Saturday, March 3, 2012

Savory Chickpea Pancakes

The pancake-bell rings, the pancake-bell! Trilill, my hearts!
Oh brave! Oh sweet bell! O delicate pancakes!
Open the doors, my hearts, and shut up the windows!
Keep in the house, let out the pancakes!   

As you may know - and if you don't, you soon will - Shrove Tuesday has long been referred to as "Pancake Day" in the UK. This is because, once upon a time, pancakes were an indulgent way of using up foodstuffs like sugar, butter, flour, and eggs that were often restricted during the fasting associated with Lent. The above quote, from Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday, or The Gentle Craft, illustrates the degree of excitement pancakes were once capable of eliciting. In fact, when the hero of the piece, Simon Eyre, an eccentric shoemaker known as "one of the merriest madcaps" in the land, becomes Lord Mayor of London (!), he uses his newfound influence to create a holiday for apprentices. And what day does he choose? That's right: Pancake Day! 

What's more, when Simon invites all the London apprentices to breakfast, even the King shows up to have a look at this "brave lord of incomprehensible good-fellowship," declaring himself "with child, till I behold this huff-cap." The sovereign is apparently content with the issue of this (presumably metaphorical) pregnancy, since he not only agrees to allow the holiday but joins the feast, telling his host, "Eyre, I will taste of thy banquet, and will say/ I have not met more pleasure on a day." So by this we see that pancakes are not merely delicious, but have important political and social applications as well. 

We enjoyed this savory version for brunch the Sunday after Shrove Tuesday, since it was the first chance I had to cook pancakes or anything else that week. Unlike more "traditional" breakfast pancakes (whether the thin UK variety, sprinkled with lemon and sugar, or their fluffy US counterparts, slathered with butter and maple syrup), these are made with chickpea flour, and have a distinctly Indian influence. In fact, they could serve just as easily for lunch or dinner with some dal and/or extra vegetables alongside.

I sautéed a few vegetables from what was a relatively empty larder, but you could obviously throw in whatever's on hand. Diced carrots, peas, mushrooms, cubed, cooked potato; any or indeed all of these would work, as long as you take care not to overwhelm any individual pancake's dainty sensibilities. My one caveat is that these are best eaten pretty immediately: the texture is a bit delicate, so they don't reheat as well as pancakes made from wheat flour. But they make for a nice change, and let's face it: who doesn't want to drop everything and eat pancakes once in awhile?

Nay, more, my hearts! Every Shrove-Tuesday is our year of jubilee; and when the pancake-bell rings, we are as free as my lord mayor; we may shut up our shops, and make holiday...Oh brave!

Savory Chickpea Pancakes
~ 1.5 cup chickpea flour
~ 1 tsp. each: baking powder, curry powder
~ 1/2 tsp each: turmeric, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, parsley, cilantro
~ 1/4 tsp. asafoetida (optional, but don't be a wimp)
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 2 teaspoons oil (I used mustard oil, but any oil would do)
~ 1.5 cup water
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil (for sautéeing)
~ 1 onion, diced fine
~ 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
~ 1 large tomato, diced
~ 1.5 cups baby spinach, chopped

~ Place a nonstick baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 200 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a large bowl, sift together the chickpea flour, baking soda, and dry seasonings. Add the mustard oil and water, mix thoroughly to make a smooth batter, and set aside.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the canola oil and sauté the onion, ginger, and tomato over medium high-heat about 5 minutes, then stir in the chopped spinach and cook one minute more. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.
~ Wipe out the skillet, return to medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour a ladleful of batter into the pan, then spoon some of the vegetable mixture on top. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, then carefully flip and cook about 2 minutes more. As each pancake is cooked, transfer to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.
~ When all the batter has been used, serve the pancakes hot with chutney, pickle, hot sauce, or whatever you like.

1 comment:

  1. That recipe makes my mouth water. Yum! And, thank you!