Chestnut Flour Pancakes & Orange Blossom Coconut Yoghurt
To celebrate Pancake Day this year we make our version of the Italian Necci using chestnut flour. We’ve been inspired by the early forest dwellers of Tuscany who relied on chestnuts as their staple food.
Naturally sweet chestnuts were cooked, dried, and ground by hand into savoury foods and cakes, cookies and sweets such as necci – a type of pancake similar to crepes. A simple mix of chestnut flour and water cooked on a cast iron or stone plate over an open fire.
Chestnuts grow in the UK too (don’t mistake them for the poisonous horse chestnut – aka conkers!) but you’ll only really find them roasting on the fire at Christmas time. You can buy ready cooked chestnuts whole or ground into flour. Neither is particularly easy to find until December draws near so order online where they’ll usually be cheaper. We use them year round to make a topping for our delicious Mushroom Quinoa Nut Roast as well as apricot and onion stuffing balls or another Italian favourite- Castagnaccio – a delicious cake full of rustic goodies like pine nuts and orange zest, with a drizzle of olive oil. But for a simple treat you have to try necci – satisfying and quick to make, a little flour goes a long way.
Necci is traditionally served with ricotta, an Italian cooked cheese made from whey, and rolled up and eaten by hand. We’ve seen many variations; thick, thin, rolled, folded and even folded twice, but our favourite way is to make a thin batter and cook it up, British style, for a dish that really hits the spot on Pancake Day. We added a few eggs to boost the protein content of the basic chestnut and water mix… and that’s it! No sweetener needed.
The toppings and fillings are up to you. Try savoury – we like goats’ cheese and rocket with grated apple and a touch of the very apt chestnut honey. Or as an alternative to the usual ricotta we love a thick dollop of creamy, cool coconut yoghurt, full of protein and fats to sustain you and an excellent alternative for anyone avoiding dairy. When we cooked these up for the photos yesterday the sun was shining, with a definite buzz of spring in the air, so we added a sunny vibe to the coconut yoghurt with a few drops of orange blossom extract – but it’s definitely optional. These hot, buttery, soft pancakes and the creamy blossom-scented yoghurt definitely hit the sweet spot in terms of satisfaction.
Otherwise, go down the classic route and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a simple drizzle of honey as the icing on the (pan)cake.
use organic ingredients where possible
makes around 12 pancakes
- 115g (1 cup) chestnut flour – we like Primeal
- 3 medium eggs, at room temperature
- 250ml (1 cup) of filtered water
- 250ml (1 cup) of Coyo coconut yogurt or full-fat probiotic yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon of raw honey/chestnut honey plus extra for drizzling – we like Tiana raw honey
- ¾-1 teaspoon of orange blossom extract – we like Nielsen Massey
- Place the chestnut flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then add the water a little at a time, whilst continually whisking until you have a smooth batter. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, stir the honey and orange blossom extract into the yoghurt and set aside.
- Heat a ceramic lined (PTFE and PFOA free) frying pan on a medium heat and brush with melted butter, ghee or coconut oil.
- Whisk the batter again before spooning 2 or 3 tablespoons into the pan. Tilt the pan to thinly but evenly coat the bottom with batter.
- Cook for a minute or so until the pancake lifts easily from the bottom and is a golden-brown colour on its underside. Turn (or flip!) the pancake to cook the other side – don’t overcook, to keep them chewy rather than crisp.
- Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking pancakes on top of each other to keep them warm.
- Serve each pancake with a dollop of coconut yoghurt in the middle and fold in half or roll and finish with a drizzle of honey.
A recipe from Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley, of HemsleyandHemsley.com.
Photo credit: Nick Hopper