This recipe might be a little retro, but trust me it is worth being revisited again, and again. It is an obvious one for the upcoming Pancake Day (or Shrove Tuesday for all those inclined) in February – one of my favourite days ever! In fact, I cannot believe I lived so many years not knowing about Pancake Day.
I was indoctrinated in the tradition when I first lived in London with two Irish flatmates. They had invited a group of friends around to our pokey flat, (by North American Standards it was pokey, I later learned it was quite spacious.) and we had four burners on cooking up pancakes like you wouldn’t believe. Twice, we had to dash to the store for more eggs and milk, and the pile of pancakes never happened. I had never seen so many pancakes disappear so quickly. There was a constant queue of empty plates awaiting their fill. I think around the time everyone was on their 4th or 5th pancake things finally seemed to slow. Meanwhile, the table was laid with an amazing selection of both savoury and sweet fillings. It was dinner and dessert in one go. I was forever hooked.
Now, these crepes didn’t make a re-appearance until a few years ago. I grew up with them. Not to say they were ever made for me. They weren’t. They were reserved for guests. My mother would occasionally make them as a starter for a dinner party, and we were allowed to have a small one as a treat. I recall being absolutely thrilled to have one and always wishing we could have more.
So, a few years ago, I begged my mother to send me the recipe. When I got the recipe I was a little surprised to see it contained shrimp and not prawns – a minor distinction. Mostly, I was surprised to see the watercress in the recipe. I recall some kind of salad type leaf (I thought spinach) but would never have guessed it was watercress. Now, for those of you skeptical about watercress, let me tell you that it makes the dish. The watercress is cooked in oil (or butter) and wilted down giving a deep peppery flavour for the roux. The cayenne is also critical, adding a bit of kick to hold the dish together. I would reduce rather than omit, noting it will taste more mild once added to crepes.
As for crepes, I have been making them the same way since that fateful night in London with a box of eggs, some plain flour and milk (now soya or other milk). I start with the eggs, usually 3 or 4 and crack them into a bowl before adding some flour to make a paste, usually about the same volume or weight to the eggs. (This way works for me as I don’t need to work out the lumps.) Then I slowly add the milk to the paste to thin it out. I keep it just thick enough to keep coating a spoon. I do a test pancake and then adjust the milk if needed. Staying on the thick side of the batter and thinning out is easier for me then trying to add the flour again to make it thick. The amount you need in your pan will depend on the size of it. It should just coat the bottom once you have given the pan a swirl to move the batter about. Cooking until a nice golden brown appears on the bottom and it is easy to place your spatula underneath. (I prefer a bamboo one which I picked up very cheaply at a Chinese grocer.) Flip it over and cook for a few minutes longer until the bottom is also brown. Then transfer to a plate, add a little more oil and start again.
Makes enough to fill 6-8 crepes
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil (or Butter)
- Large bunch of Watercress (approx. 50g), roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp Plain Flour
- 125ml (1/2 cup) Soya Milk (or regular Milk)
- 175ml (3/4 cup) Soya Cream Alternative (or Single Cream)
- 170g (6 ozs) Shrimp, shelled and cut into small pieces
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne
- Optional – Grated Emmenthal, to top the crepes.
Warm a small saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once warmed, add the chopped watercress and sauté for a minute, until it has all wilted. Add the flour and stir well to mix. Continue to stir the mixture whilst you gradually adding the milk and cream together in the saucepan. Next add the shrimp with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir until it has thickened.
Take your prepared crepes and spoon a bit of the filling into the middle in a line, leaving some space at the edges for folding. Fold both the top and bottom of the crepe over and then one side completely over the filling, before rolling it to cover the remaining edge of the crepe, keeping the filling secure inside. Transfer to an oven proof dish and top with optional grated Emmenthal before placing under the grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Serve.
Leftovers, if there are any, can be kept in the fridge for up to two days in an airtight container.