When eventually you get bored with cooking from cookbooks – following a recipe exactly, I mean – you start to piece things together in your head, combining and recombining ideas and recipes and flavors. These days, that is what I do quite often. I look for shortcuts to achieve flavors and textures – like the kulfi ice cream I have been making fairly regularly for a few weeks because it is so damn easy and fast. But I also like the longer recipes and techniques that are sometimes repetitive but for which you can generate a great deal of respect very quickly for people who have mastered the art.
Like the art of making mandarin pancakes. You know, the light, silky and floury pancakes that you fold like a handkerchief around a nugget of duck breast with a drizzle of hoisin sauce and a tucked spear of green onion. The thing is, right now I am doing my best to avoid processed flour and sugar and eat even more healthily than usual. And my head was busy knitting together a bunch of elements…that somehow had to come together.
I had picked up some quail breasts again because they had been so tasty a few weeks back.
I had been playing with Foodily – a nice new recipe search engine. Very visual in nature, and it lets you add and subtract ingredients, tell it what kinds of sources you want to see. (Check it out…)
And because of it, I had revisted a Singapore food blog I used to read all the time. Over here.
But I still had this problem….avoiding processed flours. And mandarin pancakes are almost by definition made with nice light white flour.
C’est la vie. Let’s experiment.
I also wanted an Asian feel to the recipe, but because I have been making so much middle-eastern food of late, I wanted to see if I could adjust things a bit to give it a fusion feel to it. Bring in some other flavors so the overwhelming takeaway wouldn’t be sesame and soy but rather have a rounder feel to it (for me sometimes asian flavors (chinese and japanese in particular, even vietnamese once in a while) can have a flat feel to them – everything is there, but somehow something is missing.
So I marinated the quail breasts in the morning, taking some inspiration from the recipe from the blog but knocking a few things out of place. Yes: garlic, shallots, soy, honey, olive oil. But also: spash of red wine, squeeze of harissa, and who knows what else. No sesame, no hoisin, no rice wine. The breasts cuddled with one another in their bath the whole day.
Towards evening The Task began. The Mandarin Pancakes. Would it be possible to make them with whole wheat flour? Would they even taste good? Answer: Yes and yes.
My visual step-by-step process:
1) mix up the dough, knead, and then roll it out into a snake in order to segment off the balls for the pancakes.
2) roll up each segment into a ball
3) roll out pancakes in sets of two (here is where things get tricky – you need to brush the pancakes with some oil and then roll them out in twos making sure that they don’t stick too tightly to one another. Takes some practice. (Photo below shows two pancakes, you just can’t tell…)
4) Pan-bake the pancakes in twos – there is a reason for this – it helps keep them moist and partially steams them in a way.
Ok. Done with the pancakes. Not perfectly round and perhaps not quite as thin as normal pancakes, but not bad.
For the salad, again, I took the blog recipe as inspiration. Left out the cellophane noodles, added melon instead of some of the cucumber, also a handful of thai basil as well as parsley. Next time, there is no way I would put in the same amount of lime segments – salad was good, but SOUR.
Pan-fry the quail breasts (I considered putting them in the oven, but I wanted to be able to get them off the heat quickly.)
Reheating the pancakes quickly right before serving (Steaming them – makes them nice and supple.)
Chopping the breasts into strips
And serving. Nice, light, tasty, healthy.
Open wide. 🙂
Time for a bite of Kulfi now…just a bite.