Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Stuffed Pancakes

It's pancake day, so here comes a pancake recipe! My mum used to make these every few months for us as kids, and we were always really excited whenever she got the pancake pan out. She used to make two different fillings, one with tuna, and one with vegetables and a white sauce, top them with cheese and bake for 20 minutes. After the savouries (1 of each, seconds first for the eldest :) we'd always be looking forward to the sweet dessert pancakes with sugar and lemon. Good times!

This is a little adaptation I tried out tonight, combining the two ideas: tuna with vegetables, and bulked a little with some cannelini beans. If you're vegetarian, you could just omit the tuna. I use a similar technique as when I make chicken enchiladas: cooking the filling in its own juices briefly, then filling the pancakes and topping with a small amount of white sauce to keep them from crisping too much, then of course cheddar cheese. But unlike tortillas, pancakes can't take lots of strong flavours, so I keep this dish interesting with a gentle use of herbs and letting the filling be a little inhomogeneous.

This serves three, a bit of an awkward number, but the SO is heading off later this week and I wanted an extra portion to reheat later! You could always serve four with this amount, and just have some good bread and salad on the side. You'll need a quality, fairly deep oven pan for this, preferably rectangular, and of course a decent pancake pan.

For the pancakes:
  • 200g plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • plenty of milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
For the filling:
  • 1 fat leek
  • 3 stems of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 tomatoes
  • pinch of thyme
  • 1-2 tins tuna
  • 1 tin cannelini (or butter) beans
For the white sauce:
  • Knob of butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml milk
  • grating of nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 handful finely chopped parsley

Put the flour in a big bowl and break your eggs in. Whisk them into the flour using a balloon whisk until you have a thick paste with few or no lumps; try not to overmix or the gluten will start going tough. Add milk, a little at a time, and whisk in until your batter has the consistency of thin cream. You can check this by lifting up some of the batter and pouring it with a spoon. It should pour easily, and will be thinner than you expect if you haven't made pancakes before. Whisk in the salt and vegetable oil - the latter will float on the surface but don't worry about it.

Heat the pancake pan to a moderate heat and add enough batter, rotating the pan so it covers it all to make a thin pancake, as large as the width of your oven pan. It's great if you can have someone make all the pancakes while you get on with the filling!

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Slice the leek lengthwise, wash out the dirt from the outer leaves, top and tail and finely chop. Sautee in a little butter over a moderate heat until softened. Meanwhile, dice the celery and carrots, then add and stir in. Dice the tomatoes, then stir them in with the pinch of thyme; cover and allow to cook through for five minutes. The carrots should be just done. Drain your tins; wash the beans (I hate that gloopy weird stuff they float in!); and add the contents to the pan. Break up the tuna into large-ish chunks. Don't be tempted to stir it all in, just combine gently. Cover and allow to heat through for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, make the white sauce. Personally I always do this in the microwave: 20 seconds for the butter, stir in the flour, then add the milk a very little at a time, stirring thoroughly between each addition. Add the nutmeg, bay leaf, and a little seasoning, then microwave for 2 minutes. Stir thoroughly again, especially paying attention the the bottom and sides of the jug, then microwave again for a further minute. Add the parsley, stir and leave to the side. This is not an especially thick white sauce: you can make a thicker one by upping the proportion of flour and cooking for longer.

When all your components are ready, lay a pancake in your oven dish and 1/nth of your filling, where you have n pancakes. Roll it up, and repeat until all your pancakes are filled and nestled in the dish. Pour over the white sauce and top with grated cheddar cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown on top. Delicious, unchallenging comfort food.

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