Pancake infidelity

Today is Shrove Tuesday – Pancake day as its commonly known. Traditionally the day when the larder was emptied in anticipation of the Lenten fast. To be honest we’ve rarely managed to cook pancakes on the day itself since working in the City renders family mealtimes a rarity during the week. Yet as I approach pancakes this year I do so with a sense of infidelity and betrayal. I have been unfaithful to the humble pancake, seduced and forever corrupted by the spice of southern India.

I never saw it coming. I was on a business trip to Kerala, southern India, and one morning I arrived in the hotel restaurant for what I thought would be a normal breakfast. But, I was unprepared, my guard was down, and before I had time to think I had succumbed to temptation.

dosa chef

My Dosa, and the wonderful chef who cooked it!

My seductress was a Dosa (pronounced doh-sa) – a wafer thin pancake made with rice and lentil flour and filled with massala, a lightly spiced potato mix that complemented the crispy pancake perfectly.

I was smitten. There was no turning  back as my faithfulness to the traditional pancake lay in ruins. I ordered another, knowing that I would never be able to look at a traditional pancake the same way again.

Having confessed to my unfaithfulness I feel obligated to share the source of my pleasure as well as my guilt. You see, it’s no longer necessary to visit India to enjoy Dosa. Just as the dishes of northern India have permeated our food culture, the south is having it’s turn and Dosa restaurants are springing up everywhere.

Saravana Bhavan in Ilford, Essex is such a place. For well under five pounds you too can discover the delight of a Dosa, and many other vegetarian dishes. There are others too. I’ve not sampled the award-winning Prashad restaurant in Bradford but judging by their recipe book (the subject of a future post) it’s going to be outstanding.

Making Dosa at home demands commitment – the rice and lentil batter needs to ferment overnight – so I’m not offering a recipe today. But Dosa provides such a fantastic opportunity to eat out without breaking the bank that I simply had to confess.

 

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Poached egg muffins

Poached eggs on muffinsSo this is our ‘traditional’ Sunday morning breakfast, think of it as a poor man’s Eggs Benedict.

You will need one English muffin, two cheese slices (we use the processed slices you can buy for burgers – because they melt well and go all gooey) and two eggs per person.

A note on the eggs, we buy free range out of conscience and because they genuinely taste better. Lidl sell a box of six for a pound, far cheaper than the other supermarkets – I think Aldi do too. But whatever you use if you’re poaching eggs they really must be fresh.

Confession time – we cheat with the poached eggs. Having had mixed success poaching one egg, let alone four at once, we have resorted to a gadget. We use silicon moulds that float in the pan called ‘Poachpods’, they are available from Sainsburys, Lakeland or Amazon and cost around a fiver a pair and are nearly foolproof – just remember to coat the inside with a little olive oil first then run a sharp knife round the edge when they’re done. A large egg takes roughly four minutes on a highish simmer if you like your yolk nice and runny.

Given my admission of failure I cannot, with any integrity advise you how to poach an egg ‘properly’, but there are plenty of others who fortunately can. Here’s one that’s guaranteed to be Jamie Oliver free http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/sep/16/how-make-perfect-poached-egg.

So to serve, lightly toast each half of the muffin, add a slice of cheese on each while it’s still warm then top them with your poached eggs. A sprinkle of black pepper and dash of HP sauce on the side completes the dish!

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