If you’re looking for an alternative to the typical Shrove, Fat, Martedi Grasso waist extenders you could try Italia’s sublime mint pancakes. These ‘fresca’ pancakes veiled with some mature pecorino and a drizzle of peperoncino oil are wonderful warm, great taken on a picnic and make a fab Sunday brunch after you’ve been pottering around in the garden.
Italia is our Abruzzo neighbour who despite her late years should write a cookery book, such a wizard is she in the kitchen. I am not sure if these mint pancakes were her own invention for her husband Domenico, who hasn’t got a sweet tooth, or a local farmer’s treat recipe that goes back to the beginning of time.
It’s the sort of thing if I worked on the land that I could appreciate being served at 9.00 am after spending 2 hours sitting on my tractor or bent double weeding or hoeing. Obviously the early glass of white wine she serves with the pancakes helps reach those parts that breakfast coffee doesn’t.
I am always a little surprised by how much mint there is locally and how it’s used in dishes, one of my favourite combinations being duck and mint. Abruzzo’s favourite storyteller son Ovid makes mention of mint in his Metamorphoses. Myntha was a nymph of divine beauty who was transformed into the plant in a jealous fit of rage by Pluto’s (Hades) wife Proserpina (Persephone) who was the ancient goddess of harvest. It was Pluto who gave the plant the aroma as a lasting gesture of his love.
It’s funny that this tangle of two women still holds true today, like a lot of rural Italy alongside lemon verbena, mint was planted locally on banks to stop soil erosion. I can’t imagine what would happen to harvest without the banks of these 2 plants that surround the village, they save it from the death of local tarmac that ends up washed away down at the bottom of the hill when there is a heavy downpour. Everything has a reason as they say, it’s not just there for my superficial love of walking past and inhaling deeply after a shower when the smell is divine and where I am transported to when eating these fresca pancakes.
Italia’s Mint Pancakes
135g plain wholemeal flour
Good pinch of salt
75 ml water
150 ml semi-skimmed milk
Glug of Olive Oil
2 large handfuls of roughly chopped mint
If you haven’t got a food blender!
Sift the flour in a mixing bowl and make a well. Add the salt and eggs. Mix the water, milk and olive oil together and pour slowly into the flour and egg mixture until you have a smooth consistency. Add the chopped mint and leave to stand for half an hour in the fridge.
Heat a little oil (groundnut or sunflower or if you prefer butter) on a medium heat and add a small ladleful of batter. Swirl the batter in the pan when it’s set turn over and cook for another 30-50 seconds. These pancakes are not skinny crepes in style a little bit thicker, think Farmer’s pancakes so do require a few seconds more to cook.
Serve with pecorino and peperoncino oil.