Veggie stuffed pancakes

This is my 52nd post so to celebrate a year of blogging I have chosen a recipe for stuffed and baked pancakes.  Pancakes are very easy to make  but for some reason they always feel like a celebratory food to me, maybe because I always associate it with pancake day (Shrove Tuesday) when I was a child: my sister and I got to tuck into lovely fresh pancakes slathered in sugar and lemon juice while our parents provided entertainment by trying to toss more pancakes.  The pancakes in this recipe are savoury, wholemeal and low in fat but still tasty, packed with vegetables and sauce finished off with melted cheese.  Pancakes are associated with Shrove Tuesday across Britain and the commonwealth countries as they were a way to use up perishable goods, such as fat or lard, before the fasting period of Lent.  Although these pancakes don’t include much fat or any dairy ingredients, the idea of using up perishable ingredients also seemed very fitting for my husband and me at the moment as we are trying to move house and therefore using up as much of the food we have as possible to avoid taking it with us or throwing it away.  Pancakes are very versatile so I have included two variations here: a broccoli and sweetcorn pancake with a cheese sauce based on the cheese sauce I use for my cauliflower cheese and pasta bake, or a spinach and cream cheese pancake with a nutmeg tomato sauce, as well as some other ideas to try.

Broccoli and sweetcorn pancakes

Cooking time: 45-50 minutes preparation and cooking the pancakes, 20-30 minutes baking

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 2-4 (makes 4 pancakes)

  • 1 broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 300-350g sweetcorn kernels (this is usually easiest to buy in a can or frozen)
  • 35-50g vegan cheese, finely sliced or grated (you can use dairy cheese if you don’t want to make this dish vegan / dairy-free)

Pancakes

  • 125g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika (normal or smoked depending on your preference)
  • 310ml cold water

Dairy free “cheesy” sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 300ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tsp malt extract
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp paprika (normal or smoked depending on your preference)
  1. To make the pancakes mix together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and paprika in a bowl and then gradually mix in the cold water, breaking up any lumps of flour when it is still a thick paste, so that you get a smooth, lump free batter
  2. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan (if you don’t have a non-stick pan then grease the pan with a little olive or other vegetable oil) and ladle in a quarter of the batter, tipping the pan so that the batter evenly coats the bottom of the pan
  3. Cook the pancake over a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes until the top is getting a little dry and you can easily slide a spatula under the pancake to turn it over.  If it is sticking a lot it probably needs a little longer cooking. Turn the pancake over and cook for another 5-7 minutes until both sides are lightly browned
  4. Repeat with the remaining pancake batter.  This is the longest bit of the cooking but you can quite easily multitask (e.g. do the rest of the preparation including assembling each pancake) while doing this as the pancakes don’t need much babysitting while you are cooking them apart from turning them over so it isn’t as time hungry as it looks
  5. Steam the broccoli and sweetcorn until heated through and the broccoli is just starting to soften (about 5-9 minutes for the broccoli, about 4-5 minutes for the sweetcorn)
  6. To make the cheesy sauce, put the oil, wholemeal flour, cornflour and paprika in a saucepan and stir to combine
  7. Heat gently until the flour oil mixture starts to dry out, then take off the heat and stir in a few tablespoons of the almond milk and mix to a smooth sauce.  Return to the heat and gradually add all but a few tbsp of the remaining almond milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
  8. Mix the malt extract with the remaining almond milk to make it easier to stir into the main sauce.  You may want to warm it for 30-60s in the microwave to further soften the malt extract.  Add the malt extract / almond milk to the sauce and bubble until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon then stir the soy and lemon juice into the sauce
  9. Sprinkle each pancake with a quarter of the broccoli and sweetcorn, drizzle with 4 tbsps of the cheesy sauce and top with a quarter of the cheese, then roll up and put into an ovenproof dish
  10. When all four pancakes have been rolled up and put in the dish top each one with 1 more tbsp of the sauce and bake at 160C fan for 20-30 minutes until the top is browned.  Serve with some steamed green vegetables or a salad and the rest of the cheesy sauce on the side

A few tips to prep ahead:

      • Make the cheesy sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 4-5 days
      • Prepare the broccoli and keep in a sealed bag or container in the fridge for up to 3 days.  You can even cook the broccoli the day before and defrost (if using frozen) or open and drain (if using a can) if you want to save a few more minutes
      • Mix together the dry ingredients for the pancakes and keep in a covered bowl at room temperature for up to a week
      • Then on the day you will need to cook, assemble and bake the pancakes and heat through the cheesy sauce (in a small saucepan or the microwave for about 2-3 minutes)
      • I prefer to make and stuff the pancakes on the day if I have time but if you are pushed for time you can make and assemble the whole dish the day before, keep covered in the fridge in the ovenproof dish, then just take out bake and heat the cheesy sauce on the night.  The pancakes may sometimes go a little soggier than when you prepare them on the night but should still be good and tasty

Some tasty little twists…

Pancakes have quite a neutral flavour so you can really fill them with whatever you like.  I like to add some vegan cheese because it melts beautifully which binds together the rest of the filling, but if you don’t like melted cheese then just leave it out.  My structure for making savoury pancakes is:

      • Choose the vegetable(s), pulse and/or meat or fish (e.g. sweetcorn, broccoli, spinach, aubergine, beans, lentils, chicken, prawns, smoked salmon etc.) – if you are using pulses, meat of fish I would recommend also using a vegetable to bulk them out
      • Choose the sauce base, favourites of mine are cheese / white sauce, tomato or other pureed vegetable or herb sauces (e.g. my broccoli pesto or broccoli sauce from my veggie omelette recipe)
      • Choose a seasoning to complement the filling and sauce e.g. paprika, garlic, onion granules, allspice, chilli, ginger, cinnamon, mixed herbs etc. or a ready-made blend e.g. curry powder, BBQ blend, harissa, ras el hanout, jerk seasoning.  Use this in the sauce and also to replace the paprika in the pancake mix
      • Add cheese if you like it and it goes well with the other ingredients, from strong or smoked cheeses to mild creamy cheese if you want the melted texture but don’t want the strongly cheesy flavour.  If you are using a cream cheese is can be easiest to spread this over the pancake instead of adding it on top

Some ideas to get you started:

      • Aubergine and beans with a tomato sauce seasoned with ras el hanout or harissa and a dash of lemon juice
      • Chicken and sliced peppers with pesto and mozzarella or vegan cheese for pizza for a dairy free option
      • Sweet potato and black beans with a white sauce made with coconut milk instead of almond milk, leave out the malt extract and paprika, swap the lemon for lime and flavour with 1/2 tsp each of chilli, allspice and cinnamon
      • Kidney beans, sliced onion and mushrooms, courgettes or peppers in a tomato sauce flavoured with chilli and cinnamon topped with guacamole and grated cheese
      • You can of course also make sweet pancakes which can be served with youghurt or ice cream (there are a lot of good vegan options available now if you want to make a vegan pudding).  Swap the paprika for something like cinnamon, ginger or mixed spice and only include 1/2tsp salt (you can also add 1 tsp sugar) in the pancake mix. Sweet stuffings include:
        • finely chopped cooking apple and raisins or chopped dates (perhaps with a sprinkle of brown sugar and lemon juice as a homage to the pancakes of my childhood)
        • berries with a pinch of pepper or cardamon (baked or unbaked)
        • sliced oranges marinaded in a few tbsp of brandy (no need to bake this one)

Here is a variation that I particulary like: spinach and cream cheese flavoured with nutmeg.  You can also add some flakes of hot smoked salmon if you don’t want to make a vegan version.

Spinach and cream cheese pancakes

Cooking time: 45-50 minutes preparation and cooking the pancakes, 20-30 minutes baking

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 2-4 (makes 4 pancakes)

      • Pancakes as for broccoli and sweetcorn pancakes except replace the paprika with 20 grates of nutmeg
      • 300g spinach (fresh or frozen)
      • 50-100g vegan cream cheese

Tomato sauce

      • 300ml passata
      • 1 tsp smoked garlic
      • 20 grates of nutmeg
      • ½ tsp allspice
      • ½ tsp cinnamon
      • ½ vegetable stock cube
      1. Make the pancakes as for the broccoli and sweetcorn pancakes above
      2. Steam the spinach until it is wilted (if using fresh) or heated through (if using frozen)
      3. Mix together all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a saucepan or a microwave safe bowl.  Heat on the hob or in the microwave for 2-4 minutes and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and the sauce is heated through
      4. Spread each pancake with cream cheese, put the spinach in a thick line across the middle of the pancake, drizzle with 2-3 tbsp of the tomato sauce, roll up and put into an ovenproof dish
      5. When all four pancakes have been rolled up and put in the dish top each one with 1 more tbsp of the sauce and bake at 160C fan for 20-30 minutes until the top is slightly browned.  Serve with some steamed green vegetables or a salad and the rest of the tomato sauce on the side
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