When Jerusalem artichokes arrived in Italy from the New World, they were thought to resemble sunflowers – they are members of the same family - so they were called girasole which the Anglo-Saxons corrupted to Jerusalem. Artichoke refers to their similarity in flavour to the globe artichoke. Just to confuse things, these days in Italy they are called topinambour, the French name for the plant which is derived by an obscure route from the name of a Brazilian tribe who arrived on a visit to Paris about the same time as the vegetable. Anyway, this prolific tuber makes a terrific basis for a filling for pasta or, in this case, pancakes. We got the idea from Quercia, an agriturismo near Bologna, where they use them to make a kind of lasagne but they do equally well in pancakes.
1 Red pepper large
2 Red onions
4 Garlic cloves
2tbl Red wine vinegar
7 tbl Olive oil
To taste Salt and pepper
70g Plain flour
2 Eggs medium
1 Spanish onion
350g Jerusalem artichokes
60g Parmesan grated
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg grated
Here’s what you do.
Begin by putting the tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic, the red onions and the red pepper into a hot oven to roast.
Make the pancake batter by processing or mixing the flour, milk, eggs and seasoning it to taste.
Peel and slice the Jerusalem artichokes into chunks. Slice the onion thinly and chop up a clove of garlic. Fry them gently in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until they are soft and begin to colour. Add the ricotta, finely chopped parsley, nutmeg and half the grated parmesan and combine well.
Take the vegetables out when the skins begin to blacken, after about 30-40 minutes. Slip the onions out of their skin and with a knife peel away most of the skin of the tomatoes and the pepper, making sure that you catch the juices of all the vegetables. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin. Food process the roasted vegetables adding salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the red wine vinegar. Add water if necessary to make a pourable sauce, the consistency of double cream.
Make 9 pancakes (an extra one in case of accidents). Heat a frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and when it is hot but not smoking add a ladle full of batter and swirl it around to cover the base of the pan. Leave it until it begins to separate from the sides of the pan and flip it over. Do the same with the remaining seven, keeping them warm between two plates. Use more olive oil if the pancakes begin to stick. Reduce the heat if they start to burn or become rigid.
Place an eighth of the filling in a line down the centre of each pancake, roll them up and place them in a row join side down in a well oiled lasagne dish. Pour over the sauce so that it evenly covers the pancakes, then sprinkle with the remaining grated parmesan.
Place the dish in a medium oven and bake until the sauce begins to bubble and the cheese begins to brown, about 35-40 minutes. Remove, and serve two pancakes per plate.