Monday, 16 February 2015

Savoury Breton Galettes with Cider for Pancake Day

So your Valentine’s weekend may be over and done with for this year, but romance is certainly not dead... Because it’s Pancake Day tomorrow! Extend your loving gestures – even if just for yourself – by making these Breton Galettes.

Last year I went all out with some Rum Butter Pancakes using Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum, guaranteed to put a greedy grin on anyone’s face, and this year I’ve managed to claim the supreme Shrove spot again. Instead of going down the sweet route – we all know what our favourite toppings are – I’m flipping French style savoury ones. And thanks to a visit to Paris’ Little Breizh crêperie a few years ago (a boozy brunch visit that I still dream about to this day), I’m taking a leaf out of their book by pairing my pancakes with cider.

Breton Galettes, or buckwheat crêpes, are a staple in Normandy and Brittany; they’re large, thin pancakes made using gluten-free, nutty buckwheat flour, and are most commonly garnished with meats and cheeses before being folded up into a square and served. Although sweet fillings would be welcome, you’d typically find things such as fruits, caramel, and chocolate on smaller wheat based pancakes.

Eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the traditional drink to have with your galettes is a Breton apple cider, dished up in a ‘bolée’ – a china teacup to you and me. Lightly sparkling, refreshingly crisp, and often a little oaky, it’s the only thing you’ll want with your savoury pancakes forever more.

After scouring the internet looking at various recipes, I ended up tossing a few together in some kind of crêpe mash up in order to make a substantial dinner for me and my other half. I followed Jamie Oliver’s instructions, putting cider into the batter to lighten it and give it extra flavour. And, because it makes enough for 8, we had plenty to spare for dessert, and even breakfast the next day too! I also made roasted root veg salad loosely based on Nigel Slater’s side dish suggestion; punchy with Dijon mustard and sharp with vinegar, it makes a good accompaniment.

Usually Pancake Day can get a bit stressful; you churn them out, watch other people eat them, then when you finally get one for yourself, you have to scoff it standing up as you hover over the frying pan making more. The best thing about this is the fact that you make all your galettes first, stacking them up in a warm oven, before filling, folding and putting back in the oven to heat back up. This enables you to enjoy them at the same time as everyone else, and takes that last-minute-rush panic out of the situation. If you’ve gone for cheese in yours, you want that to be sufficiently melted, and the tops of each galette to be a little crispy; I went for ricotta, prosciutto and gruyere, a combo I’d defos recommend.

As for cider, we Brits are very good at making our own, and as a result, there’s not much in the way of overseas offerings in the supermarkets. Admittedly not from Brittany, I found a French Cidre from neighbouring Normandy in Waitrose, then as a comparison, I picked up a Leckford Estate Cox’s Apple Cider too.

Very pale in colour, this slightly fizzy cider is made from single variety Cox's apples grown on the Waitrose farm. It doesn’t give much on the nose, but on the palate it has a sweet, fruity, fresh apple flavour – not sugary like a Kopparberg though. There’s a tang on the finish, but it’s not drying, which makes it very easy to drink. Too easy in fact; you’d never guess that it was 6.0%. It’s a safe style that’d please a lot of people, and would go with any pancake filling you choose.

Produced from Gros Oeillet cider apples, which have high acidity, flavour and richness, this is much different style of cider to the first. It pours a deeper golden colour, and is lightly sparkling with a fragrant aroma of honey, mead, and apple. These are translated in the flavour, and its bittersweet quality preserves a brilliant, slightly oaky, finish that makes you crave more. The perfect choice for strong cheese filled pancakes.

Vive La France!

Savoury Breton Galettes (serves 6-8)

  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 100 g butter, melted, plus a knob to grease the crêpe pan
  • 275 ml good-quality cider
  • 250 g buckwheat flour
  • Filling of your choice; eg. ricotta, prosciutto, gruyere

  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl then add the butter, cider, 250ml water and a pinch of salt. Slowly sift in the flour, beating as you go, until you have a smooth batter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. When ready, bring the batter out of the fridge. Melt a knob of butter in a crêpe pan over a medium-high heat. Add a ladleful of batter and tip the pan to spread it around. Once bubbles form on the surface, loosen the edges of the galette with a palette knife or spatula before gently turning it over. Cook for another minute till golden and cooked on both sides, then transfer to a warm oven while you continue making the others. (Don’t worry if your first one fails you – it often happens.)
  3. When you’ve used all your batter, take your galettes out of the oven and increase the heat. One at a time, layer up your fillings, folding the sides in to make a square (or fold in half and half again), then transfer to a baking tray. I spread ricotta over the centre of mine, placed on the prosciutto, and topped with a handful of grated gruyere; and I found that 1 – 2 galettes per person is the perfect amount if having a side dish too. Once all are filled, place in the hot oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the tops are crisp. 
  4. Serve as they are, or with a simple salad, and a chilled glass of cider.

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