I only ever seem to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and it’s daft. Every year I vow I’ll cook them more often, they’re so delicious. The people of Brittany are far more sensible, they scoff buckwheat galettes all year round. I’m making myself a promise to follow their example.
Buckwheat flour has a wonderfully nutty flavour and because it’s not actually made from any form of wheat - it’s a member of the rhubarb family - it is gluten-free. I’ve used some plain wheat flour in this recipe because it makes the pancakes easier to handle. They can be made entirely from buckwheat, but please be aware they may break if you try to fold them ... you can always layer them instead.
Traditional fillings include ham and cheese and/or wilted spinach topped with an egg and sometimes a small splash of cream. They are also very good with spinach and smoked haddock mixed with a little mornay sauce.
One or two of these pancakes coupled with a salad makes a very good supper. Thin, supple, crispy at the edges with a savoury filling ... yum. Feel free to wash them down with some Breton (or Suffolk) cider.
Breton Buckwheat Pancakes (makes 6-8 pancakes)
75g buckwheat flour
30g plain flour
Pinch of salt
300 ml milk
50g melted butter
Oil for frying
For the filling:
Sliced ham, torn into large bite-sized pieces
Grated cheese (Emmental or Comte is traditional, Cheddar is fine)
Put the flour, salt, egg and half the milk in a bowl and whisk. Add the remaining milk and refrigerate for an hour or more.
Whisk in the melted butter. Lightly oil a frying pan ... a tip from Breton-born Richard Bertinet is to dip a cut potato into the oil and wipe it across the pan ... then pour in a ladleful of batter and tip and swirl until it thinly coats the base.
Cook until it's golden underneath, then turn it over and cook the other side. Keep going until you've used up all the batter. Stack the galettes at the back of the stove to keep warm, covered by a tea towel: they don't stick together like normal pancakes.
To finish, re-heat one at a time in the pan, place a little grated cheese cheese in the centre and scatter round the torn ham and a few baby spinach leaves. Crack in an egg (break it into a tea strainer first if you want to get rid of the watery part of the white) and flip the sides of the pancake towards the middle so you have a square with the centre left open.
Put on a lid and cook for around 3 minutes so the white is beginning to turn opaque on top. Remove the lid to finish cooking the egg so the pancake doesn't go soggy: you're aiming for a set white but a runny yolk. Eat straight away.