Savoury pancakes are my way of packing more vegetables into my breakfasts. We call such pancakes cheela if it is made the traditional way using either chickpea flour (besan ka cheela) or split mung beans (mung ka cheela) but when I make them with loads of winter vegetables, the texture is more like a rosti or even better. I like the crunch of fresh vegetables and this savoury pancake with crisp surface and crunchy vegetables inside is a treat if you ask me.
And the catch is, even the husband likes it. He might take some fresh cream or chutney or pesto with it but I have it as it is or with some more salad on the side. Especially if something green is growing in the garden. Else I just use a lot of cauliflowers, broccoli, green peas, minced ginger, green chillies and a handful of chopped coriander greens for winter comfort. In summer I might add some grated gourds, onion or even some amaranth greens to make my savoury pancakes. One with buckwheat flour and amaranth greens is a favourite summer breakfast, or even tea time snack if made into smaller fritters.
Sometimes I use drumstick flowers or leaves in my savoury pancakes. Since both these have a slight bitterness in them, adding loads of chopped onions helps balance it. You would want to get regular access to a drumstick tree when you try these believe me. Another similar cheela (savoury pancake) is made with Bauhinia flowers too.
Coming back to the gluten free breakfast, it's actually not a big deal for those who are not dependent on toast or paratha for breakfast. But those who can't live without their daily toast or paratha, they keep craving for more food even though they eat any other breakfast however calorie dense it be. Porridge, egg scramble or a full English breakfast feel insufficient to them if they don't eat that crip buttered toast, sometimes fruit preserve slapped generously over it. Clearly, this category of people are the ones who need a hearty breakfast to start the day and might survive with very small meals for the rest of the day. This kind of savoury crisp fired (shallow fried) pancakes made using loads of vegetables and some alternative flour provides a sensory satiety as well as quite low Glycemic index to last the meal for a few hours. The calorie count also comes down significantly depending upon the amount of vegetables used.
I mostly use besan (chickpea flour) for such savoury pancakes but I add some quick cooking oats or rice flour sometimes to make the texture better if using soft vegetables like greens. Ragi flour or amaranth flour work well too, but add these in smaller quantity as these flours resist spreading and flipping the pancake. Adding herbs like mint, coriander greens or dill greens adds flavour, sometimes I add cumin seeds or ajwain (carum seeds) to the mix. The mixture of roughly chopped vegetables and besan should not make a flowing consistency batter but a very thick mix that barely spreads on the pan.
cauliflower florets (or a mix of cauliflower and broccoli) roughly chopped 2 cups
green peas (or sprouts) 1/2 cup
chopped onions 1/ cup
chopped coriander greens 1/2 cup
minced green chillies to taste
minced ginger root 1 tbsp or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
carum (ajwain) seeds 1/4 tsp
besan (chickpea flour) 1/2 cup (just enough to get the mixture barely stick together)
ghee or butter to shallow fry (1 tsp per pancake)
mix everything together and give it a nice massage using your bare hands. This allows some of the water form the vegetables to moisten the besan. Add minimal water to make everything bind together and let it rest till you heat the pan.
Using a cast iron pan will be really good but use whatever flat base pan you have. Grease the pan with a tsp of ghee to season for the first pancake and heat a little. Now pour half of the vegetables mixture over it and drizzle a little ghee to let it cook and get crisp. Wet your fingers and spread the mix evenly over the pan, keeping the flame medium. Let the savoury pancake cook thoroughly on one side and then flip it over to cook and crisp the other side as well. Drizzle a little more ghee if required.
Serve right away with green chutney or fresh cream or tomato chutney whatever suits you.
For this batch of cauliflower pancake I added a little cornmeal and turmeric powder to the mix. This one tasted great with a fresh tomato gazpacho (just 2 large ripe tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, one fresh red chilly and salt to taste).
You can always play around with the ingredients keeping in mind the textures you like and the herbs and seasonings you prefer for a breakfast. It actually makes a filling meal as well. The tomato salsa or chutney or gazpacho suits this savoury pancake or rosti really well. Although you can always have it as it is.