With Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) coming up on March 1st, here is a recipe of my mother’s. It always feels good to do some of the recipes that I associate exclusively with her, even when I have the devil’s own job reproducing them. I’m not very keen on sweet stuff, so on Pancake Day savoury pancakes are excellent.
Eggs are used in the recipe both in the pancake batter (beaten) and into the pancake filling (hard-boiled and chopped). The chopped egg makes a real difference to both the flavour and the texture of the filling. This is an immensely filling dish. I make one small pancake and serve a light salad to accompany it. It is a great dish for making use of leftover roast chicken, but of course you can grill or fry some chicken (thigh has great flavour) specially.
You may want to pre-heat your grill if it is electric.
Although most of my recipes are gung-ho, pancakes are simply not a suck-it-and-see item. The relative proportions are important. Hence, for two people:
- 100g plain flour,
- 190ml milk,
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten,
- 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
- a pinch of salt
- tablespoon of oil or butter for the frying/omelette pan
The eggs and milk are whisked together with the oil, then poured into the flour and whisked lightly, ignoring small lumps. After a couple of failures on the pancake front, when I first had a go at this, I was told that being careful not to over-whisk the batter was important, and that leaving the batter in the fridge for a couple of hours, giving it a final stir before using, would increase the likelihood of success. This seems to work for me.
Heat the oil or butter in the pan and pour in the batter. Before flipping, it needs to be set well on one side, and I always take a sneak peak to make sure that it is going golden on the underside before flipping with a big wooden spatula.
To make the filling, which I do in advance, and heat through whilst making the pancakes, toss the following in hot oil and/or butter
- two large handfuls of mushrooms (they shrink in volume when cooked)
- two handfuls leftover roast chicken, thickly sliced or in chunks (or slice up and grill/fry a large chicken thigh)
- crushed garlic, to taste (optional)
- bay leaf (optional – and remember to fish out before stuffing the pancake)
When the mushrooms begin brown and give off a wonderful aroma, the following are mixed together and thrown in, and stirred just until everything is warmed through:
- one or two hard boiled eggs, chopped
- fresh tarragon, sage or oregano/marjoram to taste
- a big handful of parsley
- chopped spring onions or chives, to taste
- seasoning to taste (I used salt, ground black pepper, ground fennel seeds and a few chilli flakes)
Next add the following, and stir gently until the spinach begins to wilt and everything is again warmed through:
- some chicken or vegetable stock
- cream (traditionally double cream, but I usually use crème fraîche, and sour cream also works a treat)
- a really big handful of spinach
The filling is added to the pancake, heaped in a line up the middle. The pancake is folded to cover the filling and overlap, and then turned onto a baking tray (which is how I did it for the photo on the right this time last year) or oven-proof dish (the one at the top of the page, which I did most recently) so that the edges are secured underneath. I find that pancakes are so filling that instead of making two, I put additional filling down the edges of one small pancake in an oven-proof dish. Cheese is grated over the top (for my most recent version it was a mixture of Cheddar and Emmental with chilli flakes sprinkled on top) and it all goes under the grill until the cheese starts to melt and go golden-brown. In the summer I scatter over some fresh marjoram leaves from a pot on the patio to provide an aromatic edge. On this occasion I served it with a light side salad drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette.
Notes and alternatives:
I have to take real care not to pour too much batter into the pan, which makes the pancake too thick. A thick pancake results in something really stodgy, quite hard to roll and unpleasant to eat. It needs to be thin and light. Part of the trick is to make sure that the pan is hot enough to melt the butter or heat through the oil, but not so hot that the moment the pancake batter hits the pan it starts to set. It needs time to flow out to the sides of the pan and spread properly before the heat is turned up to allow it to set.
The previous time I did this I noted that the filling needed to be rather oozier than the one I made, because of course the pancake itself is dry, and requires a bit of liquid to balance it. So I was careful not to simmer off too much of the stock and cream, and although it looked a bit too liquid, it actually provided a really good oozy sauce. An alternative would be to make a sauce to pour over it, like parsley and chive, or chervil sauce.
If you don’t have time to fiddle around making pancake batter, or if it always comes out more like pizza than pancake, you can always use pre-made soft tortilla flat-breads instead, which are sold in all supermarkets these days. I’ve had a go, and they work well if they are heated and softened gently in a dry non-stick frying pan just before adding the filling.
Whether using either pancakes or tortillas, if you are using a baking tray and serving on a plate, anything that has fallen out of the pancake during the perilous transfer from grill pan to plate can be served to the side of the pancake. To avoid having to move the pancake from the oven dish or baking tray to the oven, a good alternative is to serve it in individual oven dishes straight to the table, with side dishes on the side.
Alternatives or additions to the chicken in the filling could include pancetta or chopped bacon, sausage-meat balls, or chunks of ham hock, the latter going well with leeks added to the fill. Dijon mustard is a great addition to the sauce for all these.
The basic recipe is easy to convert to a vegetarian recipe by adding extra hard boiled egg and replacing the chicken with loads of wild mushrooms, or/as well as leeks, asparagus, courgettes and/or fennel bulb, and using mustard and cheese to add more flavour to the sauce. A very nice seafood version made with king prawns makes a great alternative by leaving out mushrooms and instead adding fennel, asparagus and/or leeks, and making the sauce super-cheesy. This combination works well with ham hock as well.
Leftover filling can be used on toast for lunch, or served deliciously on a baked potato, with cheese or fresh parsley sprinkled over the top. I often make more than I need deliberately to use in this way, and this is my plan for Shrove Tuesday. I have a wood burning stove, and a maris piper spud wrapped in foil and chucked in for 45 minutes works wonderfully. Even with the foil, the smoked wood flavour penetrates and is wonderful.