Cinnamon Pancakes with balsamic figs

I know, have been in hibernation for a couple of months now for various reasons but what can you do with a blogger’s block and a 100 other things to take care of !! But what I could not get myself to do, to break the spell, these luscious figs managed to do quite easily. What can I say….these figs literally came to me! The other day, as I rushed back to my car after running a few important errands and was just about to drive away, I see this young man with a huge wicker basket running towards my car, waving out to me. I stopped for a second to check what he had to say. And as he set down the basket on the kerb, my eyes fell on punnets of the most amazing figs and strawberries, roaring with freshness straight  from a local farm, barely 100 kms from Mumbai city. While I fell in love with the fruits which were a sight to behold, I hesitated knowing there was no one at home to eat so much fruit.. with my Mom away in London for the last six months and my Dad on his annual visit to our ancestral home near Chennai..there was only so much fruit I could eat. But, I couldn’t resist the constant pleas of the young man, who had probably travelled from his village early in the morning with basket of wares, hoping to sell them in the city of Mumbai and head back to his village to feed his family from the day’s earnings.  So I had no choice but to cave in to the sweet perfume rising from the basket, in the thought that perhaps I could create some magic in the kitchen!

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Having bought the figs, my mind started to wander – what could I turn them into that would make them the hero of the dish and yet stay true to the flavour and essence of the fresh figs. And I had more than a dozen of these lovely green figs, with a deep purple hue around the tops indicating that they were just ripe to be devoured.

Fresh figs

And as I cut open one, what struck me was the beautiful deep red centre, soft and yet firm enough to be used in pretty much anything from a beautiful salad to a tart to a pancake!! And there it was, my idea for a Sunday brunch – the fluffiest pancakes with oven roasted figs dripping with a balsamic and honey marinade and served with a warm lemon syrup.

 

So to be honest, the pancakes are your regular american pancakes because I wanted the figs to shine through. A few tips to make your pancakes rise high like the sunshine on a lovely wintery Sunday morning are worth following through – like sieving the flour and using both baking powder and bicarb to ensure that your pancakes rise as well as stay light. I used the most amazing ground cinnamon from Vietnam that I have got my hands on  but you can obviously use any regular brand or make your own.

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But the real fun part was the treating the figs slightly differently – tossing them in a mix of balsamic vinegar and honey was enough to intensify the natural sugars of the figs and yet give it the lovely acidity from the vinegar to cut through the sweetness. That tartness from the balsamic when combined with the lovely fig is like a marriage made in heaven and the process of roasting in the oven lends a real complex flavour to the dish.

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The lemon syrup to be honest was more of an after thought in my case and perhaps one of the quickest recipes for a delicious syrup  – I had hoped that the syrup from roasting the figs would be enough but it wasn’t. While, I got this lovely sticky marinade at the bottom of the baking tray, good enough to be licked but it was not runny enough to be poured over the pancakes – you had to have something lighter and runnier. And this one was quickly put together at the last minute and turned out really well – the citrusy sharpness from the lemons complimented the tartness of the balsamic vinegar to add yet another layer of complexity.

And just in case you are wondering who ate all these pancakes , I didn’t alone!! My lovely friend Purvi, was back, just in time from her meditation workshop in the Himalayas and there was lots to catch up on – these pancakes are best enjoyed going over the Sunday papers with cups of strong coffee or green tea ( for the health conscious) and girly conversations!

Sunday brunch

Ingredients:

For the pancakes ( these make about 10 medium size pancakes)

  • Plain flour – 1 cup
  • Baking Power – 1 teaspoon
  • Soda Bicarbonate – 1 teaspoon
  • Granulated Sugar – 2 teaspoons
  • Ground Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
  • Full fat milk – 1 cup
  • Egg – 1 large
  • Melted and cooled butter – 2 tablespoons
  • Vanilla Extract – 1 teaspoon ( optional)
  • Extra butter – for frying the pancakes

For the figs

  • Fresh Figs – 6-8, halved
  • Runny honey – 2 tablespoons
  • Melted butter – 2 tablespoons
  • Balsamic Vinegar – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – a large pinch

For the lemon syrup

  • Lemons – 2 lemons – juiced
  • Butter – 1 large tablespoon
  • Sugar – 2 tablespoons

Method:

  • Firstly, to prepare the figs, wash, dry and cut the figs into halves retaining the stalks if available ( looks much prettier than with the stalks chopped off). Whisk together the honey, butter and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and toss the figs in the marinade, making sure the figs are well coated all around. Place the figs, cut – side up on a baking tray and sprinkle the salt. Place the tray in a pre-heated oven at a 180C for about the 20 minutes till the figs are bubbling and start to colour around the edges.

Balsamic roasted figs

  • While the figs are roasting, you will have ample time to put together the batter for the pancakes and prepare the lemon syrup. The whole idea being that by the time the figs are ready, the batter is ready to be made into pancakes and served with the warm figs and syrup. For the batter, sieve together flour, baking power, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a large bowl. Sieving the dry ingredients goes a long way in making your pancakes light and fluffy – trust me, this small extra effort makes a big difference. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, sugar, vanilla ( if you are using it) and melted butter. Create a well in the centre of the large bowl with the flour mix and pour the egg mixture into the well. Start folding the flour mixture into the wet ingredients with a flat spatula, swiftly, till you have an almost smooth batter with a few lumps. Do not be tempted to over mix as that will render your pancakes flat. If you want the pancakes high, this step is essential.
  • To make the lemon syrup, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Keep stirring till you have a slightly thick and golden syrup – this should take no more than 2-3 minutes.
  • Check on your figs which should be ready by now and remove them from the oven and keep aside. Heat a heavy bottomed pan. I, used a slightly large cookie cutter as a stencil on the pan to get even sized pancakes  ( I know am bit of a control freak) but trust me it make a huge difference to the number of compliments 🙂 you get as you churn out pancake after pancake in exactly the same size and thickness. But by all means feel free to skip this non-essential step…Place a small knob of butter on the pan, and pour a ladleful of batter. In about 60 seconds, the upper side of the pancake will begin to bubble up, blister and rise slightly. Flip over to cook the other side for another minute or so till the edges begin the crisp up. If required, add a little more butter when you cook the other side.
  • Serve immediately with the warm figs and lemon syrup poured over the pancakes. You can also add to the glamour quotient by serving with creme fraiche or whipped cream and a few toasted walnuts for added oomph!
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