The BBQ season is well under way and although the weather has by no means been perfect, we’ve had several warm sunny days that just make you want to get out into the garden and grill. These maple tofu skewers are not only delicious but are thoroughly inclusive to all as they are vegan and by their very nature, gluten free.
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. I’ll be heading off to visit my mother shortly. I was going to take her out to lunch, but turns out she hadn’t realised the significance of the day and has invited friends over. So I decided to make her an ultra healthy, dairy-free, grain-free and refined sugar-free vegan cake instead. Why? Because I felt like it and thought it would make a nice change. So this chocolate coconut cannellini cake is what she’s getting.
Bowls of grains topped with vegetables, protein and some sort of dressing are not only healthy but can be flavoursome and deeply comforting. This vegan rice bowl with its smoked tomato sauce is particularly good, especially when topped with tofu marinaded in a pure maple syrup dressing then fried in coconut oil. If you’re running out of ideas for #Veganuary, this is an excellent one to try.
When I set banana as this month’s ingredient for We Should Cocoa, I didn’t have anything particular in mind, but with the run of wet weather we’ve been experiencing down in Cornwall over the last few days, I needed comfort and cheer. It had to be pancakes. Not just any old pancakes, but something a little luxurious which was also healthy, delicious and above all comforting, Banana pancakes it was then – with added ricotta.
After all those amazing layer cakes in March, I thought something a little simpler might be in order this month. No bake chocolate treats it is. Think chocolate cornflake nests for Easter, tiffin to use up all those Easter chocolate leftovers or raw energy balls for a healthy post Easter detox.
Just in case anyone’s missed it, today is Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day or in French, Mardi Gras, meaning Fat Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is an important day in the Christian calendar, being the last day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. Traditionally, it is a day of celebration and feasting when all of the good things in the house are eaten up to make way for the long Lenten fast, including butter, eggs and milk. As we know, butter eggs and milk (with a little flour) make pancakes. So it’s easy to see how a tradition of making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday came about – reckoned to be at some point in the Middle Ages.
Tossing pancakes is all part of the fun. If you’re feeling energetic as a result of all those carbs, you can burn them off in a traditional pancake race: pancakes are carried in a frying pan and tossed at the start and finish of the race, with points given for the best flip. I was surprised to learn that the first one recorded was as far back as 1445 in Olney, Buckinghamshire.
The day cannot go unmarked and in time honoured tradition, I made pancakes for breakfast. In a slightly less traditional approach, I added cocoa and banana to my batter – more Mardi Gras in sunny Rio than in grey rainy Cornwall. The recipe for cocoa Scotch pancakes I’ve adapted from a new arrival on my bookshelf, Chocolate by Jennifer Donovan. A review will follow. As usual, I decided to go my own way: due to a surfeit of bananas, I substituted one for the sugar and also added a little cinnamon.
This is how I made:
Chocolate Banana Scotch Pancakes
- Whizzed a banana into 250ml milk with a hand held blender.
- Sifted 250g flour (half wholemeal, half white) into a bowl together with 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp maca powder (for a mini health kick) and 1 tbsp cocoa powder.
- Made a well in the centre and added a duck egg (can use large hen’s egg).
- Stirred from the centre outward gradually adding the milk and incorporating the flour until all is well mixed.
- Heated a frying pan over medium heat and added a small knob of butter.
- Placed spoonfuls of batter on the frying pan and left to cook for a a couple of minutes or so, until bubbles started to appear on the surface of the batter.
- Flipped the pancakes over and cooked for a further minute.
- Kept warm in the oven until the batter was finished.
- Served with nectarines and maple syrup.
It’s not often we manage pancakes for breakfast on Shrove Tuesday, but fate was with us today. CT reckoned the pancakes were robust and hearty and not too sweet, just what was needed to set him up for the day. They had a real taste of the tropics with the chocolate and cinnamon flavours coming through loud and strong and the banana a faint undertow. I was really pleased I didn’t add any sugar to the mix as the pancakes were quite sweet enough from the banana and we were able to add maple syrup to suit individual preferences. The nectarines made for a surprisingly good combination and were a perfect foil for the carbohydrate laden pancakes giving freshness, acidity and added flavour.
There is still time to join in the pancake fun with Sainsbury’s who are offering four prizes for the best Twitter Pancake Selfie. Just tweet a photo of your pancake to @SainsburyPR and @Sainsburys including the hashtag #SainsbosPelfie by midnight on Tuesday 4th March. You will need to follow them both on Twitter too.
To me waffles have always seemed the height of elegance and sophistication. I’ve never eaten them here in the UK, but I have fond memories of the light and crispy delights offered to us at elegant establishments in Europe. On our visit to Ghent we had them served mit slagroom. Slagroom for the uninitiated is the Flemish for whipped cream. Jolly delicious they were too.
I think of waffles as a 3D pancake, with their neat little reservoirs which hold lots of butter, cream, syrup or whatever else you fancy to shorten your life. When I was sent some silicone waffle moulds from Lékué to try out, it didn’t take me long to drop those eggs and flour into a bowl and start mixing.
My enthusiasm for Lékué remains unchecked with this, the third product I have tried. You can read my previous posts on the bundt mould and the bread maker by clicking on the links. Having used silicone bakeware for years, I have experience of the good and the bad. The performance of cheap silicone moulds I’ve used in the past really isn’t that good. Thin material results in uneven baking with the bottoms getting burnt and the batter not being properly cooked. The Lékué silicone is sturdy and you can tell the products are of good quality by the look and feel of them. To boot, they come with a ten year guarantee. The pack contained two moulds, each with 4 waffle patterns. The waffle indentations were well defined and turned out perfect looking waffles. I found the moulds very easy to use and they gave a good result with a fluffy interior and a nice crispy exterior. I was slightly concerned about how easy it would be to release the waffles, but they slipped out of the moulds with no trouble at all. Not only that, but you don’t get all the smoke associated with hot metal, grease and batter – or is that just me?
I’d also been sent some Clarks maple syrup to try out and waffles seemed the perfect vehicle to do so. Just in time for Pancake Day, I was sent four small 180 ml plastic bottles with squirty tops. These were nice and easy to use, though I found the syrup to be rather more liquid than I was expecting. Two were pure maple syrup and two were blended with carob fruit syrup, which seemed a little odd and unnecessary to me. I would rather have my syrup pure and dilute or mix it in whatever way I wish, rather than have it done for me. In this instance, I didn’t want to adulterate the pure syrup and simply drizzled it over some of the waffles and served with a little whipped cream and pomegranate seeds. However, I had designs for the vanilla version, which I thought would help to make a luxurious chocolate sauce. For the chocolate sauce, I was also keen to use some of the premium couverture dark chocolate I’d been sent from Cacao Barry, 70% Ocoa pur noir, which I thought would give a particularly rich and fulsome flavour. The aroma wafting up from the packet was of chocolate, caramel and tobacco and the taste lived up to the promise that these smells evoked with multi layered notes hitting the palate in succession.
As well as using the maple syrup on the waffles and in the sauce and subsequently in a number of other ways, we tried them neat to get a real sense of their individual characters.
Original (blended with carob fruit syrup) – strong smoky, caramel, rich. Wouldn’t want to eat too much at any one time. Very sweet.
Vanilla (blended with carob fruit syrup) – reminded me of cough medicine that I used to have as a child – something I always viewed as a treat. Aromatic, with a strong vanilla flavour. Very sweet. I used this one in the chocolate sauce to good effect.
Pure Canadian (No.1 Medium Grade) – less runny than the previous two and not as overpoweringly sweet. Smoky and tanniny with a drying-in-the-mouth feel. It was this one that we used on our waffles and it worked well.
Pure Canadian (No.2 Amber Grade) – this proved to be my favourite. It was sweeter than No 1 with a more rounded “maple flavour” but still with the tannins coming through.
The moulds came with instructions and a recipe for sweet waffles and one for savoury. The savoury waffles sounded quite delicious with an addition of Parmesan, oregano and paprika. I am quite keen to try these, but for my first attempt I decided to make waffles that were neither sweet nor savoury so we could add the maple syrup and chocolate sauce without them becoming too sweet. I based the batter on the recipe provided, which gave the perfect amount to fill the eight waffle moulds.
|Just out of the oven – see that steam rising?|
This is how I made:
Waffles with a Maple Syrup Chocolate Sauce
- Sprayed the moulds lightly with oil (not something I normally do with silicone, but it is recommended for the first time of use). Placed them on an oven tray.
- Melted 110g unsalted butter in a pan over low heat.
- Sifted 240g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white) into a bowl with 2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of pink rock salt.
- Made a well in the centre and broke in 3 medium eggs.
- Started stirring this, slowly adding 410 ml milk until a smooth batter had formed.
- Added the butter and stirred until incorporated.
- Ladled the batter into the moulds – there was just enough to completely fill them, but with none left over.
- Baked in the lower half of the oven at 200°C for 10 minutes or until set.
- Removed from the oven and turned out onto the oven tray. Placed back in the oven with the pattern side up for a further 5 minutes or so until the waffles were crisp and golden.
- Melted 150g 70% good quality dark chocolate (Ocoa pur noir) with 200g double cream in a pan over low heat.
- Added 2 tbsp maple syrup and stirred until all incorporated and smooth.
- Poured the warm sauce over the hot waffles and scattered some pomegranate seeds over the top.
We just loved these. Two each was plenty, but very greedily and because we had them for brunch, we polished off all eight of them. Crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, I shall be making these waffles again very soon. Next time, if there are only two of us, I shall try freezing half of them for a quick and easy breakfast, brunch or dessert another time. The chocolate sauce was indeed rich and quite delicious too with a faint hint of maple that gave it an air of added luxury. Having said that, we also enjoyed eating them with cream and pure maple syrup.
Pancake Day is on the 5th of March. I’m seriously thinking of renaming it Waffle Day. maple syrup is, of course, a must – as is chocolate.
Lékué also sent two fabulous stretchy covers that will fit over various sized containers from a half used tin of tomatoes to, in this instance, a bowl of chocolate sauce. They are also good for covering half eaten pieces of fruit such as an orange or melon. The reusable covers act as temporary lids creating a vacuum seal to keep leftovers fresh – a much better option than clingfilm in my opinion. As there was plenty of chocolate sauce left over, I used one to cover the bowl. It was both easy to put on and easy to take off. The remaining chocolate sauce was used to make the truffle icing for my chocolate Valentine cakes.
Thanks to Lékué for sending me the waffle moulds and stretch tops to try out and to Clarks and Cacao Barry for the maple syrup and chocolate. I was not required to write positive reviews and as always all opinions are my own.