It’s at least 32 years since I devised my first savoury pancake. I remember it well. Living in the foothills of the Dublin mountains at the time, it was one of those dishes that was created out of what was in the house and growing in the garden. It has always been my experience that those are the best dishes (i.e. here’s your box of ingredients – ‘Go cook’ ). It’s when good ‘magic’ happens best. Obviously, they weren’t in a box, (!) and it has to be said there were plenty of ingredients to hand. I had left-over chicken from a roast, I had spinach growing in the garden, there were some mushrooms in the fridge and some Emmental cheese in the cheese box, and plenty of store cupboard ingredients. I will blog that recipe at some future date, as it’s one of my ‘classics’, but that’s not the recipe I’m going to blog today.
With Pancake Tuesday approaching this week, the notion of that first savoury pancake I made has me thinking of how much things have changed in the same amount of time. (Thankfully, quite a lot on most counts!). For those of you old enough to remember those days, can you remember many people being diagnosed as coeliacs? How many Vegans or Vegetarians did you know in 1982? Did people request meals at your house excluding the use of wheat, gluten, dairy, meat? There were a few, but not many. This is a topic I would like to discuss more in the future, but for now I challenged myself to something for Pancake Tuesday. Also, if you aren’t on a wheat-free or gluten-free diet, have you ever taken the time to think how difficult things like holidays, special occassions and gatherings are for these people? Today I have, and will give you my version of a chickpea flour pancake (chickpea flour is highly nutritious with a high protein content and is also known as Gram flour or Besan flour). It’s widely available- most good delicatessens and health food stores stock it. Most people don’t know they are eating it when they consume the delectable onion bahjee, as gram flour constitutes its base.(That, by the way, would be because the bahjees are deep fried and quite wicked by the time they’re consumed!! People with serious gluten-free conditions wouldn’t be able to avail of these in the typical ‘take-away’ conditions, either, as even the tiniest amount of gluten can make them very, very ill- so a restaurant would have to have separate cooking utensils and deep-fat fryers just for them…quite a risk to take.)
I’m killing two birds here, as this recipe was also in response to a question from a customer who said she always opens a pot of my Moroccan Gold hummus and finishes it in one go. (She’s not the first person to say this to me… thankfully!) Anyway, she wanted to know if I ever did anything else with the hummus, or had recipes using it, and to be honest I hadn’t up to today, other than combining it with different dippables and meats- it being a fairly comprehensive product in itself, but she got me thinking. Friday is a good day for me to think about these things, as I drive from shop to shop delivering my sauces, so for the last two Fridays I’ve put my mind to conjuring up a recipe to suit Vegans, Coeliacs, and most importantly, my tastebuds. Because I simply don’t make food that doesn’t taste good (she says modestly)! And there in lies the rub really, because I think there is a huge prejudice that if you want to eat healthily, it can’t taste good, or if something is ‘gluten-free’ and you’re not on a gluten-free diet, well then you couldn’t possibly eat that. You might be missing out on something. Rubbish….and in fact, in this case, and many others, you’d be missing out if you didn’t have these little gems which David and I scrummed down without any difficulty whatsoever. But I did cheat a little bit….just on one pancake, though they were all fine….but it was kind of screaming for feta cheese, so I just added a teensy, weensy (delightful crumbly) bit to one pancake (sorry my vegan friends), but the non-feta cheese ones were delicious too.
OK, so I’ll start telling you what to do now!! I REALLY hope some of you try this and please let me know what you think, how you got on, any problems or revelations, etc.
First you’ll need a pot of my Moroccan Gold hummus…if you’re living abroad, visit Ireland, specifically the Kilkenny region 😉 .You won’t need all those pots…just one!! And by the way, one pot will do at least four people for a change in this instance as chickpea flour is incredibly filling, as is the hummus, albeit addictive. I stripe- peeled an Aubergine (with a vegetable peeler, peel lengthwise down the aubergine), but you needn’t peel it at all.I then brushed the aubergines with olive oil (Mind those, they are the definition of ‘lushes’ when it comes to olive oil. An aubergine will drink as much olive oil as you put in front of it!!) and grilled them until they were golden. I made a dressing of Olive oil, raspberry wine vinegar, Pomegranate molasses (now there’s one of my favourite things, but I’ll keep going), chopped garlic, honey , sea salt and black pepper. When the aubergines were cooked, I put them straight into this dressing, and let them marinate while I got on with the pancakes.
Isn’t it gorgeous? OK, now I do have to deviate because that dish is made by Andrew Ludick who makes such wonderful ceramics down in the Discovery Park at the bottom of our road in Castlecomer. (www.andrewludick.blogspot.com) I LOVE his work…we have some of it, and I just can’t see how this dish is going to make it’s way back to him , so we will now own more of his work. Thank-you Andy for the use of the dishes…you’re a true wizard of an artist, and I’m quite simply BUYING this one!!! (BTW, my kitchen, as well as my labels, are purple…need I say more?)
A chickpea pancake is an Indian thing, and they use them as a bread for mopping things up. They are very nice with just the flour, salt, gluten-free baking powder, garlic, maybe some spices and water. On this occasion, I also added some finely chopped vegetables and chilli which, honestly, weren’t necessary, but were lovely and made the dish more substantial…that being my aim. So, experiment with what you have…just chop it finely. I used half a chilli, a stick of celery, a bit of red and yellow sweet peppers, very thinly sliced and then chopped, (slightly under-ripe) mango, scallions, garlic and flat-leaf parsely.I put gram flour, ground coriander, cumin,gluten-free baking powder, a pinch of cayenne and some black pepper into another bowl. Basically, the ratio is 1 to 1 so This was one cup of gram flour to one cup of water and I added a splash of lemon juice as well. Add the liquid slowly to the batter, or lumps will form, and whisk it until it’s light and frothy, then add the vegetables. Heat your pancake skillet until really hot, then add a good dollop of olive oil and swirl it around. Immediately ladle in some batter and swirl it around. Like any pancake, wait until those little bubbles start to form and then flip it (it’s a sticky, batter, so you will need the help of a spatula) and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer the pancake to a plate then spread Moroccan Gold hummus on top, including the Middle Eastern onions that come on the top of the pot, then some of the aubergines (and feta cheese crumbled, if you’re cheating!) Then roll it up and slice it into rounds.I’ve interspersedthe rolls here on another one of Andy’s amazing plates, with more of the marinated aubergines, which are a delight in themselves, and some red onions in wine vinegar I had left over from the Fish Taco blog I also cooked and photographed this weekend. (Watch out for that one….coming soon, and clearly not one for the Vegans, but I will be doing more Vegan, so stay tuned!).
For the Aubergine marinade: 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil (don’t forget they’ve absorbed quite a lot in the grilling process), 2 teaspoons raspberry wine vinegar, 1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses, 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 3 teaspoons honey, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix all the ingredients together and place in shallow dish. Add grilled aubergines while still hot. Let marinate.
For The Chickpea Pancake Batter: 1 Cup (8 fl. oz) Gram flour, 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, pinch of cayenne, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 cup water and a dessertspoon of lemon juice.
**If you’re going to make a chickpea pancake without the chopped vegetables, then I would suggest at least chopping some scallions, parsley or coriander and garlic.
***Sweet chickpea pancakes can also be made. Eliminate pepper, cayenne, coriander, cumin and use half the sea salt. Add ground nutmeg or cinnamon or cloves and sugar (if desired). Add fruit into the mix and serve with maple syrup and nuts…or….or…