The Learning Curve.
I have a category in my head of ‘things that make you go hmm…’. It’s difficult to identify in advance what will make me go ‘hmm…’, but when I find it, I know it. This recipe is definitely one of them.
From the moment I got the Cafe Paradiso cookbook, this was the recipe I wanted to try. Coconut-cumin pancakes with aubergine and cabbage. It sounds unusual to say the least, but the picture had me sold. The original recipe calls for it to be served with coriander-lime oil and chili-roasted squash (which I featured recently) but too be honest, that seemed like a bit too much work for a mid-week supper.
It was a funny little recipe though.
In fairness, I did make a couple of substitutions. Pretty much the only time I shop for recipe ingredients is when I’m baking, so what the recipe below is not quite true to the original. The plain flour is a substitution for rice flour which the internet told me would be ok – if you know what rice flour does, please comment! – but the pancakes tasted fine. Also, we were out of fresh coriander, so I used the last of our parsley. I prefer coriander though, so that’s probably not a change that will stay.
The finished product was tasty and good, but I’d make a few changes next time. First off, on the pancake front, making 24 saucer-sized pancakes is more effort than it’s worth. Plus, savory or not, if you can’t roll your pancakes up, you’re missing half the fun. Also, I thought the dish could have been spicier – I added a chopped red chili (with seeds) where the recipe called for 1/2 tsp chopped hot chili. This gave a nice flavour to the aubergine dish, but not enough to be absorbed by the pancakes the way the recipe blurb described. I think next time, I’d add some finely chopped green chili to the pancake batter too – though I do like things spicier than most!
The quantities for this recipe were a bit all over the place. The recipe says its for 8-10 people, and I’d say the pancake batter would make enough for 8 at a stretch, but there definitely wouldn’t be enough filling, even if you were having squash on the side. I’d say this is a recipe for about 4, maybe 6 at a push, with leftover pancakes. (They keep well though, made a lovely lunch today!)
Finally, the ordering of the recipe was strange too, having you make the pancakes first, then cook up the aubergine, then reheat the pancakes while keeping the aubergine warm. I started by salting the aubergine (the recipe doesn’t), then made the pancake batter, before making the sauce. I fried the pancakes while the sauce was reducing, which seemed to work pretty well.
In conclusion: Really satisfying, but looking forward to making a tweak or two. Will definitely be adding more chili and cooking normal-sized pancakes next time. I think the aubergine cabbage mix would also be really tasty as a curry in its own right with some chickpeas.
100g strong flour
100g rice (or plain) flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 dessertspoons ground cumin seeds
400mls coconut milk (reduced fat works fine)
Handful chopped fresh coriander (or parsley).
1. Sift the flours, salt and cumin. Whisk the egg into the coconut milk, then whisk this mix into the flours. Stir into the coriander.
2. This will make a thick batter, which gives you pancakes ‘a good deal thicker than the average crepe’. (I found the best pancakes were the ones were I used a spoon to spread the batter, resulting in a thinner pancake, though still thicker than a crepe).
3. Heat a large frying pan to a medium heat. Brush very lightly with olive oil. Cook 1 – 3 6 cm pancakes at a time, using about a tablespoon of batter for each. (If you are making mini-pancakes, the measure really is a tablespoon, rather than a generous tablespoon).
4. Fry the pancakes for about 2 minutes, then flip them and cook the other side. Pile onto a plate – they don’t stick to each other.
250g aubergine (about 1 aubergine)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chopped hot chili (I used 1 whole chili, would use more).
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 ripe tomatoes
50 mls red wine
1 tsp tomato puree
1/4 tsp salt
100g savoy cabbage, kale or spring cabbage chopped into short, thin shreds.
1. Chop the aubergine into very small dice, toss in olive oil and roast in a ‘moderate oven’ until cooked through. Stir regularly to prevent scorching. (I cooked my aubergine for 25 minutes at 180°C ).
2. Make the sauce by cooking the onion in olive oil for a minute before adding the garlic, herbs and spices.
3. Chop the tomatoes into small dice and add them, with the wine and puree, to the pan once the onion is hot.
4. Cook over a moderate heat until reduced to a thick sauce – about half an hour. (I used this time to cook up the pancakes).
5. Add the roasted aubergine and bring to the boil for a minute.
6. Drop the cabbage into a pan of boiling water for a minute or so, then drain and stir into the aubergine.
Serve with creme fraiche or yoghurt.
And for dessert?