As with my previous two recipes, I made these delicate crespelles for my house guests while they stayed the week with me before their travels. After a rather late night where we enjoyed life a bit too much these were the best hangover cure (except for one of us!). Warm and filling the bacon & mushroom ragu would be wonderful over some warm pasta or spooned onto a crusty crostini.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Vegetable Gardener, c.1590
oil on wood, 35 x 24 cm, Museo Civico Ala Ponzone, Cremona, Italy

Italian painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo was know for his portraits but unlike his peers of the 16th century, the faces he depicted were composed of individual objects grouped in a very specific and deliberate way. Out of his body of work The Vegetable Gardener is unique in that it is a double image, first as a simple bowl of vegetables and then a portrait of a gardener as the title suggests. Arcimboldo painted grotesque portraits (in art the noun grotesque is in reference to a style of decorative painting that interweaves human and animal forms with flowers and foliage) and during his life he enjoyed success due to the Renaissance fascination with riddles and the bizarre. After his death his paintings fell out of fashion and was not revived again until the 20th century where it heavily influenced the work of many Surrealist artists (1).

Crespelle is the Italian equivalent of the French crêpe. Like risotto it was the poor man’s food and it was not until late in the 19th century when the Edward the Prince of Wales first tasted them in Montecarlo, that the pancakes became fashionable (2). In addition to folding and eating it like a crêpe, the crespelle is a common ingredient in many popular cannelloni dishes. Instead of stuffing dried pasta, using the light and delicate pancake gives the dish a feathery texture and with the subtraction of the green onions the recipe below could be easily adapted to include a sweet filling like berries with cream.

{Spring Onion Crespelle with Bacon & Mushroom Ragu}

adapted from Delicious Magazine
serves 4

1 c flour
1 1/4 c milk
3 eggs, beaten
2 spring onions, chopped
25g butter, cubed (cube into the number of crepes you plan to make)
1 tsp salt
mushroom & ragu sauce (recipe below)
Parmesan cheese

Sift the flour and the salt into a large bowl. Add milk and eggs stirring until smooth. Add chopped green onion.

Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat. Add one cube of the butter, let melt and continue to cook until the froth disappears. At this time add one small ladelful of batter to the hot pan and swirl to cover the entire base. Cook for about twenty seconds or until you can shake the pan and the crespelle comes loose. Carefully flip and cook another ten to twenty seconds on the other side.

Place the ragu on one quarter of the crespelle. Fold in half and then fold again until the crespelle is quartered. Shave Parmeasan cheese over the crespelle and serve hot.

{Bacon & Mushroom Ragu}

1 TB olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
rindless bacon rashers, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 large portobello mushroom, chopped
200g Swiss brown mushrooms, chopped
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp oregano

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Once slightly smoking add the onion, bacon and carrot and cook four about 4 minutes until golden.

Add all of the mushrooms and the spices and cook until tender. You may need to add a tiny bit of water to loosen the mixture up to keep the mushrooms from burning. Cook until the water added evaporates.

Season and keep warm.