For anyone who's spent their childhood in the UK, or anyone who's lived there long enough to do some grocery shopping and ready-to-eat-meal cooking, Findus Crispy Pancakes is sure to spark a warm memory. My favourite lunch combination during my pre-school days in London primarily comprised of a couple of these pancakes, accompanied by a Ribena juice pack. It was on one of her grocery runs, that Ma picked up a bright red Findus package, and for me, it was love at first bite. For anyone who's spent their childhood in the UK, or anyone who's lived there long enough to do some grocery shopping and ready-to-eat-meal cooking, Findus Crispy Pancakes is sure to spark a warm memory. My favourite lunch combination during my pre-school days in London primarily comprised of a couple of these pancakes, accompanied by a Ribena juice pack. It was on one of her grocery runs, that Ma picked up a bright red Findus package, and for me, it was love at first bite.
Fast forward a good number of years later, my sudden craving for those comforting pre-school lunches had me start a small journey that eventually ended in fulfilment (the belly is, after all, much easier to satisfy than the mind).
Unlike Ribena, which is readily available in some of Dhaka's upscale grocery stores, I couldn't get my hands on a box of authentic Findus pancakes, so I had to resort to making my own version. Since I had fond memories to begin with, the entire process wasn't too difficult once I did a little research on Google.
To start off, I decided to make a chicken and mushroom filling as my own “original” rendition. I jotted down a list of what ingredients I used, so it would come in handy the next time I had similar cravings.
• 3 chicken breasts• A knob of butter (about 35gm) • 1 large onion• 1 clove of garlic• 1 medium carrot• 1 cup shredded cabbage (optional)• 2 cups button mushrooms, sliced thinly • 1 chicken stock cube• 1 tsp dried thyme• 1 tsp dried parsley• 250ml water (slightly over a cup)• 4 heaped tbsp of cream• 2 heaped tbsp of flour
I began by prepping all the ingredients, which basically constituted of chopping down the veggies and meat to roughly the same size. The cooking part began with first frying off the chopped chicken in a little oil (about a tablespoon) in a large hot pan. This is just to brown the meat, and does not require it being cooked through.
Once slightly brown, I took the chicken out and put aside for later. In the same pan, I added the chopped onions and garlic, and as soon as they turned slightly soft and translucent, I added the rest of the chopped veggies. I used a lot of the mushrooms here because I happened to find fresh, locally grown button mushrooms in Lavender in Gulshan 2. They come is 250gm packages at Tk255 per box and you can also find them in other upscale grocery stores such as Unimart and Dhali. I also used cabbage because I love the added crunch it brings to the overall texture of the otherwise creamy filling.
Once the veggies had softened down, I added the dried herbs and stirred well to combine. Then I added the chicken and sprinkled in the flour, stirring well to gently coat. The flour helps to thicken the gravy, once the liquids have been added. Once the flour was well incorporated, I added the chicken stock cube and then poured over the water. I allowed the contents of the pot to simmer on medium heat with the lid on. After about 10 minutes, I brought the heat down to low, removed the lid and added the cream. The cream needs to be added on low heat, otherwise there is a chance it might split. I let the entire mixture come to a gentle simmer and cooked it for a further 10 minutes.
Once the filling was done, I turned off the stove and left it to cool down, while I moved on to the pancake batter. The recipe I used was basically a simplified version of a savoury crepe and I needed:
• 1 and ½ cups milk• 1 cup flour• 1 egg• salt and pepper to taste
I mixed together all the above ingredients in a large bowl using a whisk until it came together to make one homogeneous mixture. The consistency was similar to that of lassi, if it helps – runny, but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
To cook, I used a small pan, about six-inches in diameter, over moderate heat and a medium sized soup ladle to scoop up the mixture. It's important that the pan doesn't overheat, because that creates bubbles in the pancake, which compromise on the texture and the overall appearance.
As I added each layer of the batter to the pan, I lifted it slightly and gently swirled it around so the batter coated the base of the pan evenly. Each pancake took about 20-30 seconds to cook, after which I gently transferred them onto a tray to cool off. The above batter produces about 20 pancakes.
Once all the pancakes were done, I moved on to the filling and folding. First, I lightly smeared a paste of flour and water all along the edge, which served as the glue to seal the edges. I then scooped a level tablespoon of the chicken and mushroom filling on to each pancake and then folded over the pancake, pressing the edges gently but firmly to seal properly.
Once all the pancakes were stuffed and sealed, I move on to the final step – the crumb coating. Now, the way to doing this step well involves the holy trinity – flour, egg wash, bread crumbs. I placed the three ingredients in three flat bowls. Its important to keep the wet and dry tasks designated to each hand, which helps to avoid a mess. I used Japanese panko breadcrumbs here, since they really make a difference, when it comes to crunch.
The frying was basic, where I simply deep fried each pancake for roughly a minute, until they had a golden exterior. I transferred to a tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil, and then on to a plate, with a dollop of ketchup, to be consumed hot, and deliciously crispy.
My journey certainly ended on a joyful note, with cravings met, because honestly, you can hardly go wrong with any food that comes in a crunchy exterior, with a delightfully creamy, indulgent interior.