Last week we had the double whammy of Pancake day and Valentine’s Day. That’s a tough scheduling clash for the humble pancake and difficult for it to get the recognition it deserves – what with all the chocolate hearts, roses and teddy bears everywhere.
So here at the De Beauvoir Belly, we say to you –A pancakes is for life, not just for pancake day. You, your favourite non-stick pan, a quick calculation on ceiling height and away you go! Here’s just one recipe for a midweek supper that’ll make you wonder why you’re not making pancakes every week!
At least I think that’s what they’re called – an Italian friend told me they were Crespelle, and another told me Crespe, but the Italian who taught me how to make these said they were called Crespoline so I’m sticking with that. Call them ‘pancakes with spinach, ricotta, mascarpone, parmesan topped with a rich tomato sauce’ if you want, for that is what they are. Think cannelloni but with pancakes instead of pasta and you’re half way there.
For the pancakes
2 free range eggs
100g Plain Flour – Wessex Mill a personal choice
300ml whole milk
10g melted butter
For the filling
50g parmesan and the same again for the top.
More black pepper than you think, and salt to taste
For the sauce
1 large shallot
2 cloves garlic
Squeeze of tomato puree
1 can San Marzano tomatoes
Splash balsamic vinegar
Handful of fresh basil
Glug of olive oil
A bit more salt and black pepper to taste.
All of the component parts can be made ahead of time, but you can do it all in one go. I’d tackle the pancake batter first as it’s better to let it sit for a few minutes before using it. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for this, but I don’t know what it is. It’s just better. Crack the eggs into a large enough bowl and whisk until there is only yellowy-orange but no further. Sieve the flour and salt into the bowl and do your best to beat into a smooth paste. If you’re like me, it will all get stuck in the middle of the whisk and a mild-to-moderate swearword will pass your lips. Worry not. Add 200ml of the milk and whisk slowly until the clump had de-clumped and then give it some until it’s a smooth batter. Add the melted butter and the milk bit by bit until you get the consistency of double cream. You might not need all of the milk as all flours seem to absorb slightly differently. Leave to one side – or in the fridge if you’re prepping a long way in advance.
The filling is easy and is pretty quick. Wilt the spinach in as little water as you can manage. Just washing the spinach should be enough. Leave that to one side to get cool. You only make the mistake of wringing out boiling hot spinach once. Mix the ricotta, mascarpone, and parmesan in a bowl until combined. Leave to one side while the spinach cools.
Chop your shallot and garlic as small as you can and add to a pan on a medium heat that already contains a glug of olive oil. Sweat off gently until translucent and slightly golden. Add the tomato puree a and cook for another couple of minutes. Then a good splash of balsamic. Watch out for the vinegar fumes and make sure you let it cook out so you are left with the sweet and tartness but not the overwhelming acidity. Then add the tomatoes and the basil, which you will have dutifully chopped into a pleasing chiffonade. Season to taste and let that cook gently to intensify in flavour.
By this time, the spinach should be cool enough to handle. Place the contents into a clean muslin or tea towel and then twist and squeeze all the water from it. Some people might say that by squeezing the water out of the spinach you are losing all the flavour and nutrients. They may be right, but they are also the ones who would have a green watery mess on their plate and a ruined dinner. Squeeze that spinach. Chop it up, add to the cheese mix, season to taste, and get in the fridge to firm up.
Make the pancakes. You should get at least 8 out of that mix – so that’s a couple of extra for dessert, or a couple of practice ones that end up on the floor or in the dog. There is butter in the mix to stop them sticking, but a little extra in a non-stick pan should be a fail safe.
Assembly time. Take the pancake. Take a sixth of the spinach mix and make a little sausage shape about a third of the way down the pancake and roll up, tucking the ends in so nothing falls out. Repeat for the other five. Place the rolls snugly in an oven proof dish and top with the tomato sauce, a little more black pepper and the other 50g of grated parmesan. Bake at 180 for about 35 mins then tuck in and enjoy. A dressed green salad and a glass of Sangiovese does the trick for me.
Bonus banana pancakes.
Serves 2 (makes 6-8 pancakes)
130g plain flour
130ml whole milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 free range egg
1tbsp melted butter
1 ripe banana sliced
I know I said one recipe, but I had these for brekkie this morning and took a photo so think of it as a bonus, and also that I practice what I preach.
Mix all the ingredients save the banana together in a bowl until you have a smooth thick batter. Take that non-stick pan again, place on a medium heat. Dip some kitchen paper in a little more melted butter or veg oil and wipe round the pan.
Add about a table spoon of the mixture to the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you can probably do two at once. Wait for a couple of seconds and then place the sliced banana onto your pancakes. Wait another 30 seconds, then flip. Cook for another minute and then serve with berries of your choice, more banana, and of course lots of maple syrup.