It’s time for a bit more armchair culinary tourism and we’re off to Genoa in northern Italy, birthplace of the farinata, a chickpea flour pancake that is a popular snack along the coast of the Ligurian Sea, where it’s known as fainâ, and down into France’s Côte d’Azur, where it’s known as socca.
With Diwali, the Festival of Lights celebrated by Hindus, coming up on 14 November this year, we decided to mark the occasion by topping our chickpea pancake with a dry, spicy Indian inspired combination of spinach, potato and roasted cauliflower.
Prepare the farinata batter
Pancake puffing up
Toss it over to finish it off
Serve with the topping of your choice
These chickpea pancakes are usually baked in the oven but we didn’t have a suitable baking dish so we tracked down a recipe at Electric Blue Food for a pan–fried version. We replaced the water with aquafaba – the leftover liquid from cooking beans – to give the pancake a bit more oomph. This pancake proved really easy to cook compared with traditional ones made from flour, milk and eggs.
Farinata is often eaten plain with just a sprinkling of black pepper and rosemary, but it can also be served with other, more substantial, toppings. The taste of this chickpea pancake reminded us of a thicker version of southern India’s dosa, a much missed treat since the start of the pandemic. So we decided to top it with spicy vegetables to attempt an approximation of our favourite pancake.
Ingredients (serves 4)
For the farinata:
200 g chickpea flour
100 ml olive oil
300 ml aquafaba
For the Saag Aloo Gobi topping:
250 g spinach
250 g cauliflower
250 g potato
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon coriander seeds
One teaspoon chilli powder
One teaspoon cinnamon
One teaspoon turmeric
50 ml olive oil
For the farinata:
Use a wooden spoon to mix the chickpea flour with the oil in a large bowl and then slowly add the aquafaba and switch to a hand whisk and blend until smooth (you can use a blender or a stick blender for this).
Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Heat a few drops of oil in a large frying pan (around 30 cm in diameter) and then pour in a quarter of the pancake batter. Swirl it around to distribute the batter evenly.
The pancake will start to puff up – when this happens, slide a spatula underneath and turn it over and cook on the other side until it slides off the pan easily. Put on a plate and keep in a pre-heated oven (100 c) until ready to serve.
For the Saag Aloo Gobi:
Break the cauliflower into florets, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven at 180 c for 30 minutes or until they start to char slightly.
Slice the potatoes into four or eight pieces depending on how big they are. Put in boiling, salted water and cook for five minutes. Drain and put in cold water.
Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and then add the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle, add the chopped onion. Add the rest of the spices and stir well. After five minutes or so, add the potato and stir fry for five minutes.
Now put the chopped spinach on top of the potatoes and add a few of teaspoons water. Cook until the spinach begins to wilt. Stir in the baked cauliflower and serve immediately on top of a farinata.
We are currently in the middle of Maslenitsa, a week-long festival in which Russian Orthodox believers take the opportunity to indulge in rich foods like eggs and milk, personified by blini, pancakes, and some hard partying before the 40-day fast for Lent begins – this year on 2 March.
Maslenitsa is based on a Slavic pagan sun festival that marked the coming end of winter. Pancakes were seen as an image of the sun and were prepared to help banish the winter gods and bring on the warmer days of spring. There are more nods to paganism with Maslenitsa week ending with the burning of an effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, whose ashes are then mixed with the snow to fertilise the soil.
To mark the festival, this year we’ve gone for a non-traditional take on the pancake front with egg hoppers, fermented Sri Lankan rice flour and coconut milk pancakes with an egg in the middle. Spring is coming! The word hopper comes from appa, the name given to these pancakes in Sri Lanka and southern India.
Ingredients (makes 4-6 hoppers)
100 g rice flour
200 ml coconut milk
One teaspoon dried yeast
One teaspoon sugar
60 ml warm water
Oil for frying
Small bunch of fresh coriander
Mix the yeast with the warm water and sugar. After a few minutes it should start frothing. Add to the rice flour in a large mixing bowl and stir. Now add the coconut milk stirring until the batter has a consistency that is not too runny and not too thick – it should pour easily. Cover the bowl and allow to ferment in a warm place for a few hours. The mix should double in size.
To make the pancakes, heat a few drops of oil in a small (6-7 cm), high-sided frying pan. Wipe with kitchen towel and pour in the batter, swirling it around the pan so that a thin layer coats the sides. The pancake should be thicker at the bottom. Crack an egg onto the pancake, cover and cook over a low heat until the egg is cooked. Serve with fresh coriander or a grating of black pepper (or both, if you wish).
On these chilly, wintry nights there’s nothing better than a bowl of dhal, the Indian subcontinent’s beloved lentil-based comfort food, to warm you up. We’ve added some chunks of roasted pumpkin that blend perfectly with the red lentils, whilst adding a hint of sweetness to the rich, spicy blend.
In Sri Lanka, where Knidos Cookery Club has just been on a foodie fact-finding mission, dhal (also spelt dal or daal) is a mainstay of the island’s signature curry and rice dish. It’s served any time of the day – it was particularly good served with string hoppers, little nests of steamed rice noodles, and coconut sambol (grated coconut with chillies and lime juice) – a popular breakfast on the island.
Dhal can be a meal on its own when served with rice or flatbreads, or try it alongside a selection of your favourite vegetable curries. It’s a dish that tastes even better the next day when the spices have been left over night, allowing the different flavours to mix and mingle.
Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings)
125 g red lentils
200 g roasted pumpkin
250 ml water or vegetable stock
50 ml coconut milk
200 g tomatoes
One medium onion
One teaspoon each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves and chilli flakes
Two teaspoons turmeric
1 cm knob of ginger
One garlic clove
One cinnamon stick
One star anise
One bunch fresh coriander
50 ml olive oil
Roast the chunks of pumpkin in a hot oven at 200 c for 20 minutes. While the pumpkin is cooking, heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, turn the heat down and add the chopped onions, ginger and garlic and the other spices and stir well. Cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat.
Wash the lentils until the water runs clear and then add them to the onion mix with the vegetable stock and chopped tomatoes, stir and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the pumpkin chunks and coconut milk. Cook over a low heat until it starts to bubble. When cooked, remove the cinnamon stick and star anise. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve with rice and/or a flat bread such as chapati or pita.
When combined with spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger and black pepper, the mung bean can do a lot to help flush out unwanted material from your body. While some practitioners recommend following a detox diet based on mung bean soup for 7-10 days to really cleanse yourself, it’s quite a powerful process so we’d recommend a bowl or two every week as being beneficial to your general well-being.
Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings)
200 g mung beans
One stick of celery
1 litre water
Four tablespoons tomato paste
One teaspoon turmeric
One teaspoon cumin
One teaspoon chilli powder
1cm fresh ginger
Wash and then soak the mung beans for at least four hours (the longer you soak them, the quicker they’ll cook). Then put them in a pan, cover with the water and add the turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and chilli powder.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, add the tomato paste, grated carrot and courgette, the thinly-sliced celery and the minced ginger, stir well and simmer for another ten minutes or so. The mung beans should just be beginning to go soft. Pour into bowls and serve with a generous grind of black pepper.
After touring through North America and Mexico, we’re finally back at KCC’s winter HQ in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We’ve been craving for something spicy and Asian and, with broccoli in season, decided on this take on the Indian classic aloo gobi.
You’ll probably be familiar with aloo gobi, which combines potato and cauliflower in a spicy sauce, if you’re a fan of food from the Indian sub-continent. Having eaten the cauliflower version numerous times, we started to wonder why we’d never come across the dish made with broccoli instead.
It turns out that broccoli is a fairly recent arrival to the tables of India – it was first brought to the country in the early 1990s by a farmer called Jitendra Ladkat, according to this article. So, therefore, there’s no great surprise that it does not feature as a mainstay of Indian cooking.
We served up our aloo broccoli with a split pea dal, brown rice and some flat bread and can thoroughly recommend it as an alternative to the tried and tested aloo gobi.
Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)
400 g small potatoes
400 g broccoli florets
One small red onion
200 g tomatoes
50 ml cooking oil
Spices: one teaspoon each of cumin seeds, coriander, chilli powder, turmeric, six cloves, one star anise.
Cut the potatoes into quarters and put into a pan of boiling water and simmer over a low heat for five minutes, then add the broccoli, cover the pan and cook for another five minutes.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds, cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick. After five minutes add the chopped onion and cook over a medium heat. Add the coriander, chilli powder and turmeric and mix well.
Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes over a low heat and then add the cooked broccoli and potatoes. Mix well and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with rice, dal and flat bread. The dish tastes even better if left overnight and reheated as this allows time for the flavours to blend.