Friday 13 September 2013

Foodie Friday - Gluten Free Spinach And Ricotta Cannelloni With A Twist - Pancakes!

The observant readers among you, have probably noticed that there was no foodie Friday post last week, but I'm going to make it up for you this week, with a triple whammy. Last Saturday was my mums birthday so I made her a pretty epic 3 course vegetarian meal. The main course was a spinach and ricotta cannelloni, with a difference. As you know I eat a predominantly gluten and wheat free diet, and finding something  like cannelloni shells is nigh on impossible. In the past I've used cooked and rolled lasagna sheets, but this time I decided to use the humble pancake instead of the pasta rolls. This is my basic recipe and method to make fool proof gluten free pancakes, every time

Gluten Free Pancakes
1 Egg
1/2 Pint Milk
4oz Gluten Free Flour
Butter For Frying

This is probably the easiest recipe ever just whisk the egg, milk and flour together, till it's smooth and combined, it might look liquidy but don't panic.

You can leave your mix to stand for a while but it isn't essential.

Now time to cook them, first of all you need a good non stick pan, in my experience if you don't have one don't bother, no matter how much butter or oil you use your pancakes will stick. Add a tiny bit of butter to the pan and heat you don't need a lot as it's a non stick pan but it you do want it to be hot! Then add some batter, you don't need a lot so add it, and swirl it around the pan, till you get a thin layer of batter that covers the base. If you get some gaps just fill them up a little bit of better.

You need to keep an eye on your pancake, gradually you'll see bubbles start to form on the surface, and the edges will start to cook. 

You can have a little peek at it, if you like, and if it's started to brown you can turn it over, I use a palette knife or a non stick spatula. Then leave it for a minute or so to brown on the reverse said, then you can turn it again, or toss it :). You just want it to be firm and and to be starting to brown. You don't want to overcook them as you still want them to be quite flexible so keep watching them. 

Voila, done :)  Just repeat the process using the rest of the batter. You might even find that you don't need to add any more butter to the pan. Your first and last ones are usually the worst to look at but they will all taste yummy. Remember to that they will cook quicker as your go on as the pan will be hotter so don;t burn them x Depending on the size of the pan this recipe will make around 4 - 6 pancakes - I actually doubled the recipe and managed 8 large pancakes.

Obviously you don't want to be rolling and stuffing freshly cooked pancakes, you'd burn your fingers :) so simply lay them flat on a plate in between sheets of grease proof and leave them to cool. You can even freeze them so long as you keep them separated and flat. If you want more exciting pancakes you can add all sorts of herbs, spices , and flavourings in to the batter, sage would be nice with a roast dinner, cocoa powder would make nice chocolate pancakes, and for this dish maybe you could maybe add some grated cheese or so mixed herbs - but I left mine plain. The basic pancakes made with this recipe could also be served  with lemon and sugar, syrup, Nutella or whatever else you fancy, but for this recipe I filled mine with a spinach and ricotta filling

Spinach and Ricotta Filling

350g Raw Spinach Leaves
350g Ricotta Cheese
2-4 Cloves Garlic - Crushed Or Finely Chopped
1oz Grated Cheddar (Optional)
Salt And Pepper
Grated Nutmeg (Optional)

1. Pop the full bag of spinach into a colander and give it a good rinse

2. You can cook the spinach however you like but the quickest way and the way I do it, is to pour two kettles full of boiling water over the top of it - instant wilted and cooked spinach - pop it to one side and leave it cool and drain

3. Pop the ricotta cheese into a large mixing bowl. I used about 1 and a half tubs, as I'd already used a bit in my cheese cake, and then add the crushed or finely chopped garlic. You can add as much or as little as you like I love garlic so I usually add 3 or 4 cloves depending on the size. Give it a good mix till it's smooth.

Then if you like you can add 1oz of grated cheese, it's not essential but I think it gives a nice texture when it melts

4. By this time your spinach should be a bit cooler, if it's not pour over a little bit of cold water - you want to be able to handle it safely. Then attack it with the kitchen scissors, and shred it into smaller pieces. Obviously you could cut it before you wilt it, but it reduces in size so much you could end up with super small bits, and you want a bit of texture. When you've chopped it, pick out handfuls and squeeze it, you want to get rid of as much of the water as possible.

5. Then add it to your cheese mixture

and stir well, give it at little taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper, and if you have it a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Then leave it for about a hour if possible to allow the flavours to develop

Simples, this could be used as a pasta sauce or you could use it to stuff pasta, or pancakes. You could also maybe use cottage cheese instead of the ricotta, and I think it would also be nice to add a little bit of feta cheese to give it a more Greek feel.

The next task in my epic birthday main course is to make a good tomato sauce to top my stuffed pancakes with. This is stupidly simple and so versatile.

Super Quick Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 Onions
2-4 Cloves Garlic 
I Can Chopped Tomatoes
4 x Fresh Tomatoes
Sugar To Taste
Salt and Pepper To Taste
Fresh Basil or Dried Mediterranean Herbs

1. Chop your onions, and fresh tomatoes in large, rough chunks, and add them to a food processor or blender, alongside the garlic, and the olive oil.

Zap it till it's roughly chopped and then add the tinned tomatoes and either some roughly torn fresh basil, or a pinch of dried Mediterranean herbs ( for example basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram) and give it a quick blast. have a little taste and then add either some more herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, or some sugar depending on your personal taste and then pulse again.

2. Pop your sauce into a large pan and heat at a simmer for about 20 minutes or so, till it's darkened and thickened slightly. Then turn off the ring and allow to cool slightly

Don't buy it make it, a homemade tomato sauce just tastes so much fresher than anything you get out of a carton or a jar. This is a super quick pasta sauce, that you can use as a basis for bolognese, pasta dishes and as a pizza topping, and of course as a topping for my spinach and ricotta cannelloni with a twist :)

Gluten Free Spinach And Ricotta Cannelloni With A Twist 

2 Portions Of Gluten Free Pancakes
1 Portion Spinach And Ricotta Filling
1 Portion Super Quick Tomato Sauce
1 Ball Mozzarella 
1oz Grated Cheddar

1. Assembly time :) Preheat your oven to about 180 C. You will need a large baking dish, or a lasagna tray.

2. On a chopping board place your pancake, and at the top place one stripe of  the spinach and ricotta filling usually about 2 tablespoons - but you should be able to judge it by eye

Then roll it up, you want to roll it up pretty tightly if you can.

Then pop them join side down into your baking dish, and repeat till you've used up all of your pancakes and your dish is full. If you have some mixture left over either just ease it into the ends of your pancake rolls, or just pop it down the edges of your baking dish.

3. Then pour your cooked tomato sauce over the top of the pancakes.

4. Top with the sliced mozzarella and the grated cheddar or whatever cheese you like

and bake for around 30-40 minutes till the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted :)

5. You can serve this with a salad but to be honest you don't really need to, this is a meal in itself, carbs, veg and fat all in one. As me and Mummy Lou were having this as part of a 3 course meal and appetisers we had it hot from the oven, on it's own. We got four portions from the dish served on it's own. We ate one each straight away, and we ate the rest the day after warmed up in the microwave.

This dish was a total success and went down super well . Despite the number of stages this is actually a really easy recipe to make, as every part of it can be done at least an hour or so in advance, and as I said the pancakes can even be frozen or if your not gluten free bought ;), so as long as you have some in
the cupboard or the freezer you can make this dish anytime. I also love the fact that every part of this dish can also be used to make other things so once you've mastered something you can make it again and use it in another dish - voila more recipes to your repertoire.

I am definitely going to experiment and use pancakes in a few more dishes now that  I have my technique down to a fine art and that I officially make better pancakes than Mummy Lou :) I'm thinking of using them instead of lasagna sheets and of course to make more cannelloni inspired dishes. Do you experiment with dishes and ingredients as much as me ? leave me a comment and let me know and don't forget to check back at the end of the month to see everything that I made my mummy for her birthday dinner x


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