Lent in the Christian calendar starts on Ash Wednesday when the faithful are supposed to sprinkle ash onto their heads in solemn repentance of their sins. I promise I’m not making it up, after all I was brought up as a good (-ish, the family did their best but there’s only so much they could do) Catholic girl. Prior to the religious austerity commencing, ye faithful frantically stuff themselves with perishable goodies in anticipation of the fasting that should follow. Hence the confusing number of feast days, called differently in different countries and annoyingly not falling on the same date: Mardi Gras, Fat Thursday, Shrove Tuesday, Fastnacht or Pancake Day.
Glorious modern habits have chosen to ignore the forthcoming fast and only go for the stuff-your-face bit, naturally. Pancakes it is then, or drop scones, crepes or galettes. The batter is a doddle to make and it annoys me so seeing the dry mix sold in supermarkets. Mix eggs with flour and milk – a toddler can do it, no? The art of pancake is tricky, but the difficulty lies in tools rather than ingredients. Unless you have a good pan, or better: a flat griddle, they will stick, burn and leave you hungry and pissed off.
Fillings are a flight of fancy but I do recommend spinach and blue cheese. It also makes you feel a bit more better about noshing four or five of those – after all, you’re eating one of your five-a-day in each pancake…
- Makes 6 large pancakes.
- 110g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 200ml whole milk
- 75ml water
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- oil for frying
- For the filling:
- 500g fresh spinach
- 2 tbsp butter
- salt and pepper
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
- 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
- a large chunk of blue cheese, Dolcelatte, Gorgonzola or Danish Blue
Mix the milk and water in a jug. Place the flour, salt and the eggs in a bowl. Start whisking, adding a little liquid at first to get thick batter and get rid of the lumps, then gradually add the rest of the milk/water mix, whisking all the time. You should reach the consistency of single cream. Add the melted butter and whisk it in.
Heat up a large pan or a flat griddle until very hot. Pour in a little oil and spread it all over the bottom of the pan with a paper towel. Pour in or ladle about a cupful of the batter, depending on the size of the pan, and tilt the pan sideways so that it spreads evenly. Leave it to cook for a minute, insert a metal spatula or a palette knife carefully underneath to see if the pancake bottom is dry. If it is, slide the spatula under the middle of the pancake and flip decisively. Cook for another minute on the other side, then slide off onto a plate. You probably won’t need to oil the pan more often than for every third pancake.
To make the filling, wash the spinach and chop it up roughly. Melt a knob of butter in a skillet, add the spinach and the pressed garlic, season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper and turn up the heat. Cook, stirring, for about 5-10 minutes until almost all the liquid evaporates. Check for seasoning.
To assemble, spread some spinach thinly over a pancake, add a few morsels of the blue cheese then fold the sides in and roll the pancake towards you to form a parcel. Place the pancakes under a hot grill or fry them in a hot pan with a little butter to crispen on all sides. Serve immediately.