Pan’s victory

Cause that's the outcome of making so many.

Cause that’s the outcome of making so many.

{Note: This is the very reason I had no refined flour to bake the marble cake, for which I had to resort to the only available option.}

To Pan, who deserves more credit, and to whom I dedicate these pancakes. All things are wonderful with a little bit of mythology woven into them.

So I’m at home rolling out pancakes. These aren’t the sort that you’d top with maple syrup, more on the lines towards a Swedish pancake. Like a crepe, although slightly thicker but not as thick as a blintz. While blini’s use a leavening agent and are made from buckwheat flour, these pancakes aren’t. I call them pancakes, as in my house everyone does, and so does every Roman Catholic I’ve met out there, as well as Goans and people from the Konkan area. I say these are similar to Swedish pancakes, since their mainly rolled with a filling of coconut and jaggery which is quite sweet, and unlike crepes which are also served with savoury items, these pancakes are reserved for sweets only, similar to their Swedish cousins.

So I started out with the filling, which consists of coconut, jaggery and Green Cardamom. Coconut’s freshly grated, something I haven’t done in a very long time, sitting over the grater and scraping the pulp out. It’s a task, especially if you haven’t been on your hunches in a long time, but it’s fun altogether. Even had a glass of the coconut water I’d got after cracking them, and it was sweeter than expected. All they did was remind of the coconuts clunking together on “friends”, Rachel’s drunk kiss with what’s her name.

the first lot of the filling.

the first lot of the filling.

Now most people abroad are not familiar with jaggery, as most people pronounce it as jag-gary, it’s an odd custom in my family to call it jog-gary. I only realized that everyone called in jag-gery when I was in my first year in culinary school. A common ingredient in south-east Asia as well as Africa, jaggery is a sort of unrefined sugar, due to which it contains molasses as well. I used the yellow sort also called white, though I’m usually accustomed to using black jaggery which I receive from my aunts in Goa. The white variety is sweeter compared to the black variety but sweet isn’t always good. The same as I’d prefer dark bitter or atleast semi-sweet chocolate to the milk and white variety.

So I made the filling by heating the grated coconut along with the jaggery which I had broken into pieces to melt it evenly, and threw in a few cardamom [elaichi] seeds to flavour it, not over power it. The cardamom helps get over the sweetness of the filling which after a few bites can be overwhelming. But I’m not an overly big fan of green cardamom but it does work wonders when it’s used the right way. So once it cooked down I couldn’t help but eat a bit.

Made from an awfully simple batter of eggs, milk, sugar and flour, it’s just a trap to get you stuck in the middle. I did add a bit of vanilla essence to take out that ‘eggy’ flavour and well due to a fascination I have with anything that has a good aroma, and vanilla is one of them. A bit of salt in there too, it’s a long Indian tradition to add a bit of salt in anything sweet and a bit of sugar in to anything spicy. It’s all about synergism, and anything with flour, needs a bit of salt unless you’re looking forward to a dull product. The tricky bit is getting the consistency right, cause a thin batter is not something I’m looking for, I’m not making crepes. Too thick, and you’d end up with something similar to an uttapam from the Southern states of India. The right consistency is in there, and after trial and failure I finally got there.

Difference in consistency between batters led to different patterns.

Difference in consistency between batters led to different patterns.

Frying it was not such a hurdle. In about 15 minutes the batter was done with and my pancakes ready to roll. This was the part that I’d always work on rolling the pancakes as a kid before my sisters let me move forward to the stove. A little tuck in here and there and it feels like your rolling cuban. My sisters and I tend to find this part funny as it fondly reminds us of the scene in the comedy series, “Seinfeld” where Cramer hires cubans to roll out crepes, and doing what they do best, they roll them too tightly which causes the filling to squirt on the guests who apparently get burnt. The show about nothing. (This isn’t the same kind of rolling for some out there, if you know what I mean.)

[Taking a moment as I watch the sad end of “I am Legend”, cause something’s just can’t have a happy ending.]

Non-stick pans are heaven sent.

Non-stick pans are heaven sent.

This enjoyable once in a while task soon turned into a daily routine with my dad’s demands and soon, every evening, it was pancake duty. Now I enjoyed it the first two or three times around, cause I got to make slight alterations here and there and even ended up adding some Dutch processed cocoa powder, which was pleasant to taste. My dad managed to turn what seemed like a delightful preparation into something I dreaded. When on vacation, I don’t like sticking to a routine. So what began as a ideal task turned into rolling a number of pancakes every evening, for a month. Felt like it was penance for not making it all these years.

A tad bit like bounty.

A tad bit like bounty.

Now in my house, we tend to make pancakes on almost every insignificant occasion other than Pancake Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, where Christians fast [Shrove Tuesday as some call it]. The day where Christians line up for confessions, and also the day where they hog on everything good before it’s all given up for about a month long fast. In the western world, the night before lent is referred to as Mardi Gras, which translates to Fat Tuesday, where various rich food is devoured on. “Fat Tuesday”, kudos to the person who came up with that, bound to make anyone crack a smile.

In Estonia, they call the day Vastlapäev, where they eat pea soup and whipped cream filled buns called vastlakukkel. I have a fascination with Estonian culture after reading that bright orange book by Karen Annus Karner, the one I came by while looking out for a book on Alaskan cuisine. Which by the way, I could only manage to scrap 3 pages on, in a library that up till now has more than 10,000 books, majority of which are culinary books.

This was only the beginning.

This was only the beginning.

While rolling out some more pancakes, I couldn’t help but think about coconut and jaggery, common ingredients in anything sweet from the coastal areas of South-east Asia. I’d say for Goa now, since I haven’t really travelled to Thailand, Sri lanka or most of South east Asia, where sweets like dialects tend to differ. Though from what I’ve observed from the few Thai sweets I have tried, is that they’re quite gelatinous, and play more on textures while the flavours are quite mild. Some people I ate the dessert with were quite harsh to say that they can’t be considered a dessert since they aren’t sweet enough. I say it depends on what your accustomed to, for one, working at a live station, I remember a group of Thai women who kept asking for plain green chillies on the side of their orders, and came back and said the amount of chillies served was too little. Guess Thai women like it hot.

Well, she offered me a sweet.

Well, she offered me a sweet.

P.S. – Found out that pancakes had nothing to do with the Greek God, Pan who instilled panic in his enemies, though I had hoped for something quite fascinating behind it’s nomenclature.


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