Creamy Spinach and Comté Stuffed Pancakes

Pancakes, my American mother taught me from an early age, are an incredibly versatile foodstuff. The common misconception is that they can be eaten only at breakfast time or for brunch, but, when they are prepared in a savoury way, they are the perfect base for any meal. This sentiment was backed up even more by my Dutch friend Elfi, who I met when I landed my first journalism job in London. She would often bring pancakes for lunch – the thick, crepe kind – that she would stuff and roll up with salad, meats, cheeses and more. I soon caught on added them to my desk lunch repertoire.

This wonderful lunch discovery gave me great practice in the art of pancake flipping for the annual Pancake Day party that my school friends and I take turns to host each year. If you’re looking to step away from the ‘lemon and sugar’ tradition this Shrove Tuesday or are simply wanting to try something different as a weeknight dinner, I urge you to try my recipe below. It’s a wonderfully indulgent way to eat pancakes as a main course and tops any sweet combination in my view. Happy flipping guys!

Creamy Spinach and Comté Stuffed Pancakes
(Serves 4)

Ingredients

For the Pancakes
220g Gluten Free Flour
2 x Eggs
2 x Egg Yolks
2 x Cups Milk
4 x Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 x Teaspoon Vegetable Bouillon Powder
50g Unsalted Butter
Salt and Pepper

For the Filling:
500g Spinach
300g Cherry Tomatoes
200g Comté Cheese, grated
1 x Teaspoon dried parsley
Pepper

For the Sauce:
1/3 x Cup Gluten Free Flour
1 x Cup milk
30g Unsalted Butter
2 x Garlic cloves, minced
½ x 1 onion
1 x Cup white wine
2 x Tablespoons Dijon mustard
Pinch of Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
100g Grated Mozzarella (to sprinkle over pancakes pre-oven)

Method

1. Prepare your pancake mixture by adding all dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon. Beat eggs, milk and vegetable oil in a separate bowl and gradually add to the dry mixture until smooth.
2. Melt a little bit of your butter a non-stick pan over medium heat and when melted and hot, add your pancake mixture using a soup ladle which is 2/3 of the way full.
3. Let the pancake mixture cook until air bubbles appear. This is when the pancake is ready to flip, or, if you’re feeling less adventurous, turn over carefully with a fish slice. Repeat until all mixture is used up and set pancakes aside on a plate lined with paper towels and cool (this mixture will be enough to make 8-10 pancakes, depending on how full your ladle is)
4. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius before moving on to the pancake filling.
5. Place spinach in a microwaveable bowl and heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute until withered. Remove and place in a mixing bowl.
6. Chop each cherry tomato into fours, setting aside a handful to decorate the pancakes before baking. Add the chopped tomatoes to the withered spinach and mix in the grated Comte cheese with a large spoon, seasoning with some black pepper and the parsley.
7. Stuff your pancakes with 1-2 tablespoons each of the filling mixture and roll carefully to form tubes. Line up the pancakes in a standard lasagne dish (I am able to fit around 8 in mine).
8. Now prepare your sauce by melting the butter in a pot and sautéing the garlic and onion until soft.
9. Remove from heat and place in a mixing bowl with the milk, white wine, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir with a whisk before adding the flour and then using a hand mixer, blend until smooth.
10. Return sauce to the heat and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes before removing from heat again to cool. If the sauce is too thick for you, add a splash of milk and whisk lightly again.
11. Pour the sauce evenly over the pancakes and sprinkle with mozzarella. Halve the remaining cherry tomatoes to decorate the dish.
12. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the dish is bubbling, and the top is golden brown.
13. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving with fresh leaves.

Baked Garlic Chicken Tenders

I spent a good part of my early twenties living, studying and working in South Carolina. It was there, in the Deep South, that my love for proper fried chicken was born. I realised within 24 hours of arriving in the state capital for the first time that I had never really eaten fried chicken. What I had eaten for years in the UK had just been breaded chicken, which often lacked flavour and crunch. Here in the southern states however, fried chicken was not only the real deal but a way of life.

The official food of my University football team was a regional fast food restaurant’s signature deep fried chicken sandwich, which they would pass out by the thousand to students during games. While my arteries may not have been enjoying themselves that much, my taste buds were having a permanent party and every moment of it was fantastic.

Ever since coming back home, I’ve been working on recreating this southern staple with a healthier twist. I do not often trust myself with a deep fryer and that is just as well because these chicken tenders I make are baked in the oven, instantly making them a lighter choice. I hope you enjoy them as either a meal, an appetiser or simply because you want to snack on them. Dig in y’all!

Baked Garlic Chicken Tenders
(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients

320-360g Chicken (pre-cut supermarket mini chicken breast fillets are a great time-saver)
3 x Large eggs
2 x Cups gluten free flour
2 x Cups gluten free breadcrumbs
1 x Teaspoon garlic powder
1 x Teaspoon minced garlic
1 x Teaspoon dried parsley
1 x Tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
Vegetable Oil of Choice

To Serve:
Freshly Chopped Chives (to garnish)
Garlic Mayonnaise or Ranch Dressing for dipping

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Prepare your “dipping stations”. Place beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, gluten free flour in a second and the breadcrumbs in a third.
3. Season the egg mixture with the garlic powder and salt and stir.
4. Add the parmesan cheese, minced garlic and pepper to the breadcrumbs and mix.
5. If your chicken is not pre-chopped, cut into strips with a width of around 1 1/2 – 2 inches wide.
6. Using a fork, start dipping your chicken strips by placing each tender into the egg. When the tender is well covered in egg mix, dip in the flour, ensuring a good dusting all-around the tender (this is easiest, and less messy, if you hold the tender on a fork and use an additional fork to pile the flour onto each tender).
7. After the flour, pass the tender lightly through the egg mix once more and then into the breadcrumb mix, again ensuring the entire tender has a good coating. Top up dipping bowls as required, although the measurements above should be enough to cover the specified amount of chicken.
8. Place each tender on the lined baking sheet, leaving at least a centimetre between each piece.
9. Pour a light drizzle of a vegetable oil of your choice over the tenders before baking.
10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, turning the chicken tenders over gently with a fork or thin knife half way through cooking, making sure to do this slowly so breadcrumbs do not fall off in the process.
11. Sprinkle with freshly chopped chives before serving with a dipping sauce of your choice.