According to the English Oxford Dictionary a pancake is ‘a thin flat cake of batter, fried on both sides in a pan, and typically rolled up with a sweet or savoury filling’. Well that pretty much sums up what we call a pancake here in the UK but it can come in many forms from all stretches of the globe. The French crépes, British scotch pancakes, dutch poffertjes, or what the word conjures up in my mind, the American pancake. Thick, fluffy, piled into a teetering tower and drenched in maple syrup and slabs of butter.
Memories of past holidays to Florida and New York, obviously integrated a trip (or two) to a proper American diner. There may have been biscuits and gravy, hash browns and eggs over easy on the menu, who knows what else. My eyes searched for one thing only, pancakes. My first experience was a bit of a shocker, used to the scotch pancakes at home – small one or two mouthfuls at the very most – I was not expecting pancake pillows to arrive. Three, each the size of the plate, edging on an inch thick, a dab of butter sat slumping on top and the maple syrup, or is it called pancake syrup?? Well that was there waiting on the side. Needless to say I was a growing girl so I sure managed the plateful with no issues.
On my trip to New York, we found ourselves in a place called Tick Tock Diner, right across from Penn Station. It was a sunny but brisk morning (those winds that gust down the avenues in New York really do chill your bones), hungry for a day of much walking and sights to see, pancakes were calling. Opting for an adaptation of the original, scented with cinnamon and studded with raisins and apples, not forgetting the cream cheese butter mingling it all together, they were possibly the best I have ever sampled.
No matter how much I love pancakes, the gallon of maple syrup on the side isn’t going to do you any wonders for the everyday breakfast, but all in the name of balance my eyes will always gravitate towards them on a brunch menu. A good American pancake usually has some buttermilk in the mix, a soured milk product (traditionally the liquid that is leftover after making butter) which reacts with the raising agent to give that lift and cloud-like texture, plus some plain flour, egg, milk and butter and that’s pretty much it. Simple ingredients to make a such a satisfying end result.
I’m on a self mission to eat include as many wholegrains (therefore fibre!) into my diet as I can. Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with plain flour (all white wheat flours are fortified in the UK with beneficial vitamin and minerals. Typically Thiamin, Niacin, Iron and Calcium Carbonate), I like to go off-piste with my pancakes. A mixture of millet and quinoa is what I used here, but so man other combinations work too. Try substituting oats, rice (white, brown, black or red), amaranth, spelt, buckwheat. Don’t try teff though! I made that mistake once and when I went to drain it, straight through the sieve and down the sink the grains went. Teff is so tiny, but didn’t realise the grains were that tiny.
The evening or day before you plan to make the pancakes, soak the grains with a little vinegar or lemon juice, drain and rinse in the morning and simply blend in a high-powered blender with the other ingredients. No mess, and you can pour the batter directly into the hot pan. Just the ticket for a lazy weekend brunch.
This recipe isn’t vegan, I do like to use an egg to give that fluffiness which would otherwise be a denser pancake. It adds some protein too, however I have made them without in the past. Either substituting for a chia/flax egg or even removing completely will still give results, you will need to cook them a little longer to ensure they are cooked throughout, but keeping warm in a low oven should help with that nicely.
Make sure also to use a non-stick pan, sometimes these like to be little buggers and stick solid to the bottom, they do come away eventually just in their own time with a little perseverance and a fish slice. I reckon a skillet would work too I’ve just never used one. Pour the batter thin and they require a low-medium heat in order to cook through. Just be patient with them, and flip over when the surface is full of little bubbles and the edges are set.
I like to serve my pancakes sweet, with loads of fruit, yogurt, nut butter, sprinkley bits for some crunch and texture and if you like a drizzle of maple syrup or honey. Add a ripe banana to the batter if you like the pancakes to be sweet, plus some cinnamon for a banana-bread-vibe. However there’s no stopping you serving these up as a savoury option. For-go the cinnamon and vanilla extract in the recipe, perhaps adding some black pepper, spices such as ground cumin or turmeric, a cooked beetroot, or some spinach or herbs blitzed through the mix. I’m salivating now. A fried egg on top, some avocado, sliced chillies, a handful of greens and chilli sauce…that’s breakfast planned for next weekend at the Hudson household.
Millet and quinoa pancakes
I served these pancakes with chopped plum, sliced banana and some blackberries, coconut yogurt, some homemade roasted almond walnut and coconut butter and bee pollen and cacao nibs. You can go as fancy or as simple as you want, changing each time depending on what fruit is at its best and what yogurt is your favourite. Don’t forget that maple syrup drizzle too, or honey if you prefer, it is pancakes after all.
- ½ cup millet
- ½ cup quinoa
- Squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar
- ¼-1/2 cup of milk or water
- 1 egg (optional) or use a chia/flax egg or omit completely
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Oil for frying
- The night before place the millet in one bowl and the quinoa in another bowl, cover with water, add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to both then top with a plate and leave to soak overnight.
- The following morning, drain both the grains in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Shake to get rid of excess water.
- Add the grains to a high-powered blender along with all the other ingredients and starting with 1/4 of a cup of milk or water. Blend until completely smooth, similar to a pancake batter. If it is looking a bit thick add more water or milk a little at a time until the right consistency is achieved.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to low and place a plate in there wrapped in a clean tea towel.
- Heat a large frying pan (or skillet) on a medium heat and brush with a little oil. After a couple of minutes pour the batter into a round pancake and spread it gently to 3 to 4 inch diameter. I usually manage three at a time in one pan.
- Once the pancakes are set at the edges and bubbles have appeared on the surface, flip the pancakes over with a spatula or fish slice and leave to cook for a couple minutes more until cooked through.
- Transfer to the plate in the oven and keep them wrapped up with the tea towel.
- Repeat until all of the batter has been used up, keeping all cooked pancakes warm in the oven and then serve immediately.
- Any leftover pancakes can be kept in the fridge for a few days, or freeze them so they can be popped straight into the toaster whenever you need your pancake fix.