An interesting outcome of last year’s lockdowns and food shortages has seen a growing awareness of food waste together with an interest in using up or ‘stretching’ what we have available in the fridge or cupboards. A skill taken for granted by generations of Kiwi housewives (such an anachronistic term these days), supermarkets and the availability of out of season and very cheap food has encouraged us to become complacent about the need to ‘use it all’. With that in mind, we’ve been trawling through old recipes to see if we could adapt some of these old money-stretching techniques to modern times. First off, pancakes, crepes and fritters – beloved by families and frugal cooks around the world, these are especially relevant with the beginning of the year seeing scores of young people heading off to Uni, setting up flats and budgeting often for the first time. So here are our ideas for making the most of what you’ve got in the kitchen – a skill for ages.
First off, let’s define our terms. What is the difference between a pancake, a crepe and a fritter?
Pancakes are said to be one of the oldest forms of bread. Their batter includes a raising agent making them thicker and fluffier than a crepe which is thinner and flat. In the US, they’re hotcakes, griddle cakes or flapjacks; in Korea jeon; Hungary palacsinta and in Russia, of course, blini.
Pancakes can be savoury or sweet and they need very few special tools, ingredients or skill making them a great starting out recipe for a new cook – and a really delicious breakfast when drenched in a good maple syrup. A great Sunday brunch especially when you have a horde to feed try mixing blueberries, chopped apple or banana into a sweet batter to dress them up. Serve small savoury blini with salmon and capers for starters or try one of the more ‘meal’ style recipes of Korean jeon ideal for lunches and snacks (where the trick is in the dipping sauces).
Honourable mentions go to latkes (potato pancakes) traditionally made to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, Swiss rosti, Japanese korokke and Irish boxty. At its most basic the potato pancake is made with raw or cooked potato, which is shredded or mashed, mixed with egg, flour, milk, onion or cheese then either baked or fried until they’re golden brown, crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside (and utterly delicious!). Don’t forget these are a great jumping-off point for topping with what you have in the fridge that needs ‘stretching’ and that you can switch out the traditional potato for other root vegetables You can switch out this traditional dish with what you have utilising other root vegetables like turnip, carrots or beetroot.
Crepes, on the other hand, are more often larger in diameter when compared to pancakes and are more likely to be served folded or rolled, like a burrito or taco. These are the ultimate ‘stretchers.’ A little chicken, a few mushrooms, a handful of roasted vegetables enrobed in a tasty sauce, maybe adding a drizzle of cream and a good grating of cheese over the top before baking, will feed the masses deliciously. A good crepe can be cooked with as few tools as a good, heavy-based, smooth-surfaced frypan and a fish slice. A non-stick crepe pan with shallow sides is very handy for turning crepes though and a crepe spreader will make a great job and short work of smoothing crepe batter smoothly for ultra-thin sweet crepes.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the fritter. Classic renditions such as the classic Kiwi favourite, mussel fritters or, if you’re lucky, whitebait, paua or pipi and not forgetting the favourite of cafes throughout the land, the sweetcorn fritter (also popular in the States). These small (or large) pan-fried cakes can be made with your favourite vegetables, seafood or almost any leftover you have to hand so they’re the perfect way to pack more vegetables into your meals.
Our favourite fritter ideas:
Root vegetables: Grated and used as-is (see also latke).
Sweetcorn: Cut straight from the cob or frozen if that’s what you have.
Zucchini: Again, grated but remember to squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the grated zucchini by salting and draining it for 10-30 minutes before wrapping it in a large, clean tea towel and squeezing the zucchini dry.
Steamed cauliflower & broccoli: Break them down a little but not too much as you want to retain some texture.
The Greens: Blanched drained and roughly chopped Spinach, Kale, Silverbeet & bok choy. Again the trick to a good fritter is eliminating extra water (see zucchini).
We hope these have given you some ideas for loving your leftovers. Don’t forget that we have all the tools and more that any aspiring or experienced pancake/crepe/fritter cook could ever need to make job quick, easy and enjoyable.
- Tags: millys-basics