Pancakes: cheesy-leek and choccy-cherry

Wow, it’s Shrove Tuesday again already! Where did that year go?! I know it’s not quite a whole year since last year’s Pancake Day, but still I can’t quite believe what’s happened since. I distinctly remember last year’s Shrove Tuesday because I had just done a couple of pregnancy tests which had come out positive and I was about to embark on months of feeling and being sick. So this year I intended to enjoy my pancakes, and enjoy them a lot!

For tea we had some savoury and sweet pancakes. This week in our veg box we got a couple of leeks (amongst other items), so they formed the basis of our savoury pancakes, sautéed until crispy and mixed with some cheese – a good flavour combination I think. As our protein for the meal, I added a tin of tuna. And to complement these flavours I added some mixed green herbs to the pancake batter. There was some chocolate ganache left over from some cupcakes that we baked recently (blog post to follow), so that became an indulgent filling along with some dried cherries for our sweet treat pancakes. I convinced Andrew that you (or rather ‘he’) only needs a small amount of the chocolate to taste it – any more chocolate an hour before bed could have led to disaster! i love red fruits with chocolate, I think they work really well, but this time of year they’re not in season and I find the ones you can get in the shops now, which are grown abroad, don’t have the same flavour as local ones in the summer, plus they are expensive. So the dried ones that we buy as snacks for Andrew gave us the intense cherry flavour to go with the chocolate.

Here’s how I made each filling, along with the pancake batters that I whipped up…..

Ingredients

Pancake batters

  • 120g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 75ml water
  • 2 tbsp mixed herbs added to savoury batter
  • 2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles added to sweet batter
  • butter or margarine to fry

Cheesy-leek filling

  • knob of butter or margarine
  • 2 small leeks, chopped
  • 75g cheese, grated – I used cheddar because that’s what we had in, but you can use any cheese you like really as long as it melts in nicely.
  • 1 standard tin of tuna (optional)
  • black pepper

Choccy-cherry filling

  • 90g dried cherries (this was the size of the pack we had and we ate it all between us)
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50ml double cream
I used the ganache that was left over from cupcake icing – there was about one third left of what was originally 150g chocolate and 150ml cream.

Method

Batter

  1. Use a blender – either a jug one on its own base or a stick one in a jug that’s at least a pint in size – to blend all the batter ingredients together. I just shove them all in together in no particular order and then start blending once they’re all in the jug.
  2. Transfer half the batter to another jug and add the chocolate sprinkles; add the herbs to the original jug.
Cheesy-leek filling
  1. Heat the butter/margarine for the leek filling in a large frying pan and fry the leeks until they are nicely browned and soft.
  2. Take off the heat and stir through the tin of tuna and grated cheese until the cheese is just melting.
  3. Season with black pepper to taste.
Choccy-cherry filling
  1. Heat the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan on a low heat whilst stirring, until the chocolate has melted and mixed with the cream completely.
  2. Take off the heat and whisk for a couple of minutes until it becomes thicker and glossier.
  3. Leave to cool and thicken in the fridge.
  4. Put the chocolate filling into a piping bag.

Assembling all together – I did the previous three sections of prep earlier in the day or week so we were ready to roll (or rather flip!) in the evening for tea (I just heated the cheesy leeks in the microwave to serve).

  1. Heat the butter/margarine in a frying pan until it’s sizzling – I use quite a small one as I find smaller pancakes easier to handle, but you can use whatever size pan you want your finished pancakes to be.
  2. Pour some batter into the pan, enough to give a fairly thin pancake, and swirl the pan around so that the batter goes right to the edges.
  3. Cook for a few minutes, checking the underside every now and then, using a fish slice to lift the pancake edge up slightly, until it looks nicely brown underneath.
  4. Then for the flip! If you’re brave, flip it into the air directly from the pan and catch it so the uncooked side is now facing down. If like me you’re a pancake wuss, use the fish slice to flip it over in the pan.
  5. Cook for a few more minutes until the new underside is nicely browned.
  6. Take out of the pan and fill immediately with your filling – spoon some cheesy-leek filling into the centre, or pipe some chocolate filling and add a handful of dried cherries into the centre, and roll up the pancake.
  7. Eat immediately whilst still hot – Tom and I take it in turns to fry a pancake and eat one, rather than cooking them all and then eating them. We find this adds to the fun of our Shroce Tuesday tea-time.
  8. Yummy yummy (as Andrew said)!

‘We love you Daddy’ mini heart-shaped cheese scones

So it’s the Saturday morning before Fathers’ Day, and I suddenly realise on an unrelated search through the fridge that we have 2 eggs that are at the day before their use-by date. This is probably because I’m doing less baking these days and I keep forgetting to do boiled eggs now that Andrew seems to be not so keen on scrambled but will eat boiled. Tom and I hate throwing away food, and very rarely do it – as we live so near the shops and do most of our shopping by foot or bike, we buy fresh stuff every few days and only as much as we need. So I was not going to let these eggs go to waste. I’m still not exactly back into baking like I was, but if it was bake or throw away food, I know which I’d rather do. As I’m generally feeling pretty good these days in the morning, I set about thinking up a recipe (or what turned out to be two) which would use the eggs up, and, to kill another proverbial bird whilst I was at it, bake something I knew Tom would particularly enjoy as a Fathers’ Day treat.

Given that Tom likes pretty much anything edible, I had quite a free rein on that front. The main factor in deciding on recipes was of course they had to have egg in. As my sweet tooth has yet to return from the pregnancy taste changes, I thought I’d give a savoury recipe a go. I flicked through some books to get inspiration, and the scones in good old Delia Smith grabbed my attention. I love a good cheese scone, so that was one egg decided on. For what I did with the other you’ll have to wait for another post.

Here’s the recipe that I used. It’s roughly based on Delia’s, but I always adapt recipes to suit our tastes and cupboard/fridge contents. I went for a ‘mini’ size so they would be easy for Andrew and also good as a snack. The heart-shape was supposed to be a sign for ‘We love you Daddy’ and we’d like to thank you for all you do.

Ingredients

  • 75g wholewheat flour
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 25g margarine
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 3tbsp milk
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 pinches cumin seeds

Method

  1. Rub the margarine and flours together in a bowl using your fingers, until it looks like bread crumbs.
  2. Stir in the cayenne and cumin until evenly distributed.
  3. Mix in about 3/4 of the cheese until evenly distributed.
  4. Beat the egg and 2/3 of the milk in a cup, then add it to the other ingredients, and stir until it forms a stiff dough that you can roll into a ball. If it’s too dry, add a bit more milk.
  5. Flatten out the dough on a floured surface to about 1cm thick, and cut out scones using a biscuit cutter. I used a small heart-shaped one, to make the mini scones as a ‘we love you Daddy’ treat 🙂
  6. Place the scones on a lined baking tray.
  7. Brush them with the rest of the milk, then sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
  8. Bake in the oven at 180ºC until golden brown.
  9. Let cool and eat as fresh as possible.

We had ours with tomato soup, which worked brilliantly. In fact Tom liked them so much he ate most of them in one go! Andrew and I just about got a look in. I hadn’t expected them to be that popular, even knowing his appetite. He said his excuse was that they’re best eaten on the day of baking. I said he didn’t need an excuse – they were his treat!

A savoury pudding? Yes it works: Vegetable and lentil crumble

Crumbles are one of my favourite puddings, especially on a cold day to warm and fill me up, there’s nothing like it. A while ago I came across a vegetable crumble in a magazine, and I was intrigued to know what it was. Was it one of these sweet puddings that you put vegetables in, like carrot or courgette cake that are all the rage these days? No, it was a savoury crumble, with vegetables in sauce as the base, and breadcrumbs and oats for the topping. I thought it looked appetising, but couldn’t help thinking that it wasn’t actually what I’d call a crumble – it didn’t have the classic ‘crumble’ topping that makes a crumble a crumble (wow, lots of mentions of crumble there – can you tell I love them?!) So I thought, I know, I’ll do my own, and do a similar base to the magazine’s suggestion, but use a classic crumble topping of butter and flour (but no sugar) rubbed together to make a breadcrumb like texture before baking.

That was a while ago, and since then I’ve done various fillings with whatever we happen to have in the fridge and cupboards. Just recently I came up with what I think is my best yet, so I thought I’d share it with you on the blog. It’s also a very toddler-friendly food, as the crumble tends to get mixed up with the veggies when served, so it’s a good way to encourage vegetable eating with a tasty starchy topping that will go down easily. Not that we have problems with vegetable eating (yet! I’m not taking it for granted, I know fussy stages happen), but it’s still a good idea to have up my sleeve in case. The lentils give the base a lovely thick texture, and provide protein in a veggie dish (something I’m very aware of as I eat very little meat and no red meat). So here’s the recipe. This would feed about 4 adults, or two adults and a toddler for dinner and then a yummy leftover lunch the next day.

Ingredients

Crumble topping

  • 100g margarine
  • 300g plain flour
  • cumin seeds (or any other herb/spice that you’d like to use)
  • 75g mature cheddar, grated

Filling

  • 120g dried red lentils
  • 1 parsnip, cubed
  • half a large butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 courgette, cubed
  • 500ml reduced salt vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the cubed parsnip and squash for about 5 minutes until starting to brown. Add the courgette and continue to fry for a few minutes.
  2. Rinse the lentils and add to the pan.
  3. Add the stock, bring to the boil, and simmer for a few minutes. Take off the heat.
  4. If you feel confident enough, make the crumble topping whilst keeping an eye on the vegetables frying. If not, wait until you’ve completed stage 3 (I tend to flit between one thing and another quite easily, but Tom is of the finish each stage one at a time before starting the next school of cooking). Rub the margarine and flour together until you get a texture that resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in some cumin seeds (or other herbs/spices) to taste.
  5. Pour the veggie filling into a large ovenproof dish. Spread the crumble topping over the top.
  6. Bake in the oven at 180ºC for about 30 minutes until golden. About 10 minutes before the end, sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and leave to melt and brown off in the oven.
  7. Serve as an all in one dish – vitamins, fibre (vegetables), protein (lentils, cheese) and carbohydrate (crumble topping) all together!

Spinach, Feta and Pine Nut tart

We have a great cook book called Cooking For Friends by Gordon Ramsey. It’s where I always look first when (funnily enough) we have friends round for a meal. This weekend we were supposed to have one of Andrew’s friends and her parents round, but unfortunately she was sick and they had to postpone. As I’d bought the ingredients for this tart anyway, I thought I might as well carry on and make it for the 3 of us, and freeze half for another day. It’s a vegetarian recipe which has lots of flavour and really fills you up. I adapted it slightly from the original recipe (of course!), by putting yoghurt and milk in instead of double cream, because I thought it was rich enough with the pastry, feta and parmesan, and because we always have lots of milk and yoghurt in the fridge these days. I think Andrew’s not supposed to have pine nuts just yet (choking hazard?) so I just sprinkled them onto three quarters of the tart and gave the pine-nut-less bit to him. As I thought I was running out of time before our friends came, I forgot to take pictures of every stage, though in the end I should have just looked at my phone earlier and I’d have seen a text to say they wouldn’t be able to make it. Anyway, here goes with what I did manage to capture…

Ingredients

  • 320g ready-rolled shortcrust pastry (I didn’t have time to make my own)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 400g spinach leaves, washed and drained
  • nutmeg, to grate
  • 200g feta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml natural yoghurt
  • 100ml milk
  • 50g toasted pine nuts
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan

Method

  1. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 23-25cm tart tin (Ramsey says to use one with a removable base, but I don’t have one of those, so I used a solid pyrex-style one). Press the pastry into the edges of the tin and leave a little excess dangling over the sides. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the onion with a little pepper. Stir frequently over medium heat until soft but not browned: about 6-8 minutes. Then wilt the spinach leaves in the same pan as the onion. Stir them over a medium-high-heat just until they’ve wilted, then transfer to a colander set over a large bowl. Press down on the spinach with the back of a ladle to squeeze out the excess water, then cool slightly.
  3. Put the onion and spinach in a large bowl and grate over a little nutmeg. Add the feta, eggs, yoghurt, milk and a generous grating of black pepper. Chill until ready to use.

    Spinach, onions, feta, egg, yoghurt and milk mixed together to make the filling
  4. Heat the oven to 200°c. Line the pastry with foil and fill with baking beans. Bake blind (i.e. without any filling) for 15-20 minutes until the sides are lightly golden. Remove the foil and beans and return to the oven for another 5 minutes until the base is golden and there are no more uncooked patches left. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 170°c.

    Blind baked pastry case - except I noticed when taking this photo that it still had uncooked patches on the bottom, so I put it in uncovered for a bit longer)
  5. Spread the filling over the pastry shell, then sprinkle the parmesan and pine nuts over the top.
    Grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts, ready to sprinkle on top

    Tart ready to go into the oven (pine nuts delibertely only sprinkled on 3/4 of it)
  6. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is set. Cool slightly before serving.
    Half eaten tart - forgot to take photo when it came out of the oven (probably because Andrew was clearly keen to eat it and was letting me know this!) I think I could have done with squeezing out more of the excess water from the spinach, but it tasted yummy anyway.

    Tart in process of being consumed - served with roasted parsnips and carrots and some couscous salad