Poor man’s pancakes with pilchards in tomato sauce


This dish is so reminiscent of my childhood. At times when food was hard and the only protein we could afford was a can of sardines and a kati (an old weight measurement slightly less than a pound) of flour, this was certainly luxury to us then.  I remember a time when my younger brother, my late sister and I will sit in a circle facing a tray. We wait anxiously while my mother cooks the next pancake. As soon as it comes, it will be snapped up and gobbled in seconds. 

Yes, this dish definitely brings back fond memories.


250 gm of flour

1.5 liter of water

1 tbsp of melted butter

a pinch of salt

1can of pilchards in tomato sauce

1 onion peeled and sliced

1 garlic crushed

about a half cm of ginger thinly sliced

1 red chilli sliced

2 cardamom pods

a small shard of cinnamon

1 tbsp of cooking oil

melted butter


Prepare the batter.  In a large bowl, mix the salt with the flour. Make a well in the middle and add half the water. Gently mix the batter using a metal spoon. Once you’ve got a thickish batter, slowly add more water. Whisk the batter to get rid of any lumps. Add the melted butter and whisk again.  Now rest the batter while you cook the pilchards.

Heat a saucepan and add two tsp of oil. Fry the ginger until crisp then add the cardamom and cinnamon. Now add garlic, chilli and onions. When the onions are soft add the pilchard, check the seasoning. Cover and let simmer gently over a low heat.   

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium to low flame. Once you can feel the heat rising over the pan brush it with melted butter. Using a soup ladle, spoon the batter into the frying pan. Gently tilt and roll the pan to get a thin and round shape. Watch the pancake as it cooks. Once you see the raw batter changing its colour, gently shake the pan and flip the pancake over to cook the other side. If you are worried, your pancake might land on the floor you can use a fish slice to flip it over. Repeat the process until you’ve cooked all the batter.

Serve immediately with the pilchards.

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Filed under Breakfast, Fish

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