There are many aspects of food that I love, and a few that work well in combination are breakfast, complex carbs and soaking. I used to struggle with what to give the children for breakfast. I mean, it’s such an important meal. They need energy for the day, so it’s a good time of day for carbohydrates, but most commercial cereals are extruded (no good) and many ‘healthy’ types of muesli have, quite frankly, too much sugar.
In order to give the kids a truly great start in the morning, I often cook breakfast – simple things like French toast (aka eggy bread) and porridge, but as an American, I have an almost inexplicable LOVE of pancakes. Now, I don’t think that today I could eat those fluffy, airy creations drowning in butter and maple syrup that I used to eat at Denny’s and HoP (House of Pancakes for you Brits), but after years – no decades – of playing with my mom’s recipe, learning about the benefits of soaking wholegrains and committing completely to complex carbs, I have created a fabulous – and incredibly healthy pancake – that literally leaves my kids moaning for more.
There is absolutely no question that it is always better to eat wholemeal products over white. However, when you eat wholegrains, they are better for you if you properly prepare them. When our ancestors ate grains, they didn’t eat quick-rise breads and instant porridge. In their wisdom, they soaked or fermented grains first. All over the world, there were – and in some places still are – techniques for preparing all grains before cooking, baking and eating.
And, of course, there is a good reason for this. All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer. In our bodies, the phytic acid binds with calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc and prevents us from absorbing them. To neutralise the phytic acid, simply soak the grain in warm acidulated water – water with some plain, natural, unsweetened yogurt (or fresh lemon juice if you are allergic to dairy) – for at least seven hours.
Soaking doesn’t mean food prep takes longer – you just need to think ahead. It means starting some foods the night before. And the nice part of ‘soaking’ something like pancakes is that there is less to do on Saturday morning when the kids beg for their weekend treat.
My mom, Lucille, is from New Orleans and as Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday – or Mardi Gras – is upon us, now seems the perfect time to share this recipe for the feast of Fat Tuesday before the abstinence of Lent.
These thick, American-style pancakes are nourishing, tasty – and even a bit fluffy (the baking soda reacts nicely with the yogurt or lemon juice). Serve plain, with just butter, with lemon and a sprinkle of sugar or with butter and maple syrup. Just remember to start these the night before you want to enjoy them.
120g/4¼oz/1 cup wholemeal spelt or wheat flour
100g/3½oz/1 cup porridge oats
8fl oz/240ml/1 cup warm water
2 tbsp plain, natural yogurt or fresh lemon juice (if allergic to dairy)
1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 In a medium bowl, mix the flour, oats, water and yogurt thoroughly. It should be very thick. Leave to soak, covered, at room temperature for 7 hours or overnight.
2 In a cup, whisk the egg, baking soda and salt with a fork until combined. Add to the soaked mixture and whisk until combined. Heat a griddle or heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan to a medium-high heat.
3 Drop the batter by large spoonfuls (they should be about the size of the palm of your hand), leaving some space between the four of them. Cook for 2-3 minutes until they are bubbling through and lightly browned underneath. Flip them over with a spatula and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve warm with your favourite toppings.