It doesn't matter what time of year it is, I always miss Italy. I miss the atmosphere, the food, the landscapes, but most of all I miss the people. I have some wonderful friends-who-are-family in Italy and I miss them as soon as I drive away from San Gimignano. Every time, without fail. By the time I get on the plane to come back to York, I'm ready halfway through memories from the first time I ever went to Italy to the most recent trip.
I'm lucky enough that I get to visit often and each time I visit, I find something new. Whether it's a new place to visit, a new favourite view point or a new bar for our aperativi, there are plenty of hidden and not so hidden gems to discover. It's a place I'll never tire of and I'm so, so lucky to be able to get married in a place I love to the man I love.
I'll be honest, most of our meals at home are Italian or Arab inspired. Both styles of cooking are big on flavour and so simple to prepare. I love the seasonality of the dishes and I try to keep to the seasons when I make things - even if I am craving a summer salad at Christmas. NO!
But, Lent is nearly upon us and store cupboards must be emptied of temptation! Basically we need to make pancakes. Now, I like to have pancakes all day on Shrove Tuesday. I know I'm not alone in this either. This dish is a Tuscan favourite. It's savoury pancakes stuffed with cheese, covered with cheese and topped with cheese. I mean you really need a green salad on the side of this because that's a lot of cheese - technically 4 types of cheese. But it's perfect for an indulgent pancake day dinner.
Crespelle ai Quatro Formaggi
For the pancakes:
100g plain flour
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp pepper
200 ml sparkling water
For the sauce:
100g plain flour
500ml whole milk
200g mature cheddar, grated
100g panko breadcrumbs
20g grated parmesan
First make the pancakes. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack in the egg and whisk it all together. Add the sparkling water slowly, whisking all the while. The mixture will be quite liquidy, don't worry about that. These are going to be rolled crepe type pancakes.
Heat a frying pan until it's really hot and drop some sunflower oil in the pan and wipe it around with a piece of kitchen roll. Pour in a ladel-ful of batter (I got 6 pancakes out of this) and swirl it round so that the base of the pan is covered. Once the edges come off the bottom of the pan, flip the pancake over and cook for 10-15 seconds. You don't really want any colour on the pancakes because it will make them harder to roll. Layer the pancakes on a plate and cover with a clean tea towel to keep them soft.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. In the same frying pan, melt the butter for the sauce and then whisk in the flour. Loosen everything up with the milk, stirring all the while and then add the cheese. Once the cheese is all melted, take it off the heat and set aside.
Divide up the mozzarella and dolcelatte so that you have six portions of each. Evenly distribute each portion over 1 pancake. Roll the pancake up tightly and put it widthways into a medium sized oven dish. Once all six are snuggly in, pour over the cheese sauce. Mix the parmesan and breadcrumbs and then sprinkle them over the top of the cheese sauce.
Place the dish in the oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling and brown on top. Serve with delicious green salad. You're going to need the freshness.