It was always a good thing when my parents went out for the evening and left us with my Nan. Dinner at Nan’s place was always pancakes. Nothing else. Not a vegetable in sight. Just hot pancakes, cooked to order, dripping with fresh lemon juice and loads of sugar. Those pancakes were more akin to thin crepes than thick, fluffy pancakes, but this does nothing to dampen my love for them. Call it nostalgia if you like but these barley crepes, which are perfect for both sweet and savoury dishes, are making a regular appearance in our house at the moment.
If I had to choose a favourite flour, my answer would have to be barley. Barley flour is very underrated and definitely underused. Barley does contain gluten, so cannot be consumed by celiacs, but has a lower gluten level than wheat or spelt. It has a lovely nutty flavour that works well with fruits like apples and pears, and is beautiful with beef and mushrooms. You can substitute barley flour for up to half of the wheat flour in most baked goods, although due to its lower gluten content I find it makes pastry more difficult to work with.
These pancakes freeze well, so having a batch in the freezer, along with some béchamel sauce, guarantees an easy comfort meal. I just stir chopped herbs, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, spinach, kale or whatever else is in the fridge into the béchamel, dollop tablespoons of the sauce onto the pancakes and roll them up. Layer the rolled pancakes into a greased dish and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake until the filling is warmed through, serve with a simple salad and dinner is done.
I don’t bother adding any sweetener to the batter for dessert, as I just rely on the topping to balance out the flavour. My go-to filling at the moment is lime curd. I spread the curd over the pancakes, fold them and warm the pancakes slightly in a frypan. So simple yet looks quite impressive. Mr Grumpy and The Princess, however, channel my Nan. Lemon and sugar all the way.
Really Simple (and Useful) Barley Crepes
These crepes can also be pre-cooked and rewarmed if you prefer. I place the crepes in an oven proof dish and cover with foil, then rewarm in the oven on a low heat for 10 - 15 minutes.
- 1/2 cup barley flour 70g
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup milk plus extra if required*
- 1 egg
- Butter or ghee for greasing
- Place the flour in a bowl with the salt and whisk to combine.
- Beat the egg into the milk.
- Slowly pour the milk mixture into the flour, whisking continuously to incorporate the flour.
- Whisk any lumps out of the batter then set the bowl aside for 30 minutes.
- Check the consistency of the batter. It should be similar to thick pouring cream. If the batter is too thick*, adjust the consistency with more milk.
- Place a frying pan over a medium heat.
- Lightly grease the pan.
- Pour a scant 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and quickly swirl the batter around the pan until the base is covered.
- Allow the crepe to cook for 1-2 minutes, until it has lightly browned.
- With the aid of a spatula, flip the crepe over and allow the other side to brown.
- Remove the crepe from the pan, then repeat the process with the remainder of the batter.
- These crepes can be served cold but are nicer slightly warmed.
* I have made these crepes with a couple of different brands of barley flour. Some flours absorb more liquid than others, so you will need to assess your batter and add more milk if necessary. If the mixture does not flow smoothly to cover the base of the pan, you may need to add additional milk.
Ensure the crepe is properly set before you attempt to flip it. If it is not, the lower gluten content of the barley flour will cause it to break as you try to turn it.