes at a time. Serve hot, accompanied by a salad.