Kale, Ricotta and Leek Pancakes

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, or Mardis Gras. So what better day to finally break away from Veganuary with a little dairy and eggs. Yes I know there are plenty of vegan pancake recipes all over the Internet but I decided to go a little traditional, but with a twist.

Veganuary was great. I loved trying out lots of new ideas and the challenge of cooking vegan having been so used to throwing cheese onto meals for over 30 years. But I never intended it to stay with me forever. I’ll certainly be cutting down on my dairy and egg consumption, but won’t rule it out altogether until next January comes around.

Instagram was littered with photos and recipes for sweet pancakes, but having never had a sweet tooth, I opted for something savoury. i do however find it most annoying that supermarkets insist on selling kale, chopped and bagged. Given they chop the tough stem into little chunks, it makes it far less convenient than selling the leaves whole. So make sure you pick out all the tough little cuttings of stem as they really are not pleasant.

This made around 6-8 pancakes (depending on the size of your pan) so enough for 2-3 people.

You can start with either the pancakes of the filling. For the sake of argument I’ll start with the filling.

a splash of olive oil
200g Kale – tough stems removed
1 small leek – cut in half lengthwise then sliced into 1cm slices
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
a pinch of nutmeg
100g ricotta
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the kale in a pan and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to steep for around 4 minutes then drain well. Put in a large bowl to cool.

Heat the oil in a frying pan then gently fry the leeks and garlic until softened. This should take about 7-8 minutes. Add the nutmeg then take off the heat and add to the kale.

Now tip in the ricotta and mix well. Season to taste then set aside while you make the pancakes.

For the pancakes you’ll need
100g wholemeal flour
2 eggs
150ml Almond milk – you can use dairy of coconut, but almond does give it a little nutty edge
150ml water
Sunflower or groundnut oil for frying

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl then add the eggs. Give than a quick mix with a whisk then add the milk. Mix and beat well to remove any lumps.

Take a large frying pan and heat a tiny amount of oil. Gte the pan nice and hot. Now take about ½ cup of the batter and pour into the pan. The best way to get coverage it to tilt the pan and pour at the top, then swirl the pan around as you pour so the batter spreads evenly. Cook for about 30-45 seconds until firm and the edges are starting to brown, turn, flip or whatever takes your fancy and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Remove and repeat the process until all the batter has gone.

Divide the filling evenly between the pancakes then roll the pancakes up and place in a lightly oiled oven dish. Grate 120g Emmental over the pancakes (you could use a strong cheddar or a gruyere perhaps) and pop them in an oven at 180C for around 25-30 minutes until nice and hot and the cheese starting to brown just a little.

I served mine with roasted new potatoes and a selection of salads.

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Cauliflower & Kale Tart

Tart, flan, quiche. Call it what you will, the combination of light, fluffy egg and thin, crisp pastry is something I never tire of.

Frying the cauliflower until charred brings out flavour. Don’t be afraid if you think you are burning it. The more colour, the more flavour.

I cheated here and used a ready rolled packet of shortcrust pastry. Less washing up and so much easier despite the fact they are made just a little too narrow for most tart tins.

1 pack shortcrust pastry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small cauliflower – divide the florets then slice
A couple of handfuls of kale or cavalo nero
1 onion – finely sliced
8 eggs
2-3 tablespoons creme fraiche
100g or so of strong cheese – grated

Put the oven on to 180C

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the cauliflower over a medium heat until browned and slightly tender. Remove from the pan and fry the onion until it starts to brown.

Set aside to cool.

Plunge the kale into boiling water for 5 mins. Drain then leave to cool.

Beat the eggs and creme fraiche in a large bowl then add the grated cheese and the cooled vegetables.

Roll the pastry a little to fit then use it to line the base and sides of a deep pie dish, making sure there are no cracks or holes. If you have any cracks the filling will seep through leaving a soggy base to your tart. Spread the mustard over the base of the pastry, then tip in the filling mixture.

Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until browned on top and set in the middle. Leave to cool and set for 5 minutes before serving.

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Crispy Cavalo Nero

The allotment is a little bare during the winter months. Only Brussels Sprouts and Cavalo Nero remain. Bored of bubble & squeak, and soups I thought I’d try the Cavalo Nero deep fried which concentrates the flavour whilst retaining the beautiful dark green colour. Cavalo Nero is packed full of vitamins A, C, E and K. These essential vitamins are retained through such quick cooking so this is arguably one of the healthiest deep fried foods you can eat.

Cavalo Nero can be difficult to find in the shops. If you can’t find it, use curly kale instead.

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Take 5-8 leaves and remove the tough, woody stalks. Then slice thinly across the leaves.

Take a saucepan and fill a third to half full with sunflower oil. Heat slowly. Test the heat by dropping one shred of Cavalo Nero into the hot oil. if it sizzles, you can add the rest though stand well back as the water in the leaves tend to make to oil bubble up for a few seconds. Fry until the sizzling noise stops, then drain and sprinkle with a little salt and caster sugar. Mix gently before serving.

Serve as an accompaniment to Chinese dishes or like this, piled high on top of a slice of pumpernickel, smothered with creamy, tangy blue cheese.

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