Pancake day is coming soon? This makes a proper meal out of it.
‘The Pancake Bake’ is more a method, than a specific recipe.
You will end up with succulent layered oven baked pancake wonder. Hopefully drenched in creamy cheese and a rich tomato stew. Due to the presentation and perceived difficulty of this dish, its bound to impress friends, guests and family.
The ingredients can chop and change depending on whats in your fridge, that’s the beauty of this. Its learning the basics and filling in the blanks with your lovely creativity.
The main components are cheese, tomatoes and stuff to make pancakes with. That should be easy enough. It takes a while to get together, but when you’ve done it once, you’ll be knocking out bakes like a veteran.
Fresh, fresh tomatoes and spinach with fistfuls of quality strong cheese will make this dish sing for you. Its worth spending the extra pence on your taste buds (but not necessary). Balance your pocket with the occasion and how much you love the people eating pancakes (including yourself!!!!).
This is a dish perfectly designed to warm, satisfy and comfort after a particularly wintry day.
Makes enough for two hungry mouths (we eat two pancakes eat). As usual, it can be made vegan or gluten-free with a few twists and is equally delicious (just not that creamy). If you haven’t tried a gram flour pancake, give them a whirl. They’re brilliant with an earthy flavour.
Tomato Stew – A small glug of oil (I don’t normally use olive oil for cooking, something cheaper but good ie veg or sunflower), 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), 5 tomatoes (or one tin of good chopped tomatoes), one large onion, 1 cup of veg stock (or water), herbs (we used fresh basil and thyme), add one veg or more (we used carrot and potato, we needed some ballast!), salt and pepper to taste.
The Spinach Layer – Good glug of oil, 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), a large pan of spinach leaves (the more the better, they cook down to not much).
Cheese – The one you like best. Quantity depends on how much you want to use. Get a normal sized block and see how you go. Vegans add a nice tofu here.
Pancakes – Glugs of oil, one cup of wholewheat flour (gluten free, use gram flour), 1 egg (not essential), 1/2 cup of milk (soya if you like), 3/4 cup of filtered water, 2 teas dried thyme (or similar herb), s+p to taste. A few roasted sunflower seeds can make a real treat of these.
Get the tomato stew on the go. In a thick bottom pan on medium heat, add olive oil and thinly sliced onions. Stir and cook for at least 10 minutes, until softened and sweet, then add garlic, fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, herbs and s+p. Simmer for a few minutes then add stock, continue the simmer with the top off until the sauce thickens, then pop a lid on and leave on a low heat to infuse a little. You could call this a ragout if you like, it’s a basic sauce for many pasta dishes. Good to get the ragout in the repertoire.
In a large sauce pan (spinach takes up a lot of space initially), medium heat, a glug of oil and flash fry some chopped garlic. Then pack the pan full of washed spinach leaves, season with s+p (if needed). Leave for a minute, then stir the leaves down. It should only take 5 minutes to get them wilted. The oil should make them nice and shiny. Set aside.
Chop your cheese into chunks. We used a strong local cheddar, parmesan, blue cheese, goats cheese, really anything except cheese slices will be good here. Your favourite is probably best. Slice it into pieces that would grace a hearty sandwich.
Now for the tricky bit. The pancakes. They can take a little practice to get right, so the quantities here give you some breathing space. Try a couple before going for the ‘presentation’ pancake.
In a large bowl, add all of the dry pancake ingredients with egg and milk. Mix a little, I use a hand blender for this, you could hand whisk. Gradually add water as you mix, you are looking for a batter with the texture of double cream. Set aside for a couple of minutes to rest.
Pre-heat the oven to 200oC (most recipes tell you to pre-heat the oven far to early, it only takes 5 minutes and you’ll save a load of energy this way).
In a medium size casserole dish or similar (preferably ceramic, they look great). Add a glug of oil and swoosh it around to cover it nicely.
In a small non-stick frying pan, get the pancakes fired up. In a hot pan (medium heat, but adjust accordingly as you go) a small glug of oil followed by approx 1/4 cup of batter. It should cover the base of the pan, but not much more. Tilting the pan and rolling the batter around, until it meets each panside.
Leave for a minute, then with a thin spatula, life the edges away from the sides, make sure it loose. Cook for a few minutes, the batter on top should be solid, then flip. You can either go for the flick wrist acrobatic toss, or the gentile flip, using the spatula to support the pancakes progress. This will take a bit of practice, don’t worry if the first attempt lands somewhere outside of the pan. A taster! When you get the knack, prepare 4 decent pancakes (they don’t have to be perfect!) and lay them on a plate covered with paper towels (to drain any surplus oil). That’s a hell of a method! But once mastered, is a real sinch.
Now for the layering. Remember to portion your bits, you are aiming for four and enough to pour over the finished pancakes. On a board/ plate, beside your casserole dish, lay a pancake out flat. Spoon in approx 2 heaped tbs of ragout, in a line across the centre of the pancake, spread across (not too much you have to roll these suckers). Top with a layer of spinach, then a decent layer of chopped cheese. Now gather one side of the pancake and flip it over, tuck and press with your fingers, then quickly whip over the other edge of the pancake to a make a fat sausage. Hold together in with downward pressure from your hand. Be firm but gentle. Some sauce may shoot out of the end, enjoy that. Now place the pancake fold down on the casserole dish. Repeat and no doubt, get better with your rolling skills.
When four pancakes are laid out in a neat(ish) row, pour over remaining stew. It should get a good covering, sprinkle the left over cheese and spinach, the more the merrier and whack it in the oven for 20 minutes or until all the cheese is golden and melted and the sauce is bubbling nicely.
You can prepare all of this before hand, all the bits will sit nicely in the fridge overnight. I’d heat the stew a little first though and keep the pancakes in a tight container or well cling’d. I would always assemble the dish close to mealtime, the pancakes can go soggy.
With a good crisp salad tossed in a nice citrus dressing. I’d finish off the bake with a few more leaves of torn fresh herb.
We Love It
You’ll be proud to view this Pancake Bake sitting in the middle of the dinner table, it’s so unctuous all over and does have a hint of the wow factor. Because it’s so rich, it’s a good one for carnivores.
Allegedly the Mayans first cultivated tomatoes. It’s a member of the nightshade family which includes aubergine, potato and chillies. Unique to tomatoes, Lycopene helps to protect your cells from harmful free radicals, it also helps to protect the skin from U.V. rays.
You don’t want something too tannic and overpowering here, I’d go white, something dry and with good acidity, like a Sauvignon Blanc. Splash out on a decent bottle of French Touraine Sauvignon. Normally packed full of fresh fruits, a good one should be around 6-8 pounds and have a decent structure to hold its own against the strong flavours in this dish.
You could go for a lighter red style and Chianti historically goes well with the rich tomato and cheese sauces of Italian cuisine. I just think that the white will cut through the melted cheese and leave your mouth feeling vibrant and ready for more bake.