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This time last week I was prepping for the annual arrival of Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Day. In the Christian calendar it marks the last day before the start of Easter (Ash Wednesday). Having been brought up a catholic we only really tended to have pancakes on this one day, which considering how much I love them now seems rather bizarre. I’ve also become aware that pancakes, or rather pancake preferences, are quite the controversial topic. The battle lines seem to be drawn on two fronts: “American” vs. European, and Sweet vs. Savoury. I have to say that whilst I can appreciate the merits of an I-hopesque doughy cake (otherwise known as a drop scone or scotch pancake) for me they are just a little bit too much. The housemate on the other hand strongly disagrees with this and would quite happily guzzle the fluffy little monsters topped with streaky bacon and maple syrup any day of the week. Savoury vs. sweet? I say both!

So, it’s after Pancake Day, why am I posting about pancakes? Well lots of countries have a healthy pancake culture (Holland, America, France, Iceland [the pancake pan we brought back from a holiday there in 1996 is still a firm companion and their choice filling of whipped cream and homemade jam is to die for]) so why is it that we have to wait a whole twelve months to come across a day that celebrates them? Being a resident Mancunian I lamented the loss of the Dutch Pancake House on St Peter’s Square which was the only place outside of home or the Christmas market that I could ever get my hands on delicious and positively gargantuan crepes. There are rumours that a spinoff of the house has opened in the Arndale centre as a stall but the people running it don’t look the same and the pancakes are definitely not in the same proportions.

I digress, my love for the pancake house probably stems from the fact that they were such a rare occurrence at home. It was also the first place to ever introduce me to savoury pancakes: gorgeous smoked ham, oozing melted cheese and just enough pepper to give it a kick, my qualms about savoury pancakes quickly disappeared. I know that the cool thing to do is to try and be subversive with these posts and create something ‘alternative’ to pancakes but I’m sorry, I like them just as they are and I’d like to share with you my two favourite pancake recipes – One savoury, one sweet – oh and I dare you to make them this week!

KBF (Kitchen best friend – interim name) indicate Thermomix instructions rather than conventional equipment instructions.

Basic pancake batter mix:

  • 110g plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 270ml milk
  • Pinch of salt/sugar depending on savoury/sweet choice.
  • (For sweet I find that 1 tsp of vanilla extract or seeds from ½ vanilla pod are extra delicious)

KBF: All ingredients in bowl mix for 1 min speed 6. Let stand for at least 20 minutes or so before using.

  1. (Non KBF)  Whisk the ingredients together in a bowl with an electric whisk until smooth, if using a hand whisk, whisk the flour, eggs and half the milk to start with then add the rest of the milk to ensure that you get lots of air into the batter and all of the lumps out.

To cook the pancakes melt a knob of butter in a frying or pancake pan (if you have one). It’s important that the heat isn’t too high otherwise the butter will burn, nor too low otherwise you’ll have really greasy soggy pancakes. I like my pancakes quite thin so I take half a ladle of batter, pour it into the middle of the pan and then in a circular motion move it round the pan, tipping any excess out of the side of the pan. Obviously if you like them a little thicker use half a ladle per pancake.

Make sure that the first side is a lovely caramel brown before either flipping or turning with a spatula.

So, once you’ve got a lovely pile of pancakes what do you do with them? My savoury filling of choice is Fruits de Mere with a white wine cream sauce. I like this because it’s particularly adaptable to people’s fish/shellfish preferences and the rich creamy sauce perfectly complements flaky fish and silky smooth pancakes. You can use any combination of fish or shellfish that you like, if I’m making these for the family at home I will stick mainly to shellfish and crustaceans, so scallops, mussels, clams and prawns. As I was at my house this year and I have a housemate who isn’t particularly fond of shellfish I went with a nice mix of smoked haddock (the smokiness adds a lovely depth of flavour to the sauce), salmon, cod and prawns.

Sweet pancakes are a little bit more controversial with people being particularly defensive of their favourite filling. Whilst nutella and banana is delicious, lemon and sugar classic and cinnamon and sugar an American favourite, I am standing in vehement defence of my favourite: Hot sticky cherries and vanilla ice-cream.

Fruits de Mere and White Wine Cream Sauce. (Makes filling for roughly 8 pancakes)

  • Heat fan oven to 180oc/Gas mark 5
  • 500g Fish/Shellfish/Crustaceans of choice – chopped into bite size pieces.
  • 60g butter.
  • 200ml dry white wine.
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 chestnut mushrooms
  • 400ml Double Cream
  • A generous handful of parsley.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • Optional extra: Table spoon of capers.
  1. Begin by frying off the fish (and capers if you like them) in 30 grams of butter, season lightly with salt and pepper – It only needs to be lightly fried because the cooking will be finished by baking in the oven.
  2. KBF: Place the shallots and mushrooms in the bowl, chop speed 6 for 5 seconds and scrape down the sides. Melt the remaining 30g of butter. Add this to the bowl and sauté the mushrooms and shallots for 4 minutes, temperature 100, speed 1.
  3. To make the sauce in a pan fine chop the mushrooms and shallots and follow the recipe as per the KBF but ensure that you keep stirring all the way through and do not let the cream boil
  4. Add the wine to the bowl and heat at 90 degrees for a further 2 minutes speed 1.
  5. Add the double cream and cook for a further 5 minutes, temp 90, speed 1. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. While the sauce is cooking fill each of the pancakes with a spoon of the fish mixture. Roll them up into little logs and line them up (fold down) in a casserole or ovenproof baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle the pancakes with a little parsley, a crack of pepper and then cover with the cream sauce.
  8. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes in the centre of the oven.
  9. Serve either with salad or vegetables.
            A little bit crunchy on top, oozing in the middle.

 

                      Sprinkle with Parsley to Finish

 

                                        Fishy Goodness

 

The Last Picture I Managed to Take Before they got Gobbled.

 

Hot Sticky Cherry Mix.

You can either do this with fresh black cherries or with tinned black cherries in syrup. The tinned ones are slightly quicker to do as the syrup helps speed up the reduction of the juice, plus it means you can make them when black cherries are out of season. This fruit reduction makes enough for roughly 4 pancakes which doesn’t sound like a lot but they are rich, though it’s easy to make too many of them if like me you have eyes bigger than your stomach!

  • 1 400g tin or 500g fresh black cherries.
  • If using fresh cherries – 5 tbs caster sugar and 20ml water, if using tinned – 3 tbs caster sugar.
  1. Pit the cherries.
  2. Basically put the cherries, and syrup if tinned, sugar (and water) into a pan and heat through until reduced so that the sauce is sticky thick syrup.

Vanilla Ice Cream – You can either buy this or make it. This is a recipe for Ice cream in the KBF:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 250 ml double cream
  • 250 ml full cream milk
  • 150 gm sugar
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • pinch salt
  1. Place all ingredients in Thermomix bowl and Cook 5 minutes at 80C on Speed 4.
  2. Place the mixture in a stainless steel bowl and place in freezer until firm but NOT frozen.
  3. Take the ice cream from the freezer, cut into medium size pieces and place back in Thermomix bowl.
  4. Mix for 20 seconds on speed 9 then reduce down to speed 4 for 10 seconds.
  5. Return to freezer until ready to serve.

You can also make this crème anglaise by hand and churn it in an ice cream maker if you don’t have a KBF.

To Serve put a generous spoon of the cherries in the centre of a pancake, add a scoop of velvety soft ice-cream, fold in half and eat it before all the ice-cream melts! I’m sorry there aren’t any pictures of these...they got eaten too quickly. I guess I’ll just have to make some more...damn! (Will insert some pictures when I've done this)

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