At the farmer’s market last weekend, I spotted a food truck selling buckwheat crepes. The menu was filled with options for wonderful local and seasonal fillings like juicy tomatoes and caramelized onions.
My partner and I quickly bought one each, devoured them… and then immediately came back for seconds. The lovely lady who makes the crepes got a good laugh out of the insatiable appetite of us two Canadians.
For our second helpings, we grabbed plain crepes and strolled around the market buying local fruit and piling it inside: strawberries galore!
Today, in honour of those delicious Belgian crepes, we will explore the history of some crepe-like dishes around the world, and my failed first attempt at making savory vegan French crepe (actually called a galette!).
From Injera to Dosas: Exploring Crepes’ Global Batter Family
No matter where you are in the world, there is usually some sort of ground-grain-liquid-flat delicious creation on which you can pile your seasonal produce. In fact, crepes are some of the newest inventions, originating in 12th century France.
The tale goes: an old woman in Brittany accidentally dropped some buckwheat porridge onto a hot surface and, upon tasting her mistake, had a delicious surprise. Now, every February 2, “le jour des crepes” is celebrated across France.
Much earlier, more than 5000 years ago, the people who live in the areas now known as Ethiopia, Sudan, and Eritrea discovered how to make injera. The spongy, fermented grain pancake is popular in modern-day Ethiopia, where it is often topped with vegetable and meat stews. Injera is served on a sharing platter, or torn into smaller pieces and fried for breakfast. As a celiac, I am a huge fan of injera because it is naturally gluten free, made with 100% pure teff flour. It’s also vegan!
Another fermented, gluten free and vegan crepe-like creation that originated long before crepes are dosas. Mentions of dosas have been found in literature from Tamil scholars as early as 6 A.D. Although there is no consensus whether dosas originated in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka, one thing is clear: dosas are scrumptious! Often made of a mixture of ground lentils and fermented rice, a popular method of making dosas is to pour the batter onto a flat pan and cook until one side is crispy and brown, while the other remains slightly spongy.
More creations included in the crepe family include the russian blini (originating from pagan times) and cong you bing (whose origin is a hotly debated topic, with many historians agreeing on Shanghai). Around the world, through the magical process of cooking, there are many options to create a delicious vehicle for your favourite seasonal sweet or savoury goods.
In honour of the wonderful Belgian crepe lady at the farmer’s market, this month I will be sharing the method for making crepes (injera and dosa recipes will be coming soon!).
I usually make crepes with eggs. I am not yet at the part of my food journey where I have switched to only vegan eating. I recognize that going vegan is something I want to do, but I’m not there yet. Making vegan food for the EAT Pillar is my way of taking small steps to move towards that goal. Meenu, the founder of Living Atman, encouraged me to try making my recipes vegan, to challenge myself.
And it was a challenge! As a celiac, I can’t make crepes with normal glutinous flour, so my first attempt was an absolute flop. I had tried to adapt my usual crepe recipe by substituting flax eggs. Confidently, I poured my batter into a sizzling hot pan. But, instead of the beautiful thin, crispy crepes I am used to, the batter congealed into a strange cooked-but-also-raw consistency. Where had I gone wrong?!
I desperately messaged Meenu about my failure. She basically told me to take a breath, reminded me that everything is okay and sent me the recipe I am about to share with you. For those of you who, like me, cannot consume gluten, try buckwheat… but beware, it’s quite tricky! If you have any suggestions for gluten-free flours, send help by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!
Here is Cedric Chemin’s (wonderful) vegan crepe recipe:
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup melted soy margarine
2 tbsp malle syrup
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
- Mix together ingredients in a bowl and let sit for at least half an hour. The flour needs time to soak up the liquid ingredients. Add more soy milk if needed to get the consistency more liquid so it’s easier to spread. Think thin crepes, not thick pancakes.
- Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and add about 2 tsp more soy margarine to fry.
- Cook until golden brown and the edges start lifting from the pan.
- Flip and cook until the other side is also golden brown.
- Take off the heat and begin to prepare your next crepe, adding more soy margarine when needed.
Hot tip: Keep your crepes warm by wrapping them in a moist kitchen towel and popping them in the oven at a low temperature.
When your batter is finished, top with sauteed vegetables, herbs, and dressings of your choice and enjoy!!!
Wherever you are in the world while reading this, if you have free time and room for some unexpected results, try out a crepe recipe from your locale and tag @livingatman in your posts! I would love to see your scrumptious creations and learn from you.