Savoury Pancakes for Pancake Day or any day!

By Monica Shaw •


Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day is on 4th March. It’s a day for eating, tossing and racing with pancakes. But pancakes aren’t only for breakfast or on Pancake Day. Last weekend Great British Chefs blogger Monica Shaw went on a mission to discover some amazing savoury pancakes that are well-suited for lunch or supper, be it on Pancake Day, or any day of the week.  She also shares her recipe for the delicious gluten-free Indian chickpea pancakes pictured below.

Photography & post by Monica Shaw

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day is on 21st February. It’s a day for eating, tossing and racing with pancakes. But pancakes aren’t only for breakfast or on Pancake Day. Last weekend I went on a mission to discover some amazing savoury pancakes that are well-suited for lunch or supper, be it on Pancake Day, or any day of the week. 

Russian Blinis

Savoury pancakes are not uncommon.  For example, potato pancakes are delicious – I grew up with these served in the Polish tradition with sour cream and applesauce.  I’m also a long-time fan of savoury buckwheat crepes (veganor otherwise), particularly when filled with sautéed mushrooms or mashed potato and onion (again, that’s my Eastern European heritage flexing its influence).

Last weekend I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and explore other means of savoury pancake consumption.

Russian Buckwheat Blinis

Russian Blinis

Tip-toing from my Polish roots, I first paid a visit to my Russian neighbours and their blinis, little buckwheat pancakes often served as canapés with sour cream and smoked salmon or caviar.

Having never made blinis before, I followed The Guardian’sinstructional article on how to cook perfect blinis. Word to the wise: if you want buckwheat blinis, make sure you start a few hours ahead.  Blini batter uses yeast which takes a few hours to develop, but the results are worthwhile. The batter includes crème fraiche that, along with the buckwheat, give the pancakes a nice tang, whilst caraway seeds lend a pleasant aroma that does indeed beg for sour cream.

Blinis are tasty on their own, but they really beg for a savoury topping to turn them into a meal. I wanted to go veggie with these blinis so I had to think outside of the box.  My first topping was simple: sour cream, roasted red peppers and chives. I used roasted red peppers from a jar which made this dead easy.

For my second topping, I made the recipe for tofu, mushroom and hazelnut pate that I learned last year at The Vegetarian Cookery School. This was good, though I learned after taking the photo that it’s even better if you garnish the pate with a bit of pickled walnut.

The verdict: with a little patience and a couple tasty toppings, buckwheat blinis make a lovely supper with a glass of red wine. They do take a little time, though, so best to leave these pancakes for the weekend!

Indian Chickpea Flour Pancakes

Indian chickpea flour pancakes

Following the blinis, it was time to really push some boundaries and head east to India, where I discovered the Besan Cheela, a popular north Indian street food. The recipe at mytastycurry.com offers a simple base recipe: chickpea flour, water, fresh coriander, chilli and salt get mixed into a batter, then cooked as you would any ol’ pancake in a hot nonstick pan.

I mentioned this to fellow Great British Chefs blogger Urvashi Roe who turned me on to her Gujarati version of the chickpea pancake, made with chickpea flour and yogurt (rather than water) to create a delicate, almost egg-like pancake. Furthermore, Urvashi’s recommended blend of spices are superb.

Indian chickpea flour pancakes

Verdict: These really won my heart. Indian chickpea pancakes are easy, healthy, gluten-free, totally vegan (when made with water) and the ideal delivery advice for pickles and chutney. The yogurt-based pancakes are VERY delicate, however, so I recommend that newbies to chickpea pancakes start with the water-based version. However you make them, Urvashi’s spice blend (given below) can’t be beat.

Basic Indian chickpea flour pancake recipe:

3 cups yogurt (or 1.5 cups water)

1 cup chickpea flour

1 tsp each salt and chilli

1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander (optional)

¼ tsp each ajowan seed and turmeric (optional)

Fresh ginger and garlic (optional)

Fresh coriander leaves

Simply whisk everything together, adding a bit more water to get a consistency that will spread out in the pan (it might take a few pancakes to get this right). 

Heat a nonstick pan on medium and smear it with oil. Take a ladel-fulls of batter (I used a ¼ cup measuring cup for this) and swirl it swiftly in the pan to get a pancake.

Cook the pancake on one side until it’s almost completely dry on top and golden on the bottom (you may have to adjust the heat to keep it from burning).  Flip the pancake and cook until the other side is golden, too.

Italian Farinata / Socca

Now, since we’re talking chickpea flour, a shout-out must also be given to farinata (aka socca), an Italian chickpea flour pancake very similar to the Besan Cheela, but made with olive oil and fresh rosemary. You can serve the pancake simply as is, or top it with roasted veggies (eggplant is great) and a nice sauce like puttanesca. You can find a basic recipe for farinataon my blog.

Farinata with baked eggplant and olive and caper sauce

By the end of the weekend, I was left with a LOT of leftover pancakes. Which is fine, because they all freeze well and will bring me numerous easy-peasy savoury pancake suppers for many days to come.

Blog post by Monica Shaw for Great British Chefs

Will you be cooking up some savoury pancakes for Shrove Tuesday? What are your favourite savoury pancake ideas? We'll be discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.

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Monica Shaw

Monica Shaw is web consultant working with chefs, restaurants & food producers, to help them make use of the internet to improve their businesses. She's also a freelance writer, her credits include The Daily Telegraph, Chef Magazine and food mag. Monica enjoys experimenting with vegetables & creating delicious & healthy dishes, a topic covered on her blog SmarterFitter.com. She is working on The Healthy Vegan Breakfast Book, due to be published in March 2013

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