Friday, January 18, 2013

vegan gingerbread pancakes with pear compote

Pears have got me in their vice-like grip, and just won't let go. Not that I would want to be free of such delicious bondage. I just love me a juicy, fat bottomed pear, on the right side of squishy. Add ginger to the equation and you may as well shackle me and throw away the key. They're a fixture in my fruit bowl. The only Jelly Belly beans I eat are "Juicy Pear", miles ahead of apples or grapes, they're the one fruit I would eat with any and every cheese, in my wine glass, perry trumps Dom Perignon, and I don't care who's reading this.

Yesterday's breakfast was a plate of the pancakes above with stewed pears instead of the usual syrup. 

Big boy 1 and big boy 2, drawn by the scent of simmering pears came a-sniffing. Within 20 minutes of being served, pancakes and pears were no more and I was chided (by two men who usually give anything vegan the evil eye)for making "only eight". Er.... thanks? This is just a regular, run o' the mill food blog, so I'm free of any dietary constraints when writing my recipes. Why trouble myself then, to cook vegan? Why make them lactose free, when a regular recipe that treads the wide and easy middle-of-the-dietary road, would work fine?  

Some snooping around the cyberhood revealed that special diet blogs and recipes while definitely an increasingly visible presence, are still in the sad minority, or at least, special diet blogs that feature relatable, everyday recipes with simple, everyday ingredients. Deprived vegans? Disgruntled lactophobes? Not on my watch, baby!! It doesn't take much more effort, drastic adjustments or arcane ingredients to make any recipe that isn't meat, egg or dairy centric, vegan friendly. They're easier to cook for (at least in the Western world - I'll qualify this later) then say, the gluten intolerant; gluten is ubiquitous, often hiding in unexpected foods and gluten free substitutes can be prohibitively pricey. It surprises me then, that vegan or lactose free recipes don't appear more often on mainstream food blogs, so our karmic, veggie loving and lactose challenged friends can graze a little wider and freer, and the rest of humanity can gain a few extra (vegan) brownie points with the karma gods.

Full disclosure - I grew up eating very little meat as my grandmother, a survivor of both World Wars, was no stranger to abject poverty. Half a lifetime of deprivation sharpened her improvisational and culinary skills to a keen edge and made her a whiz at turning out ambrosial meals with little more than rice, vegetables, soy products and frugal bits of fish. This was her culinary legacy to us and I remain today, largely a leaf muncher, with the occasional steak or sashimi platter crossing my path. I love cheese and ice cream though, BUT, hubs is lactose intolerant and has trouble with most dairy products. His passion for desserts though keeps me constantly on the prowl for ways to satisfy his sweet tooth, without enraging his tummy.

I'm no stranger then, to a meat free diet and cooking or baking without dairy has become second nature, but I don't always cook vegetarian or dairy-free as my sons must have their meat and still have an almost infantile dependence on milk. So what I post here, reflects the sometimes maddening, but necessary diversity of my dining table. Blessedly, no one has issues with gluten, so I don't cook gluten-free by design, but the wonderful thing about a traditional south east Asian diet, is that it is by default, largely and effortlessly gluten free. In fact, a preference for coconut and soy milk, also makes it a virtual lactose-free zone. Oh, and did I mention that Asian vegetarian cuisine is so highly developed, you could go meatless for a whole week before you realise you're barefoot and need a hair cut ;)

If it's beginning to sound like the Asian diet is damned near the perfect nutritional plan for everyone on the planet, well, I won't argue with that. We love rice, and it totally dominates our diet, relentlessly stomping its way into every nook and cranny of our menus, from starters and snacks, to soup, main course and oh joy, DESSERT!! If you're gluten intolerant then, point your fork east, far east, to be exact. Or, just take a leisurely scroll through the recipes I've already posted, and surprise yourself with the generous number of gluten free goodies you may have missed before. Meanwhile, I'll do my darnedest not to leave anyone out in the cold, and work on making my virtual kitchen a friendlier, more inclusive hangout for all you wonderful foodies, regardless of dietary orientation.

Now if only it were as easy to stop those persistent and mocking hippie references that plague veganism. Ok, so I'm not above the occasional hippie joke, but I am a copy hound, though I try not to hurt anyone, so everything's fair game. Besides, some of my favourite people in the world, were hippies. Make food, not labels, unless, you're a blogger, of course ;) Peace!!

vegan gingerbread pancakes with pear compote

Prep 20 mins       Cook 45 mins       Makes 8 thick saucer sized pancakes


4 ripe pears (I like Forelle pears, but I used Anjou as Forelles are out of season) 

200 ml (1 cup) perry (pear cider) or unsweetened pear juice
200 ml (1 cup) water
4 tbsp sugar (I used white - don't omit sugar as it gives the sauce body and sheen)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp corn flour mixed to a slurry with 4 tbsp water


400 ml (2 cups) unsweetened soy, rice or almond milk(coconut milk's too heavy)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice
3 Tbsp dark molasses
3 Tbsp light vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
200 g (2 cups) plain or all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fine salt

Peel, core and cut pears into small chunks or thick slices. Combine pears with perry, water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer gently, partially covered until pears are very tender and liquid has reduced by about a third.

Stir in cornflour slurry and let compote simmer and thicken to ensure corn flour is sufficiently cooked. Turn off heat and keep covered until needed.

To make pancakes, whisk together the milk, vinegar or juice, molasses, oil and vanilla extract and set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt and mix thoroughy with a whisk. Pour liquid mixture into the flour mixture.

Start heating your pancake pan. It should be very well seasoned or non stick, and lightly greased with an oil soaked piece of kitchen paper.

Gently but quickly whisk together the pancake mixture. Do not overmix. Stop mixing the moment everything is combined. It's alright if tiny specks of flour remain, here and there. The batter should be on the thick side, and slightly foamy on top.

Pour about 1/3 cup batter onto the moderately hot pan and tilt gently to help batter spread. When the edges look dry, right around (after about 2 minutes) flip over and cook the other side for about 1 minute. Transfer pancakes to a heated plate and keep covered while you cook remaining pancakes.

Serve pancakes topped with pear compote. They don't really need anything else, but a dollop of regular or vegan butter or whipped cream is a very good addition.


  1. Hi Denise! I agree with the big boys... Only eight? Sixty-Five minutes of effort..... You sure have to make more than that! :)

    1. Aiyoh! Why you guys must be so united??! LOL Actually, personal involvement at the stove is hardly 20 minutes - the rest of the time is mainly the pears simmering slowly by themselves, so 2.5 minutes per pancake, not so bad lah :D Yes, next time definitely should make more, though too much carbs not very good either ;)

  2. Mmm these pancakes look delicious! With no food or coffee in the house right now looking at your site is probably not the best idea!

    1. Oh! That's so wrong! No kitchen should be without coffee :D Thanks for visiting, hope you come back soon!

  3. Nice shots, Denise! R u serving us breakfast or tea? I'll take both! Have a lovely weekend, dear!

    1. Hi Shirley :) Nice to see you. Hope the new year is going well for you. These yummy pancakes (healthy and low fat some more *yippee*)for breakfast, for tea, for dessert, all can! Same to you to Shirley!

  4. "..Asian vegetarian cuisine is so highly developed, you could go meatless for a whole week before you realise you're barefoot and need a hair cut."

    LOLz! Great post as usual Denise.
    We love pears chez moi too especially a juicy type called Conference. I made your previous recipe of Ginger Pear Chocolate cake (Gateau de Denise) recently for friends who came over & it was a hit with everyone asking for seconds.(Alamak I should have used a bigger cake mould).
    Anyway pears always surprise everyone as an alternative to apples methinks.
    These ginger bread pancakes look so mouthwatering & I will give it a go as a dessert but I'm tempted to flambé the whole thing with cognac or a moonshine-esque pear liqueur that my husband's uncle discreetly makes on his farm in the south. Thanks for another brilliant idea Denise :)

    1. Hi Jean :) You know..... I think you should have your own food blog. Your foodie love is pouring out in torrents and begging to be channelled! Just a thought...

      I am so glad the cake turned out well!! Yes, yes, I feel pears are often overlooked and overshadowed by apples and it's an injustice to such a beautiful and voluptuously delicious fruit! I could chomp on them all day. Just last week, I came home with 18 gorgeous Anjous (love Conference too btw - except they're currently out of season *gaaah* ) and they're now all gone. The Anjou supply does seem to now be petering out though and I will say my goodbyes but not too sadly, as it also means that other yummy varieties (like the Forelle and the Rocha!) will soon be making their appearance.

      Oh, that pear moonshine sounds wonderful!!! I would trade stacks of my pancakes for a bottle :D Poire Williams is sooooooooo expensive! Let me know how they turn out, especially if you flambe them!

  5. We love pears too and they are my boys' favorite fruit. It is so true that our Asian diet is largely gluten free except for the desserts. I have converted quite a few recipes but sadly not all can be made GF. BTW, I would love a stack of these pancakes for breakfast tomorrow.

    1. You know Biren, there are probably quite a number of gluten sensitive Asians, though it seems to afflict more people in the Western world. It's just that like you said, our largely gluten free traditional Asian diet saves us from the same grief those who eat mostly a Western diet, suffer from. Incidentally, my favourite Asian desserts are the ones made from rice or glutinous rice and aren't we blessed, that most yummy Malay and Nyonya desserts happen to be made from these! Add gula melaka, pandan and santan, and I am in dessert heaven :)

  6. Yum! Those totally do not look vegan! I have made traditional pancakes that don't look nearly that yummy.

    1. Hi Laura, rest assured, these positively and entirely are vegan, and if anything, they are more delicious to me, than traditional pancakes as they don't have the sometimes objectionable smell and after-taste of less than fresh eggs. Hope you give them a try, and thanks for visiting :)

  7. This looks fantastic, as a 'trying to be vegan' I am going to try these this weekend. Thank you!

  8. These tasted great, however, they stuck to the pan horribly, and I couldn´t flip them. Any ideas what I could´ve done wrong? I´m using a cast iron skillet and I never had anything sticking to them.


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