At the age of three, my eldest daughter just could not say Polenta. We broke the word down into its 3 syllables, which she could manage perfectly well, but when put together it always came out Ta-pen-ta.
Anyway – she got it eventually, she’s five now and has a remarkably good culinary vocabulary, she know her grains from her legumes, and her seeds from her flours. And she can name by sight most of the contents of the 20 or so kilner jars housing my dry goods on top of the cupboards in our tiny kitchen (the same variety of ingredients that my husband refers to as gravel and dust)
Polenta is a classical Italian ingredient, used as a type of savoury porridge, or set and baked or fried and served with a sauce, it can also be used much like a grain in sweet or savoury baking. In America it is traditionally called corn meal and used to make the famous corn bread.
In this recipe I’ll be using it to give texture to fluffly American style pancakes. Polenta is made from corn, and when combined with buckwheat flour (the classic ingredient used in blinis – small savoury pancakes often used in canapes) and mashed banana, it creates a springy and light gluten and dairy free pancake mix.
I made these this morning, to see in the new year in style, we ate them immediately with maple syrup drizzled over the top. However during various recipe tests, I can confirm that if there are any leftovers (which I know will probably be rare) they are fantastic refreshed in the toaster and spread with peanut butter or dark chocolate spread. I’m sure they would keep ok in the fridge for a couple of days in a sealed container, or they could be batch cooked and frozen, then defrosted in the toaster for a quick easy breakfast before school or work.
Just a note to say – I’ve used US cup measurements here because I find them simpler when making batters for muffins or pancakes, and most of my recipes are adaptations of US or NZ recipes which are written in cups. Find a conversion table here if you prefer to work in weight.
3/4 cup buckwheat flour (25p)
3/4 cup polenta (45p)
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg (10p)
1 tsp of baking powder (3p)
Pinch of salt
2 ripe bananas (54p)
1 tbsp honey/maple syrup (20p)
1/4 cup olive oil or warmed coconut oil (up to 72p)
3/4 – 1 cup of oat milk (25p)
1 tbsp of vinegar
The method is really simple, combine the four dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then combine the wet ingredients and the broken up bananas into another bowl, use a hand blender to whizz up the wet ingredients into a smooth liquid (if you don’t have a hand blender, simply mash the banana well with a fork and add to the liquid mixture.) once you have your pan preheated with a small amount of oil (I use rapeseed for frying) quickly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix roughly. It does not need to be a thoroughly blended smooth batter, it works best and remains lighter if the dry ingredients are barely coated. The batter is quite think, but will vary depending on the size and ripeness of the bananas you are using, if it seems too stodgy, add a little more milk. The batter will thicken as it stands and the polenta absorbs the liquid, so work quickly once it’s mixed.
Now simply drop large tablespoons of mixture into the hot pan, I usually fry 3 at a time in a large frying pan. Resist the urge to fiddle about with the mixture, maybe shake the pan a little to spread the pancakes out. Leave the pancakes to cook for one minute, they may begin to bubble, and you’ll see the batter firm up around the edges, at this stage flip them over and cook them on the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes.
This recipe should make a batch of 12 pancakes and costs about £2.55 using organic ingredients at supermarket retail prices.