What all four of these cooking heroes have in common is a laid back attitude to home cooking. There's also a shared joy of homegrown produce and a relaxed approach to following recipes. All of which tick my boxes.
But back to Mr Bittman. I enjoyed his recent New York Times piece on whole-grain pancakes. The accompanying video showed him incorporating some cooked oatmeal (porridge) with a scant amount of flour, herbs, nuts and dried fruit. I took notes as I watched! I made guesses as to quantities. Why? Because at the time I couldn’t actually find the recipe.
As fate would have it, last weekend came around and I awoke to an unexpected dose of mild food poisoning (sadly from an oldish favourite on Brunswick Street). My partner suffered likewise, sealing the deal as to the source of the infection. Once my digestion calmed down all I wanted to eat was porridge. Which meant the next day, when I was fully functioning again, a cup or so of rolled oats slowly cooked with rice milk and a little banana sat waiting to be used in my fridge.
My version varies somewhat from the original but they look and I suspect taste pretty authentic. The notes in italics explain the variations. The quantities were more than adequate for two very hungry adults.
Super healthy pancakes with oats and cardamom
Combine the following dry ingredients:
2 tabs ground almonds
2 tabs raw rolled oats
I chopped the almonds roughly in the food processor then threw in the raw whole oats for a couple of whizzes. The texture in the finished product was lovely – but I really wonder if it needed the raw oats at all.
1/2 tsp salt
Seeds of about 4 pods cardamom
I pounded salt and herbs together in a mortar and pestle. The aroma was quite strong, so I used this as a guide to the amount of cardamom seeds I used. The cardamom was very subtle in the first pancake I cooked but was more noticeable in later ones.
1/2 cup unbleached flour
This was perfect, in both texture and binding of the batter.
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c rice (or other) milk
I added a further 1/3 cup when mixing the final batter. to get to the right consistency.
1 tsp vanilla extract
As there was a trace of banana already in my porridge and I knew I’d be using the perfect runny apricot jam on top, no need for the addition of dried apricots. Even without that, I think they’d be over kill. The vanilla, though not in the original recipe, was a subtle flavour enhancer that I’d use again.
Stir into the combined wet ingredients:
1+ cups porridge
I had a bit over a cup of left over porridge cooked with a little banana and rice milk from the day before. As leftover porridge tends to congeal, using clean hands to break up the lumps through the wet ingredients was the most effective method.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir gently.
Despite my initial scepticism, it really does create a “batter consistency”, even with so little flour. They needed to be loosened a little more with milk. I decided to let the batter sit for half an hour. That’s the general rule for flour based pancake batters, the flour swells a little but more than that the cardamom has a chance to infuse.
Cook in rice bran oil in a hot pan. They needed at least 4 minutes a side. And like most pancakes I find it better to do a small one first, then the pan seems to get into its groove and the following ones cook more smoothly – or is that just me?
Served with a spoonful of the most heavenly, runny organic apricot jam a client had given me but maple syrup or a little honey would do the trick.
Verdict: When I first read the recipe I must admit my first thought was "crispy fried porridge". But my second thought was "crispy fried porridge could taste really good"! The oatmeal did make the pancakes a little damp in the middle, rather than the more cakey nature I'm familiar with. The ground nuts added a lovely texture that complemented the oats.
Overall - a delightful, very filling and healthy breakfast!
Though next time I might soak rolled oats over night, rather than cooking them to see how that works.