Jack Monroe's latest book is a fun treasure trove of delicious food for when you're watching the pennies. She says: 'My mission is simple: cooking on a budget needn't be gruel and gastronomic flagellation. It can be sumptuous. It can be nourishing. It can be devastatingly delicious. It can be achievable. It can be all of these things with the smallest of kitchens and the simplest of equipment and absolutely no skills whatsoever.'
One of the recipes we featured in the magazine was Beet Balls, which Jack says she likes 'with mayo (vegan; garlic), a generous helping of slaw and a pile of little 'Gramcakes'.' We couldn't fit the recipe for the Gramcakes in the magazine, so here it is:
Also known as ‘socca’ or ‘farinata’ in some places, a gramcake is a pancake made with just one ingredient – gram flour. Gram flour is admittedly a bit of a specialist ingredient, but I keep it around for this, a quick breakfast or lunch on the go that you just add water to. It can be made into a pizza base, or jazzed up with herbs and spices, eaten hot or cold, used as a wrap (if you manage to get it thin enough), or as a vehicle for scooping up last night’s take-away curry.
You can find gram flour in the World Foods section of most larger supermarkets, or at most ethnic supermarkets and large corner shops. It’s also useful for thickening sauces, binding falafels and bhajis, padding out a hummus, and I once found a rather intriguing recipe for gram flour fudge. You can spice this up however you like. Depending on my mood, sometimes I sling a bit of turmeric or paprika in, sometimes cumin, sometimes some thyme or rosemary, and sometimes a mixture of all of them. You can’t really go wrong with this one, so half a teaspoon of whatever you fancy will do it good.
75g gram flour
a pinch of salt and a bit of black pepper or chilli flakes
a splash of oil, for frying
1 Put the gram flour and 150ml cold water together in a mug and beat briskly with a fork to get any lumps out. This may take some doing; sometimes I sift it first, especially if the bag has been open a while, as it can be a little stubborn when exposed to moisture. If all else fails, you can sift out the lumps after you get fed up with beating it, and just discard them. Life is, after all, short.
2 Season it with a little salt and pepper, and any spices you want to add. Now pop it in the fridge for at least half an hour to chill and thicken. This step is vital, and without it you won’t have a gramcake but you will have a disappointment. Go and do something else and forget all about it for a bit.
3 When it has chilled out for a while (and, hopefully, so have you!), heat a not-too-big frying pan with a little oil in it. Drop in a speck of the mixture to see if the oil is hot enough; if it sizzles, you’re good to go. Pour in half of the mug and let it cook for a minute or two before turning down the heat. I’m useless at tossing pancakes so I place a large pan lid over it to cook the top side instead of risking a flip, but it’s up to you! Either way, cook it for a few minutes on each side, before transferring it to a plate to cool. I like to place a piece of kitchen roll or greaseproof paper on my plate to soak up any excess oil from the first one, but it’s not essential. I just learned it in professional kitchens and now I can’t seem to break the habit.
4 Make the second one the same way as the first, and when they’re done, serve with a flourish. Top with natural yoghurt, mango chutney, leftover curry, or just roll it up and stuff it into your gob.