As you may know, I’m on a bit of a mission to save some pennies in the kitchen and although I’m willing to compromise on some points (more veg and less meat), I am not willing to compromise on flavour. I’m lucky enough to have a decent stash of herbs and spices and it’s something that I’ve built up over the years, adding to it bit by bit, replacing each jar as the contents diminish or get a bit ‘past it’ and I know that I’ll never give this up. Because the easiest (and probably the cheapest) way to pep up a meal is to stick a few spices in here and there. I especially like cumin, paprika and chilli powder, but I do find that I probably use ground coriander and turmeric the most. And I like to use spices in both their whole form as well as ground and although you can grind your own, which is preferable to some as it keeps the spice fresher, I find that I use so much of the stuff that convenience wins and I tend to buy lots of spices already ground.
I also like to use a lot of fresh herbs. Although they’re not cheap, I find that they really are worth their weight in gold, in terms of flavour and I buy a large bunch of both parsley and coriander every week or two for a couple of quid from Castle Market. The fresh leaves really do pack a punch and they are great in salads. Having said that, I do also use dried herbs a fair bit and I much prefer using dried rosemary with my roast potatoes and dried bay leaves are a real staple in my herb rack.
Of course, it isn’t just flavour that can make a cheaper, or vegetarian, meal more interesting, appetising and appealing, there’s the way it’s served and I’ve been trying to think of different, ‘fun’ ways to serve food lately. A couple of weeks ago I made mac and cheese bites, this week I wanted to have a go at pancakes. Being a lover of savoury food, my pancakes are, more often than not, going to be a teatime treat rather than a dessert and I quite fancied the idea of sticking some spices into the batter mix.
An Indian themed dinner was the obvious way forward and on taking inspiration from the masala omelette, I went for a traditional English style pancake with the addition of Indian spices. I served them with a potato and cauliflower curry (or aloo gobi).
First of all I got the curry going by frying off a teaspoon each of mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a little oil over a high heat. Once the seeds started popping I added a whole cauliflower chopped into florets along with two large potatoes, peeled and copped into small chunks and turned the heat down to medium. Next went in a masala paste of 4 birds eye chillies, a clove of garlic, a chunk of ginger and a little salt all whizzed up in my mini blender. I stirred the malasa paste in with the veg and added a teaspoon of turmeric powder, a tablespoon of ground coriander, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar before pouring in 100mls of boiling water. Lid on, I let this cook away for 25 minutes or so, adding more water as and when the curry looked a bit dry.
Meanwhile Gav cracked on with the pancakes (he’s just better at them than me). He fried off a couple of green chillies, sliced, with a teaspoon of cumin seeds which was then added to a standard batter mix of 100g white flour, one egg, 300mls of milk and 15g of melted butter all whisked together. He also mixed in a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped.
Using a small non stick omelette pan, Gav cooked each pancake for two minutes each side and he managed to get six pancakes out of the mix. If you want some tips on how to make pancakes, check these pancake recipes out (this page also includes a video of how to make American style pancakes!).
We had two pancakes each with the curry and I have to say that I was quite impressed. They were quite thick, so don’t expect anything like the Indian dosa, but full of flavour and they just added a little something to the curry. They looked stunning too; the yellow of the turmeric came through really well and complemented the green coriander leaves nicely. I think I’d use red chillies next time, to add further colour.
With two left I decided to serve them with a coriander chutney I had made earlier (coriander stalks whizzed up with two birds eye chillies, 2 cloves of garlic, a drizzle of oil and a little lemon juice with some salt) and I think I actually preferred serving them in this more simple way; it let the flavours of the pancake sing.
I’m already thinking of different ways to serve these pancakes. Maybe with crisp rashes of bacon for breakfast? Some spiced minced lamb for tea? Or maybe just with some lemon and sugar for a lunchtime snack. I think I’ll also play with the spicing of the pancakes too. Chilli and paprika served with a tomato salsa could be good. Or how about a chocolate, cardamom and chilli pancake for dessert?
The possibilities may well be endless! What are your favourite pancake dishes?