Crêpes all the way
|BLAME IT ON RIO|
I like an occasional meal at The Saravana Bhawan — which is a chain of restaurants serving a slice of Tamil Nadu’s vegetarian food in India and abroad. And though I usually order their thali — consisting of puris and little bowls of delicious veggies and chutneys — I enjoy their masala dosas too, and particularly like something called a ghee roast. You can’t beat the taste of its crispy outer wrap eaten with hot sambar or coconut chutney.
The dosa is our answer to the crêpe — a dish that’s gaining popularity across the world. And that’s not surprising, for every region has its own version of the crêpe. When it comes to desserts, the Bengali patishapta, of course, is almost as good as the sweet crêpes filled with strawberry crush or smeared with a lemon and sugar syrup. And when we talk of savoury crêpes, our masala dosa can give any European crêpe a run for its money.
Okay, I exaggerate. The dosa has its place in the food chain, no doubt, but savoury crêpes are in a class of their own. I find they are getting to be more and more popular over the years, for they come in different kinds, and are generally healthy (if cooked in a non-stick with only a few drops of oil).
In Calcutta, Subasis Bandyopadhyay, the executive chef of The Chrome, has come up with quite a wide variety of crêpes with savoury fillings (apart from sweet crêpes) to be served at Nosh, its 24-hour coffee shop. For instance, La Primavera is stuffed with ratatouille, La Florentine has a filling of spinach and cheese and Heaven’s Crêpe has Black Forest ham.
Though chef Bandyopadhyay uses regular flour for his crêpes, the wrap itself can be made out of different kinds of flours — from maize flour and whole-wheat flour to rice flour or even a mix of dals. And what’s great is that it can be served at any time of the day — for a hearty breakfast and for dinner or lunch, where it can act both as an entrée and dessert. And if you want to eat a crêpe stuffed with chorizo, cheddar, tomatoes, avocado and spinach (the chef calls it the Blame it on Rio crêpe) for tea, who’s going to stop you?
A school of thought holds that crêpes first originated in Brittany. I am not quite sure of that. The word crêpe may have spread from Brittany but crêpes in different forms have been around for centuries. Latin America, for instance, has been revelling in wraps made out of maize flour for eons.
But what we know as crêpes were originally made solely out of buckwheat flour and were eaten as breads. Now, the stuffing of a crêpe is a rage across the world, with special crêperies serving all sorts of crêpes with the most innovative fillings. In many restaurants, people are even encouraged to make their own filling — choosing from a wide variety of meats and vegetables.
|THREE CHEESE CRÊPE|
In India, vegetarians can go to town with crêpes, for the filling can be of all kinds of cheeses, or the wide variety of vegetables that are now available in almost every city. The baked L’Argenteuil, for instance, has a stuffing of asparagus and is served with bechamel sauce and pine nuts. The Stephanie, on the other hand, is prepared with roasted chicken, spinach and pesto.
Crêpes can be served round, folded or stacked. They can be thick, or wafer thin — depending on the way you want them to be. Most people, however, like to keep the consistency of the batter (usually prepared with flour, milk, egg and water) a little thick — almost like thick cream — when they cook their crêpes.
The dish is being celebrated across the world. And why not — after all, crêpes have roots almost everywhere. The Russians have their blini, and the Italians their crespelle. The Hungarians eat a pancake called the palacsinta, and the Greeks love the kreps. And in India, there is always the masala dosa.
La Forestire (serves 1-2)
•60g flour • 40g cornflour • 100ml milk • 40ml water • 1tsp chopped garlic • 50g mushroom • 20g shitake or black mushroom • 50g Swiss cheese • 30ml cream • 50ml maple syrup • olive oil as required • salt and pepper as required
For the pancake, mix the flour, cornflour, milk and water till the mixture is flowing, but thick. Keep it aside. Soak shitake in water for 30 minutes and slice the fresh mushroom. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the chopped garlic. Sauté till the garlic is done. Add the mushrooms. Season. Add the cheese, finish with cream and keep it aside. Take a nonstick pan and add a dollop of the pancake mixture. Smoothen it to make a circle. Fill it with the mushroom mixture. Top with maple syrup and serve hot.
Photographs by Rashbehari Das