Skyscraper Pancakes

I enjoy those days when you have everything planned in your head. You know what you’re going to put on in the morning to wear for work, what filling you’ll put in your sandwich, how many teaspoons of sugar you feel like putting in your tea and what insults to throw at your boss/annoying work colleague/rude workmen. Most importantly, you have dinner all sorted out. You return home, like a super-efficient human turbine, spinning around the kitchen gathering ingredients up as competently as a squirrel and dinner is served without your breaking into a sweat.
Did I say I enjoy those days? What I mean is, I dream of having a day like that. Just one.
Unfortunately, particularly at Christmas, common sense and logic seem to go out the window as our thoughts are replaced with giant turkeys, glittery baubles, sky high piles of presents and where on earth will we seat all of our family members.
Sometimes it’s nice to suddenly just be inspired, part way through the day, by a dish that looks perfect for supper. You don’t have to go to the supermarket, it’s all relatively easy to assemble and most importantly of all, you know that it will taste good.
Whilst idly flipping through a cookbook, a recipe for a pancake lasagne caught my eye (and tastebuds). I had also been inspired by a post I read on Pumpkin Pancakes at The Perfect Pancake.
My husband and I love Lasagne (in fact, I know of not one person who doesn’t like Lasagne), but with the three hour long ragu, it can be a bit time consuming.
Pancake Lasagne comprises of three simple elements: plain pancakes (to American readers, you’ll know these as crepes, not your fluffy, pillow-like pancakes that you pour syrup over....), a meat-free tomato sauce, white sauce. Any or all of these can be made well in advance.
I refer to a traditional Lasagne as a store cupboard meal because most of the ingredients you will have in the house at any given time: a pack of minced beef, lasagne sheets, tinned tomatoes, flour and milk for the Bechemel, cheese for the topping....this Pancake Lasagne could be called the ‘End Of Month and I’m Really Scraping The Bottom of the Barrel for Ingredients Now’ dish.
When I first decided to make this dish, I was toying with the idea of having a spinach and anchovy layer but I quickly eschewed that in favour of the Béchamel with Spinach stirred into it so it wilts.
However, cheapness aside, you will not notice that the dish is meat free because it is so tasty. Even leftovers taste good reheated. If you wanted to gussy it up, you could add some meat to the tomato sauce, or add a layer of some chopped Proscuitto Ham, some sautéed Courgettes. It is very filling so just serve with a green salad. Whatever takes your fancy.
PANCAKE LASAGNE, serves 4 generously.
For the Pancakes:
120g Plain Flour
2 Whole Eggs
300ml Milk
For the Tomato Sauce:
2 Cans Tomatoes
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 Stick Celery, finely chopped
Teaspoon Tomato Puree
Teaspoon Sugar
Parsley, optional.
For the Béchamel Sauce:
300ml Milk (preferably full fat but I often use skimmed)
3 Tablespoons Plain Flour
3 Tablespoons Butter
Seasoning and Fresh Nutmeg

One Ball of Mozzarella Cheese, diced finely
1 Tablespoon Grated Parmesan

Make the pancakes: whisk together all the ingredients and leave to stand for at least half an hour. The batter can be made in the morning and left to stand in the fridge until you need to use it.
Make to tomato sauce: Sauté the onion in a little olive oil until softly translucent. Add the garlic and celery and cook for about five minutes, again until softened.
Add the canned tomatoes, puree, sugar and season. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a brisk simmer.
Cook for at least half an hour, until the sauce has reduced and thickened. It will have a rich, sweet tomato flavour. At this point you can add some fresh Parsley if you wish. This can be made a couple of days in advance. Tomato sauces always improve with time.
Make the Béchamel Sauce, heat the flour and butter together until amalgamated into a buttery ball. Add the milk (you are supposed to use warmed milk to ensure you don't have any lumps but I don't bother) and whisk over high heat until all the lumps have been vanquished! Turn the heat down to a low simmer, season with salt, pepper and a rasp or two of fresh Nutmeg. Cook until it no longer tastes floury. You can make this in advance but it generally doesn't keep too well. If you do, add a little more milk to the sauce as you reheat it to thin it down.
Stir through some baby Spinach Leaves if required. This is purely optional. We just had some going bad in the fridge.
Cook the pancakes. Heat a little butter in a frying pan until smoking hot. Ladle in some of the mixture, swill around the pan until you have a (very) rough 8” dia. circle. If, like mine, it has little raggedy edges, don’t worry. These can be trimmed off when you start assembly. After a minute or two you will be able to move the pancake around the pan with ease. You can now demonstrate your skill (or abject lack thereof) with tossing pancakes. Cook for about 30 seconds on the other side and transfer to a plate. Continue until you have about 8 pancakes.
To Assemble the Lasagne:
I used a round Pyrex dish which meant that I couldn’t unmould the dish, stylishly or otherwise. Whatever kind of dish you use, make sure you butter it well.
Lay one pancake in the bottom of your greased dish. Smear with a layer of the Tomato Sauce, a layer of the Béchamel and sprinkle with some Mozzarella. Continue with the layering until you have either used up your sauce or pancakes but do ensure that you finish with a layer of either the Béchamel or Tomato Sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and bake, covered with tin foil, for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden and bubbling. Remove from oven and leave to stand for about 5 minutes. This will help it set up a little, making it easier to cut and serve.
Oh and obviously the title, Skyscraper Pancakes is somewhat of an exaggeration. They are more like Bungalow Pancakes.


Kathryn said...

Yum - it sounds lovely Freya! I love that sort of dinner.

I will email tomorrow, if that is okay - tonight ran away with me (I was wrapping presents to hand over tomorrow). My tooth ache is still there and isnt making me feel great - fingers crossed it goes overnight!

Hope you are okay and I love the title of bungalow pancakes!!!

Kathryn x

Carolyn Johnson said...

Wow, this is truly novel Freya! Who would have thought of making a lasagne with layered crepes! It reminds me of those Julia Child stacked crepe recipes that I've always been meaning to make. I'll definitely have to try this out. :D And you're right, who can not love lasagne. ;)