Being from a Finnish background I am used to the notion of root vegetables being used in all sorts of applications, year-round. I have fond memories of pulling the first carrots out or the ground in my grandparents’ vegetable garden and just dipping them in the rain barrel to get rid of the dirt before eating them. They were no bigger than your pinky finger and so sweet. They were especially precious because we could only have a few since of course we had to leave most of the carrots in the ground to let them grow. We’d eat carrots raw, grated, as slaws, in casseroles, stews, soups, and various decidedly Finnish dishes. But, I have to ask, what better way to get a kid to eat their veggies than to put them inside a pancake?
This recipe for Carrot Pancakes comes from a book called Natural Cooking the Finnish Way by Ulla Kakonen, published in 1974 by Quadrangle. An oldie but a goodie. Out of my several Finnish cookbooks, this is one I keep returning to because of the straightforward authentic recipes. It’s also perhaps the only cookbook I like that doesn’t have pictures. Maybe because so many of the dishes are so familiar to me.
½ cup bread crumbs
¾ cup milk or light cream
2 cups grated carrots (about 5 medium carrots – I grated the carrots myself as store bought grated carrots tend to be dry and too coarsely grated for such a delicate batter)
¼ cup unbleached white flower
1 tbs. vegetable oil or melted butter
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
Oil or butter for frying
· Soak the bread crumbs in the milk or light cream. Separate the eggs. Mix together grated carrots, milk and bread crumbs, flour, egg yolks, and oil or melted butter. Season with salt. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in.
(This recipe is pretty technical for me, having to separate eggs and all! Thankfully I have one of those egg separator doohickies. No messing around with egg shells for me. I read somewhere that cooking burns 90 calories an hour and I certainly got an arm work out with the grating and whisking – I didn’t think it was worth dragging out the hand held mixer for 2 egg whites! There’s something very rewarding about whisking egg whites by hand and seeing them transform from a gelatinous goo to a beautiful foam in just a matter of minutes.)
· Heat a pancake pan or a heavy frying pan. With a spoon, drop on the hot greased pan small pancake sized patties and fry them on both sides, until done through. (Another method: Deep fry the batter in oil, by dropping a spoonful of the batter in, as if making doughnuts.) Or bake the batter in an ovenproof casserole at 350F about ½ hour, as a pudding.
(One day I will own a nice cast iron pancake pan but I refuse to spend too much on one. I found a cute one a TJ Maxx but the pancake molds had little animal faces in them so clearly it could only be used for kiddie food and I just don’t have the space in my kitchen for something that would get such limited use, whimsical or not. I found two more at Williams and Sonoma but one pan had molds with rounded bottoms and the other had a sort of waffle design, which just didn’t work for me. For now my pancakes will have a rustic look about them.)
· Serve the pancakes with brown rice. Serve the doughnuts as a snack. The Pudding may be either a main course or a vegetable side dish.
· Serves 4 to 6.
I fried these in a 12” nonstick pan and used an ice cream scoop to measure out the batter. I got 11 pancakes and probably could get 12 if I was a little more careful about scooping consistently. The batter is pretty thick so you should spread it out a little as you “drop” it in the pan. I first tried to fry 4 pancakes at a time but that crowded the pan and I found that 3 at a time were easier to flip. The batter bubbled just like regular pancake batter does when it’s ready to flip. The finished product was a beautiful golden brown pancake with a nice crust and a very fluffy center, probably because of the whisked egg whites. The pancakes are pretty mild with a nice sweet carrot taste. Most importantly, the little nugget gave them her stamp of approval. I think next time around I will play with seasonings a little, perhaps adding some curry powder or fresh parsley to the mix, maybe even grating some apple and lemon rind. I actually added some dried parsley when I made this batch but you couldn’t taste it at all. These are a bit labor intensive to make, what with the grating, whisking and frying, so I would serve these with a roast or something else you can just leave in the oven.