Sarrasin, masculine noun (le sarrasin, du sarrasin) = buckwheat; (un Sarrazin, des Sarrazins) = Saracen.
Buckwheat is a cereal, the dark flour of which is very much used in Brittany where I live, to make savoury pancakes (galettes). Sweet pancakes (crêpes) are made with wheat flour.
Sarrasin or Sarrazin is also the word for Saracen, a mediaeval term designating Arabs and Muslims in general.
The cereal was introduced to Brittany by Anne de Bretagne, Duchess of Brittany and wife of the French king Charles VIII (interesting story in French). The land in the region was poor and buckwheat grew well, becoming a staple in the form of galettes. The cereal originated in Egypt and its name comes from its dark colour, reminiscent to the mediaeval mind of the dark skin of the Saracens.
My recipe for today is for blinis au sarrasin to eat with smoked fish (or caviar if you have any to hand). Blinis are Russian, not French of course, the word blini is already a plural and means pancakes. But made with buckwheat, they take on a distinctly Breton flavour. They are easy to make and so much better than packaged versions.
For about 24 small blinis, you will need:
- 100gr buckwheat flour
- 100gr plain flour
- ¼ tsp salt or to taste
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp quick yeast
- 200ml milk
- 40gr salted butter
- 2 eggs
- Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Warm the milk and the butter and add to the flour.
- Stir well with a fork so that there are no lumps and leave to sit at room temperature for half an hour, covered with a tea towel.
- Beat the eggs and add them gently to the mixture. It should be heavy in consistency, more so than a normal pancake batter, more like American breakfast pancakes, so that it will not spread all over the pan. The finished blini should be about 6cm across. But don’t try for perfection and symmetry, these are home-made.
- In a non stick frying pan, put two tbs of the mixture as many times as the pan will hold without the blinis spreading and sticking to each other. I do them one at a time in a small pan.
- Cook for 1-2 minutes, until bubbles rise and burst. Turn and cook 1-2 minutes on the other side. Keep them warm under a folded tea towel.
- Serve with smoked fish, sour or heavy cream and lemon juice. They are also good to use as bread to scoop up hummus or avocado dip.
Blinis do not keep well. Eat them all, and quickly. And don’t worry if the first two are not a success. This is always the way with pancakes. Put a stray piece of smoked salmon on these and eat them while you cook, or give them to the dog.