Operatic pancakes

In this post I return to pancakes, this time English ones. Traditionally served with lemon and sugar, always good, they are a very adaptable backing for savoury and sweet fillings and can be eaten at any time, all day long. The 70s (Hippy) version would have been stuffed with leeks and baked in a cheese sauce. Here I have made one savoury and one sweet version, but other combinations could include: home made marmalade or jam, banana, tomato and ratatouille. Can’t go wrong with the filling, though the shell can be fiddly.

Savoury pancakes with ham, cheese and Swiss chard

  • Ingredients: 150g plain white flour, 300g milk, 2 eggs, 20g butter. Makes 6 pancakes using a 20cm non stick pan.
  • Filling for 2-3 pancakes: 50g prosciutto ham, two or three small tomatoes, one or two leaves of rainbow chard, one small red onion, 20-30g cheese shavings, pepper. Probably no salt because the ham is salty.
  • Method: Sieve the flour into a bowl. Stir up the eggs and pour them into the flour. Then, stirring all the time, slowly add the milk until you achieve the consistency of single cream. Add another spoonful of milk – it should be thinner than you imagine. Leave to rest for half an hour so the grains of flour swell (this is the science bit).

While you are waiting assemble the filling ingredients. Wash the veg and slice them thinly. In another pan sweat the onions, chard and tomato in a teaspoonful of oil until the onions are translucent. Taste the filling and add pepper if needed.

Heat a non stick pan on a medium high setting. (More science here: for the temperature of the pan to be in equilibrium thus achieving evenly cooked pancakes, the heating effect on the base of the pan needs to equal the cooling effect on the top. As the pancake itself insulates the top surface, once cooking you might need to turn the heat down a notch.)

Melt 20g butter in the pan and pour it into the batter. Give it a good stir then spoon some batter into the pan, probably 3-4 tablespoonfuls. At the same time, with your other arm swirl the pan to ensure even coverage. If you are really lucky you will get lacy edges too. Wait a minute or two and then peek under the pancake by lifting up an edge with a spatula.

If you can see golden markings underneath, gently loosen the edges if needed and swirl around to ensure there is no sticking before you calmly toss the pancake up in the air and back onto the pan. No need to do this more than once per pancake.

Back in the pan, the underside needs very little time to cook. Place the slices of ham and cheese on the top side. When the bottom is ready, spoon on some of the vegetables and place under a hot grill for a minute to melt the cheese. Goes well with white wine and possibly a burst of Rossini.

Strawberry crêpes

Ingredients: Fresh strawberries, crème fraîche or yoghurt, fresh mint, basil, brandy.

Method: make the pancakes as above. In a non stick pan sauté about 10 sliced strawberries in a tiny drop of oil or butter. Spoon the strawberries onto the pancakes and fold. If you like a lot of sugar you can add some. Then, as this is a crêpe recipe, carefully flame a spoonful of brandy in the strawberry pan and pour over. Garnish with fresh mint and or basil. Definitely Puccini here.

5 thoughts on “Operatic pancakes

  1. eightattempts

    I’d forgotten how good a savoury pancake is, with the grilling giving it the air of a twice-baked soufflé! I have to confess a fondness for the hippy version too, with an excess of cheese sauce. I notice, with pleasure, that we have a (very decrepit) example of the plate you use for the sweet version too. Probably acquired at the antiques market in Camden Passage…


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