Saturday, July 27, 2013

Savory Quinoa Pancakes / Quinoa Oothapam

One of my all-time favorite places to eat in the U.S is the Inn Season Cafe in the suburb of Royal Oak in Detroit. It is one of the very few restaurants I have been to that is completely vegetarian and vegan, and oh so gourmet! The dishes are inspired from several cuisines around the world, particularly Indian! How it warms my heart to see terms like "paneer" and "chutney" and "mini dosas" on the menu. All the dishes are inspired with their own unique touch, so every visit to the place is tremendously inspiring and satisfying. How they manage to whip up such fabulous vegan desserts is baffling!

One of the dishes that I love on the menu is - Quinoa Corn Cakes. It's not a regular on the menu, but on days that this dish features on the special menu, they are the first ones to sell out. I know firsthand. They are basically quinoa and corn oothappams with the most delish coriander chutney that tastes nothing like the Indian version of the chutney, but still incorporates some of the spices and ingredients.

Every time I eat at this place, my friend finds it hilarious that I chew on every morsel, intently trying to analyze what exact ingredients could have gone into the dish. I then make notes (how nerdy) and try to recreate it at home. So, this time, as I carefully chomped on the quinoa corn cakes, I caught a hint of wheat flour and some (what I suspect to be) quinoa flour. The cakes were delicately spiced with just salt, because it's a sin to overshadow their flavorful chutney. With such simple ingredients, you would wonder how these cakes are such best sellers. But, they are! Proof that simple, wholesome ingredients of good quality used in the right proportion can create a gourmet dish.

So this is my recreation and twist on the quinoa oothappams, without corn. The original version also has cooked quinoa in it, but I skipped adding cooked quinoa and instead went heavy with the quinoa flour.

Ingredients (12-13 small pancakes):
  1. 1 cup quinoa flour (dry roast the quinoa until it turns aromatic and slightly brown. Cool and grind to a powder)
  2. 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  3. 2 cups buttermilk or diluted yogurt
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  7. 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
  8. 1/2 a medium onion, chopped
  9. some coriander leaves - about 1/4 cup
  10. A few teaspoons of olive oil or vegetable oil
  1. Mix together all the dry ingredients - quinoa flour, wheat flour, baking powder and salt. 
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients with buttermilk/yogurt until the batter is smooth and of the consistency of pancakes/oothappam/dosa
  3. Mix the chopped onions, ginger, green chillies and coriander leaves to the batter. No need to rest the batter.
  4. Heat a cast-iron skillet until hot. Pour a ladle of the batter and crisp the pancake with a few drops of oil around the edges of the pancake. Cook on the pancake on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until one side of the pancake is golden and cooked. 
  5. Flip it over and gently press down the pancake to evenly cook the other side.When cooked, transfer to a plate and serve with a side-dish of savory chutney.
Let me tell you - these are yummy! Perhaps not as great as the original, because try as I might, I can't recreate their coriander chutney.

I was apprehensive that the pancakes would be tough and rubbery if they were stored for a while, but surprisingly, these pancakes remained soft and tasty even when stored overnight.

This is a wonderful, healthy oothappam that is so easy to prepare, especially on a weeknight.

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