Saturday, October 30, 2010

Shred It


I saw this post, and I thought 'I can't believe I've never posted about vegetable pancakes!' Vegetable pancakes, galettes, rösti, or latkes are quick and easy to make, and are a great way to cram chockful of veggies into your diet. Because they are panfried, there's just enough fatty goodness to get kids to eat them, but not so much that you would feel guilty about eating them.


My mother is a fan of potatoes, and absolutely fell in love with the idea of potato pancakes after reading Hans Pieter Richter's children's novel Friedrich. So, despite growing up in an Asian household, potatoes in their many guises were very much  a part of my culinary upbringing. Having Jewish friends at school won latkes a permanent spot in my repertoire.


If, for some crazy reason, you are trying to cut back on the amount of potatoes you consume, the pancakes can be made with any combination of vegetables: leeks; beets; parsnips; rutabaga; onions... You don't even need to put spuds in the mix, but you would be wrong to omit them. The lowly potato is often maligned because of its association with many forms of junk foods and empty calories, but it  is actually a very healthful vegetable: it is low in fat and sodium; is a good source of vitamins C and B6, potassium and manganese. In fact, the potato was nominated vegetable of the year for 2008.


I do think, however, that potato pancakes are more interesting when they are made with more than just potatoes: leeks and potatoes are a marriage made in heaven, so my basic galette recipe usually contains alliums, but if you have vegetables that need to eaten in a hurry, pancakes are the perfect way to go. As a matter of fact, I happened to have some leftover beet slaw when I decided to make a batch of pancakes. The dressing merely adds extra flavour, and the raisins were a tasty addition.


Vegetable galettes are prettiest when made with a mandoline, but if you do not own one and have no intention of purchasing one in the near-future, a regular box grater (or a food processor) will do the trick, just use the small or medium holes. Make sure you grate the potatoes over a plate or the mixing bowl, to catch all the starchy juices: it will keep the rösti together. Regular pancake recipes call for some flour to bind the mix, and sometimes an egg, but they can easily be made gluten-free and vegan.  The vegan version could be a little softer than the original recipe, so you might want to dust each galette with some flour before frying to add extra crispness. You can also vary the seasoning by adding different spices such as ground cumin, coriander, oregano, thyme... How much fat you use is completely up to you: latkes are usually fried in quite a bit of oil in commemoration of a miraculous oil lamp, but you can just as easily succeed by using very little oil.


Vegetable Galettes
Makes enough to feed four as a side dish, or 2 as a main course

2 medium sized potatoes
1 medium beet
1 small rutabaga, or ½ a medium one
1 small celeriac
1 small onion or leek
3 eggs or 3Tbs flaxseed or chia meal plus 4Tbs water (or 3Tbs other egg replacer)
4 Tbs wheat flour or buckwheat or quinoa flour, or 2Tbs cornstarch
about ½tsp each salt and pepper
oil and/or butter for frying

Peel all the vegetables. The potatoes can be left un-peeled, but make sure you remove any eyes or sprouts.
Thinly slice the onion or leek, shred the others on a mandoline or grater.
Mix everything together, making sure there are no lumps of flour left.
In a deep frying pan over medium temperature, heat oil and butter until hot: if using only oil, it will be shimmering, if also using butter, the bubbles will be turning golden brown.
Drop vegetable mix by the spoonful into pan, flattening the mound to 1cm (1") thickness.
Cook until golden, about 5-6 minutes, before flipping over. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Drain on a paper towel before serving. You can keep them in a warm oven until you have finished cooking all the galettes.

Serve the pancakes as is, with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt, with a dab of homemade ketchup, and garnish with chopped parsley or green onions. If the galettes are the main course, serve a salad or a soup on the side. If you're in the mood for 'really junky food', you can use the pancakes as 'buns' in a sandwich (kind of reminds one of a certain fast food joint's recent introduction... But less gross!) These pancakes are also tasty cold, so left-overs can be brown-bagged the next day.


Bon app'!



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