Experimenting with Chickpea Pancakes

This recipe comes from the Liber de Coquina, and it has been interesting me for quite a while:

Gantas, served with rabbit in spicy sauce and bread.

9. — of gantis : to make gantas, take chickpeas and, having added over them sugar and white spices well distempered in water. Afterwards, they are boiled well and, having been taken from the water, ground strongly and mixed with that water. Afterwards they are strained and with that strained water, flour is distempered. And you make small cakes (tortellas) as you wish. And they are fried on a gentle fire in pig fat or oil and honey is put on them. And these small cakes are called ganta.

The recipe itself is not entirely clear, but the general gist is there. What I was trying to do this time was play around with the different styles in which these gantas could be prepared. After boiling chickpeas with sugar and a little ginger and galingale, I mashed them, added their cooking liquid, and strained the mush. I then divided it into three parts and diluted them further with the cooking water. There was not enough of it, so I ended up also using some plain hot water on the final batch. The first batch was almost liquid, and I added plenty of flour to make something like a pancake batter. the second was thicker and required less flour to turn into a thicker batter. the third was left fairly dry and could be shaped into patties by hand.

Medium consistency – the best, I thought.
Thin batter – the taste was all right, but they were awkward to handle

The gantas were fried in pork lard, and while I was trying to get a feel for their consistency, I varied both the temperature and the amount of fat. The thin batter was difficult to handle, sticking and tearing when cooked in shallow fat and burning around the edges very quickly. The medium and thick batches both turned out better, and in both cases the best results were produced with plenty of fat and a relatively low temperature. They browned and crisped on the outside and cooked through without burning. In the process, they also soaked up a lot of the fat, but I suspect that would have been seen as a positive quality at the time.

Served hot from the pan, they went well with honey, but also complemented the spicy sauce we had with our main course. They certainly needed the flavour, too. I may have used too little seasoning initially, but these cakes were very bland.

The Liber de Coquina is a recipe collection from an early 14th-century manuscript held in Paris. It probably comes from Southern Italy and may be associated with the court of the Kingdom of Sicily.
This translation is based on the Mulon edition (Mulon, Marianne: Deux traités inédits d’art culinaire médiéval. In: Bulletin philologique et historique (jusqu’à 1610) du Comité des Travaux historiques et scientifiques. Année 1968: Actes du 93e Congrès national des Sociétés savantes tenu à Tours. Volume I: Les problèmes de l’alimentation. Paris 1971, 369-435).

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