Pancakes two ways – savoury and sweet.

IMG_6411 There was a time long ago, when we had to go to the phone to use it, wireless meant ‘a radio’, Betamax was on the way out and Bluetooth would have presumably meant a trip to the dentist, when I used to eat “Crispy Pankcakes”.

I presume it was a UK thing, but they were basically folded and breaded pancakes that when cooked, by whatever means you choose, disguised a variety of fillings the temperature of molten magma. Now these weren’t haute cuisine by any stretch of the imagination, think savoury pop tarts, only hotter, but as a child I seemed to remember quite liking these things.

Today is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day of course, so this and the fact Findus (the original makers) has featured heavily in the news of late, lead me to the natural conclusion that I had to replicate these little pockets of lava.

I was late home tonight so I swung by the store on the way back and picked out ingredients for the filling I thought would be quickest to be frank. Spinach, ricotta, bacon and mushroom seemed to fit that profile and is invariably good. And so it was on…

These turned out a little bigger than I remember so I ended up making 4 and freezing two. If I could have gotten them, porcini mushrooms would have had much more flavour, but I couldn’t.

I had to make a sweet one too, I had my orders, and I went for chocolate sauce, banana and flaked almonds. This was a little easier!

For the pancakes:

  • 200g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 350ml semi-skimmed milk
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 4 handfuls of spinach
  • 250g ricotta cheese
  • 90g smoked bacon lardon
  • 4 medium mushrooms sliced thinly
  • A little salt and chilli flakes
  • Oil
  • Garlic, finely chopped

To finish:

  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp of flour
  • panko breadcrumbs (or regular ones will do fine)
  • Oil

For the sweet version:

  • 2 pancakes (as above)
  • About 200ml chocolate sauce (I bought it in)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 handfuls of almonds to serve

To make the pancakes, simply mix the ingredients in a bowl, adding the liquids to the flour and whisking as you do to avoid lumps. Stir in a good pinch of salt

In a small pan, fry the pancakes in a little oil so as they are thin and about 23cm/9 inches across. Once done, leave to go cool, they will need to be.

To make the filling, blanch the spinach in a little water until wilted. Drain, cool and squeeze out as much water as you can.

Whilst cooling, fry the bacon in a little oil, the chilli flakes and garlic with the sliced mushrooms until any water released has dried up. Set aside to cool.

Chop the spinach and mix into the ricotta. Once the bacon/mushroom mixture is cooled, at that too. Taste and season if needed.

To make the pancakes, first beat an egg in a bowl decant half to a ramekin and mix with a tsp of flour to make a ‘glue’. Spoon about two tbsp of filling onto the middle of a pancake and brush the edge all the way round with the egg/flour glue. Fold it over carefully trying to expel any trapped air.

Crispy pancake filling

Brush it with the plain egg and coat well in the breadcrumbs all over.

Fry gently in a little oil on both sides and repeat with the others!

Crispy pancake frying

For the sweet pancakes, I simply heated the chocolate sauce with a mashed ripe banana. Spread on the warm pancake (I reheated it in a fresh pan but the microwave will so) and roll up, dust with coco powder and the flaked almonds.

Pancake with chocolate sauce, banana and almonds

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Monkfish, Queen Scallops and Pea Puree

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I’m so hungry, I could eat a Findus Lasagne…..

The horse meat scandal rumbles on in Europe at the moment and whilst there’s nothing necessarily wrong with eating it, as the French and Italians in particular will no doubt protest, it raises big issues. It makes you think about the chain involved in mass manufactured food and personally, made me think about the source of the food we eat. It was sold as beef, but was nothing of the sort and that’s worrying.

I generally avoid processed foods, as I guess most people reading this will as you’re probably a ‘fan’ of good food like me. I can’t pretend to be pious enough to avoid supermarkets but try to buy better quality wherever possible.

Whenever I can though, I get meat and fish from local butchers and fishmongers where I’m happy the produce is as far away from the likes of Comigel as possible. Once such place is Latimers which I first wrote about a few weeks back.

I went down today and got chatting to the guy behind the counter who was genuinely enthusiastic about the source of the fish, even explaining that the recent weather meant a poor catch, highlighting which fish they’d had to buy in (to keep a decent range in stock no doubt). They have a couple of boats landing fish as often as weather allows and you can phone ahead to see what was bought in and order it to collect later. I love this. Proper sustainable, sourceable food and as fresh as you can get.

One fish that was landed was monkfish which has undergone something of a promotion from little regarded lobster pot bait to an expensive restaurant regular. Now, I’m not a huge fan of this fish, it can be a little bland compared to others, but it works well with accompaniments and strong flavours and sauces rather than being the ‘star of the show’.

When deciding what to do with it, I thought about contrasting the flavours and textures which is pretty much the basis of a good dish I’ve come to learn. So, I combined the monkfish with some sweet tasting Queen scallops (also from Latimers), even sweeter pea puree, salty lardons and crisp, slightly bitter braised lettuce. I was pleased with the results, but next time I would sear the monkfish some more, it would have been well worth it.

  • Once large monkfish fillet halved into two portions
  • 150g Queen scallops
  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 100g bacon lardons
  • 1 Little gem lettuce halved
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper

Put a couple of plates in the oven to warm, they will need to be hot for this dish.

In a small, lidded, pan bring the peas to a gentle simmer in the stock and turn the heat off. Blend the peas with a little of the stock and some butter (if you like) to make a puree and return to the pan with the lid on to keep warm. Taste and season if needed.

Put a griddle pan on the hob and get it hot. Rub the fillets with oil and a sprinkle of salt/pepper and and lay then on the pan.

Monkfish - griddle pan

Fry off the lardons in a heavy pan and a little oil and remove, leaving the oils in pan. Put the halves of lettuce on the same pan, flat size down for about five minutes to caramelise.

Keep your eye on the monkfish and turn after about 5 minutes.

Remove the lettuce and keep warm with the plates.

Finally, put the lardons back in the pan and with a good knob of butter. Add the scallops and fry on a high heat until just cooked, about 5 minutes max. Don’t over-do them!

Plate up some of the scallops on the pea puree with the rest dotted around with the lardons. Slice the monkfish and pour over half of the butter from the scallops pan. Add the braised lettuce and you’re good to go!

Monkfish Scallops and Pea Puree

Sarah’s Homecured Bacon

Our good friend Sarah visited us over Christmas and came armed with all sorts of great stuff to eat, including her latest batch of homemade bacon.

Now, in an attempt to reverse the effects of the sheer volume of pork products we got through over the festive break, we’ve decided to go vegetarian for January. More on that later of course.

So, as a last hurrah to 2012, I got Sarah to send over the basic recipe she followed which is itself based on a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The skill is to cure the meat thoroughly, but without making it too salty, which I think she achieved nicely here. So, you’re left with the satisfaction of homemade bacon without the added water and added preservatives.

There are many versions out there but the basic method followed was:

Take a suitably sized piece of belly pork with the loin still attached. Score and pierce the rind and rub in plenty of salt, paying attention to the nooks and crannies. Leave it on a rack for 24 hours with a plate underneath in a cool place (but not the fridge).

Water will be drawn out of the meat into the plate so pour it away and reapply the salt.

Repeat for about 5 days.

After that, rinse the salt off thoroughly. Sarah said she soaked the meat for a couple of hours to help keep the saltiness down. Leave to dry.

It’s then ready to slice – she has a home slicer which makes it much easier! Of course there are other cures with ketchup, brown sugar, berries etc to experiment with.

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