Panisse with aubergine & pine nut caviar

by Ursula Ferrigno

Summery savoury pancakes from Ursula Ferrigno

In the south of France and Italy, this is an extremely popular form of pancake. I have enjoyed them served with nothing more than salt and oil drizzled on top, but this more elaborate version is rather special.


For the pancake:
250g chickpea flour, sifted
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
6 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp groundnut oil for frying

For the caviar:
3 medium sized aubergines
6 tbsp fruity extra virgin olive oil, with citrus notes
1 red onion, finely chopped
100g pine nuts
6 sprigs of fresh mint leaves (plus extra to serve)
Small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
Small handful of fresh coriander
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp light tahini paste
1 clove of garlic
Paprika to taste, and for garnishing
2 small pinches of chilli powder

To serve:
300g plain yoghurt


Place the flour, cumin and salt in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the olive oil. Gradually whisk in 450ml water to make a smooth batter. Leave to rest in a cool place for at least 2 hours.

For the caviar, heat the oven to 200C. Place two of the aubergines on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 mins until soft and shrivelled. Remove and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, dice the third aubergine into 1cm pieces. Heat 3 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring over a moderate heat, for 10 mins until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add the diced aubergine and continue to cook, stirring, for 15-20 mins until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the pine nuts in a frying pan and toast for about 3 mins over a moderate heat, stirring to prevent them from burning. Stir two-thirds of the pine nuts into the onion and aubergine mixture and reserve the rest for garnishing.

Split the roasted aubergines in half and scoop out the flesh into a sieve over a bowl. Press down to remove excess water. Place the flesh in a blender or food processor and add the mint, parsley, coriander, lemon juice, tahini paste, garlic clove, paprika and chilli powder. Blend until smooth, then add the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Mix the puree with the onion, aubergine and pine nut mixture and keep it warm while you prepare the pancakes.

Heat the groundnut oil in an 18cm frying pan. Pour in a ladle of batter and cook for about 2 mins, then carefully flip and cook for 1 min more. Slide the pancake onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper and keep warm. Cook the rest of the batter this way, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.

To serve, place a pancake on a plate and top with the caviar and a little yoghurt. Scatter with chopped mint and the remaining pine nuts.

Recipe: Ursula Ferrigno
Image: John Holship