Heidi’s Tongan ham & cheese pancake rolls

heidis-pancake-roll-600-x-450I’m having a little cleaning flurry. Where I sit at the breakfast bar to write this blog, I get a birdseye view of the wall behind my worktop/stove, where all the action takes place. When we redesigned our kitchen, we got one thing wrong: we allowed the nice man at Vitra to convince us that matte tiles were OK to use as a splashback. Not true, never be tempted to try this at home. It is practically impossible to remove grease spots from the little darlings – the grease just soaks into the tiles.

Over the nine years that the darned things have been up on the wall, I have tried every cleaning product known to man – even mysterious chemicals that come in plain bottles from the swimming pool shop, marked with large skulls and crossbones. Nothing works. Periodically, we contemplate having the tiles replaced with something more user-friendly, but that idea ends up on the too-hard-to-think-about-today pile every time.

But now I have a secret weapon. Ace (Turkey) has brought out a bleach that contains a fat buster. Thinking it would be the perfect product for getting the sink to gleam (it is, it also deals with the limescale that reappears exactly three seconds after I’ve put the descaler away), it suddenly occurred to me that it might work for the tiles too. I came over a bit like Monica from ‘Friends’ this morning, and have spent the last hour frantically smearing the stuff all over the splashbacks and our silk-finish kitchen units. Eureka! They are utterly grease- and smear-free for the first time in nine years. I have to keep admiring them – sad that, but a satisfying morning’s work. Goodness knows what this product is doing to the good bacteria in our soak-away sewage system, but we still have temperatures of 30 degrees, so hopefully some new ones will grow.

Anyway, to Heidi’s rolls. When we were in Tonga a few weeks go, Heidi at Sandy Beach Resort made this for us to take out on our boat picnic on the first day. They were so scrummy, we pleaded with her to make them again, and she also very kindly gave me the recipe. I made it this week to take to the beach instead of sandwiches and it was proclaimed delicious by all concerned.

You can tweak the basic pancake recipe to suit what you have in the fridge and what you fancy on the day. The cheese is essential, but I also added some finely chopped spring onions and some parsley for a bit of flavour and greenery. I had to use bacon, as we can’t easily get hold of ham here, so I pre-cooked that a little first. If you are using ham, you can just shred it and throw it straight into the mix.

It occurred to me that this would make a delicious appetiser using smoked salmon instead of the ham. In which case, just chop the salmon into pieces and scatter them over the pancake when you spread it with the cream cheese – roasted peppers would also be good for a vegetarian version. Another idea for a change would be to use Boursin or another flavoured cream cheese instead of the standard stuff.

However, the roll is absolutely delicious as it is, it really needs no further embellishment. This roll would serve six people (two small slices each) as a main course, or would serve 12 as a starter with some salad leaves on the side.

Heidi’s Tongan ham & cheese pancake rolls

100g plain flour
4 eggs
250ml milk
150g ham, diced or shredded, or use pre-cooked bacon strips (miss out the ham for a vegetarian version)
150g Emmental, Gouda or other good melting cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)
3 spring onions, finely chopped (optional)
200g cream cheese (I used labneh – any soft cream cheese would work, or even Greek yogurt at a push)

You will need a Swiss roll tin (jelly roll tin) or similar shallow tray. Mine measures 25 x 38 cm.


Pre-heat the oven to 225C.

Line your tin with baking paper – the easiest way to do this is to brush the whole tin with oil, then push the paper into it and grease again. That way you can get the paper right into the corners and the oil makes the paper stick to the tin, so that it doesn’t shift around when you are trying to pour in the mixture.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, eggs and milk. Whisk until everything is incorporated and smooth.

Add the cheese and ham (or bacon), together with the onions and parsley (if using).

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Mix well until everything is incorporated, then season generously with salt and pepper.

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Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Mine took 15, but I think my oven tends to be a little on the hot side. The top of the pancake should be golden brown and firm to the touch. Mine did rise up in the middle like a little volcano, but don’t panic if yours does this too – I just poked it gently with a knife to let the steam out and it went perfectly flat again.

Slide the pancake, still on its paper, onto the worktop and liberally spread over the cream cheese (if you decide to use salmon or roasted peppers instead of the ham, scatter these over at this point too).Season again with salt and pepper.

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Using the paper to help you get started, roll up the pancake exactly like a Swiss roll. This is not at all difficult, as the pancake is quite firm and pliable.

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Refrigerate until cold (I left mine overnight) and then cut into slices.

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