For my birthday this year I was given the British Museum’s Classical Cookbook, by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. I haven’t had a chance to read through it fully yet, but it all looks very impressive (though could have done with more pictures – I don’t understand cookbooks without photos!) But this isn’t a review. Instead I’m going to document my first efforts at a piece of ‘authentic’ Classical cookery.
I decided to start with Greek pancakes. Because they’re simple and I already had all the ingredients – just flour, water, honey and sesame seeds to top. This recipe has been created from references in Galen and Hipponax.
Here’s my ‘batter’, if sweetened flour/water slurry really counts as batter. It was very thin, and I was quite sceptical about how well it would solidify.
These reservations turned out to be justified. In my ageing frying pan with its uneven base and long-vanished non-stick coating, the slurry stuck firm to the base of the pan. The bottom layer would bake on to the surface and the batter above it stayed runny. It proved impossible to turn over, let alone toss. Here’s the end result. Not beautiful but, coated with honey and sesame seeds, it tasted nice enough.
I held back the rest of the batter and the next day tried again with a shiny new frying pan. Much better results this time. The pancake maintained a shape and was even tossable.
It ended up slightly thicker than normal English pancakes, chewy and a underdone in the middle. But still just as nice as the day before.
Final judgement. I’d been expecting these to be pretty bland and they were actually quite tasty. I’d definitely eat them again without reservation. But when Pancake Day rolls around I think I’ll be going with the standard recipe: there’s a reason eggs and milk are added to modern batter.