Thursday, 16 February 2012

A week next Pancake Tuesday

We have a pancake day most weeks in this household. Pancakes are easy and tasty and probably not at all bad for you - if you eat them, like we do, with fresh fruit and sugar-free jam.
There are lots of gluten-free pancake recipes on the web (scroll to the bottom of that post for links to more), and all sorts of other options like egg-free, vegan, etc. Most of those recipes seem to be for thick, American-style pancakes, which don't feel to me like the right sort for Shrove Tuesday (I'm not a Christian and this is an aesthetic objection rather than a theological one). More to the point, most of those recipes have very long lists of ingredients. Suppose you can eat gluten and milk but you plan to invite your more sensitive friend over for pancakes (she'll be delighted), or perhaps you avoid gluten and dairy yourself but you don't do much baking; either way, you probably don't want to spend the cost of a very decent meal out on special ingredients for one lot of pancakes.
Round here we make gluten-free and dairy-free pancakes with four ingredients. We don't usually measure anything, just add flour and liquid gradually until the consistency seems about right. Last time I measured as I went, to share the sort-of-recipe here. So, please note: I'm no chef and this recipe hasn't been tested like a professional one - but it's approximately what we do weekly, and it works for us.

For about 10 pancakes: 
1 medium organic egg 
225g rice flour (organic brown rice flour is my favourite, and we get ours from Infinity Foods, but the Dove's Farm rice flour is more widely available and also makes good pancakes) 
425ml 475-500ml rice drink (I use Probios Rice&Rice + Calcio; you can try Rice Dream, or soya drink or another milk substitute)
Half a teaspoon flax seeds (ground flax is best but I bought cracked flax by mistake and it works; whole seeds might be OK too if you let them soak in the rice drink for 10 minutes or so)

You need a fork, a mixing bowl, a ladle, a spatula, and a small non-stick frying pan, as well as a clean tea-towel to keep the pancakes warm in.

Break the egg into the mixing bowl and beat it with the fork. Add about half of the rice drink and all of the flax seeds and beat again. Then gradually add the flour and the remaining rice drink, mixing thoroughly as you go to avoid lumps. When everything's combined to a creamy smooth texture, you can start frying. Get the pan really hot; on our electric hob I actually start heating the pan while I'm mixing the batter. Oh, of course you'll need a tiny bit of fat for the pan - does that count as a fifth ingredient? I put no more than half a teaspoon of sunflower oil in the pan at the beginning. The first pancake turns out quite oily, but then I don't grease the pan again. It probably depends on your pan; mine's a non-toxic Green Pan (apparently Teflon is not very nutritious...).
The rest of the work is just pancake basics - obvious unless you've somehow never made a pancake or seen anyone else make one. Just in case: ladle some mixture into the hot pan, immediately spreading it by tipping the pan (if the first one doesn't spread easily, add a tiny bit more rice drink to the mixture). Turn it over when the surface is set - this takes a matter of seconds. You can't wander off while the pancakes are cooking. You have to stand there the whole time and it can be quite enjoyable if you let it. The second side takes another few seconds to cook and then you put the pancake into the folded tea-towel to keep warm.

When they're all done, fold them or roll them or stack them with your topping(s) of choice and eat them straight away. Sliced banana is good, with or without blueberry spread. Stewed apple can work too. If your kitchen, and therefore your plates, are very cold, warming the plates beforehand is nice. Our kitchen's pretty warm, so I just put the folded tea-towel on top of the plates while I'm frying, and the waiting pancakes warm the plates slightly that way.
About the egg: if you really can't find an organic one, at least make sure it's free-range. But while free-range standards are of course preferable to the horrors of battery farming, they don't actually guarantee an awful lot. Soil Association organic certification demands a much higher level of animal welfare, including more space, more access to the outdoors, and no beak-trimming. (I'm not sure what terms and regulations apply in countries outside the EU. "Pastured" might be the US equivalent to free-range; CIWF recently investigated factory farming in the state of Georgia.)
If you try out this recipe, I hope you enjoy it and please do let me know how it goes - comments are experimentally open at the moment!

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