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Fail-Safe Spinach and Ricotta Hotcakes

Karen Martini’s Ricotta Hotcake Recipe


Karen Martini

**This giveaway is provided by The Dairy Kitchen. I was a guest at the Legendairy and The Dairy Kitchen event discussed below and received a copy of Feasting.  The opinions are my own.

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to bring my 8 year old to an event hosted by Legendairy Ambassador Karen Martini. The event was a cooking workshop providing tips and inspiration for cooking with milk. I was not going to attend as I am dairy intolerant but we decided it would be a fun activity to do together. The event provided me with some new information about lactose intolerance, recommended daily dairy intake and a great new recipe. Not to mention the opportunity to meet Karen, which was a highlight for both of us. We were already fans of her work, but I can say that has been raised a level !!

Karen demonstrated some of her recipes and then it was time for the mums and kids to get creative and make their version of Karen’s ricotta hotcakes. We all selected our chosen toppings for the hotcakes from an array of savoury and sweet plates.

The two images below were taken by the event photographer CBD Photography

These are the hotcakes we made at the event. My son was keen to use salami and olives to serve with our hotcakes and Karen loved them. As a result we won a big hamper of glorious cheeses, a book and one of Karen’s Raco saucepans. My son was thrilled to win and needless to say we have been eating hotcakes regularly ever since!

Karen_Martini_event_winner hotcakes

Cooking hotcakes - Legendairy(photo credit: CBD Photography)

The event provided me with the opportunity to ask the Dairy Australia Dietitian for some information that I have been wanting to get clarity on for some time. In my circumstance, if I eat (or drink) milk, cream or ice cream they cause a bad reaction that has me confined to the bathroom for hours and feeling unwell for a day. As a result I obviously avoid these ingredients in my diet. The rest of my family have no intolerance therefore I do use regular milk generally in anything I make for them that I am not going to be eating.  I substitute with a non-dairy equivalent if I will be eating the food. Thankfully I can eat cheese as I adore it.

The advice provided by the Dairy Australia Dietitian is fascinating so I thought I’d share it with you. **Please seek your own advice from a doctor and dietitian if you suffer a food intolerance.

The amount of lactose that can be tolerated will vary significantly between people. While some might be able to tolerate up to a glass of milk at a time, others may have more success with two smaller serves spread across the day. People diagnosed with lactose intolerance need to work out their own threshold. Try these tips:

  • Build up your tolerance – start small and gradually increase your milk intake.
  • Drink milk with other food, rather than on an empty stomach.
  • Regular (or whole) milk may be better tolerated than low-fat or skim milk.

Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose. In fact, many dairy foods contain very low lactose levels. Yoghurt with live active cultures, for example, is lower in lactose and is generally easily digested thanks to its probiotic bacteria, which help to break down lactose, and most cheeses are very low in lactose, especially harder varieties like cheddar, which contain virtually zero.

Dairy food Lactose content (g)
Regular milk, 250mL 11.8
Cheddar cheese, 40g 0.0
Swiss style cheese, 40g 0.1
Parmesan cheese, 40g 0.1
Brie, 40g 0.1
Ricotta cheese, 20g 0.24
Cream cheese, 22g 0.6
Yogurt (natural), 200g 9.4*
Ice cream, 50g 2.8
Butter, 18g (1 tblspn) 0.1
Cream, 20g (1 tblspn) 0.6

It is recommended that children aged 4-8 have 2 serves of dairy per day and that adults have 2 serves per day. For women this increases to 4 serves from 51 years of age. * I am really pleased to have found this out as I will need to better manage my intake to ensure I am getting adequate nutrients provided by dairy such as calcium, potassium and protein.

A serve of dairy is one cup of milk (250 ml) or two slices of cheese (40 grams), 200 grams of yoghurt.*

Karen Martini’s recipe for Ricotta Hotcakes

Mr Fresh makes the family pancakes every Sunday for breakfast so we are pretty familiar with that process. We usually enjoy either apple, or banana laden ones served with maple syrup.

Karen explained to my son that it is the raising agent that is the difference between hotcakes and pancakes. I love the light, fluffy nature of these hotcakes and the addition of the ricotta gives them a wonderful texture. Since the event, I have had a chance to make them a number of times and I can  say with confidence that Karen’s recipe is fool-proof! It is a fail safe recipe.  I have made them using 1/2 rye flour because I ran out of plain flour, with various non dairy based milks as well as regular milk. We have served them with fruit, and we loved the spinach version that is outlined in the notes of the recipe below.  These hotcakes are a great after-school snack for the kids to keep them going until dinner time.

*Leave out the sugar when making a savoury version.

Karen Martini’s Ricotta Hotcake Recipe is published here with permission.

Fail-Safe Spinach and Ricotta Hotcakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A fail safe recipe for fluffy, light hotcakes that can be adapted to include savoury or sweet ingredients. See the notes below for recipe variations including the spinach and ricotta version
Serves: 6-8
  • 180 grams of plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons castor sugar (leave out for savoury hotcakes)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 375 ml milk
  • 150 grams ricotta
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • plus butter or oil for cooking
  1. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl
  2. Add the milk, ricotta, eggs and melted butter to another bowl and combine.
  3. Add the mild mix to the dry ingredients and combine until you have a batter - there may be lumps from the ricotta, but ensure that the flour is incorporated
  4. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat and add a knob of butter. Once melted, ladle in about ½ cup of batter and cook for around 2 minutes until it starts bubbling on the top, a little like a crumpet
  5. Once the hotcake is almost cooked, flip and cook for just 30 seconds on the second side. Set aside and repeat for the remaining batter.
  6. Serve with your favourite toppings.
Event variation:
3 pieces mild salami
handful of cherry tomatoes
8 olives - sliced
fetta cheese
fresh basil leaves
fresh spinach leaves
Use all ingredients to top the plain Ricotta hotcakes

Spinach and Ricotta Version:
Leave out the sugar
Add 100 grams of spinach and whiz in a food processor
75 grams Gruyere Cheese
fresh mint leaves and lemon to serve
Add the spinach to the batter mixture and serve with remaining ingredients

Spinach Ricotta Hotcakes

Win one of two copies of Feasting by Karen Martini

Thanks to The Dairy Kitchen I have two copies of Karen’s 3rd cookbook Feasting to give away. I love this book, it is set to become my go-to recipe book for entertaining. It includes 23 beautiful menus for every occasion type you could possibly think of. Besides the large variety of recipes, the thing I most love is that they are not complex, fussy recipes. The recipes are for food that you will want to cook all the time – not just when you have guests.


Competition commences Tuesday 24/05/2016 and ends 5 pm Tuesday 31st May. Open to Australian residents only.
To enter submit your response to the question in the comments below. This is a game of skill. The best two answers will be selected by me to win a copy of Karen’s book. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase is necessary.

The winners will be notified via email on Wednesday 1 June and must respond within 24 hours or a new winner(s) will be selected.

Prize value: $31 each. The prize will be sent to the winner from The Dairy Kitchen.

For your chance to win one of two copies of Feasting please tell me in the comments below:

What topping would you choose to add to your hotcakes?

Karen Martini - feasting giveaway

Good luck. I look forward to hearing what toppings you prefer.

*Reference: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/recommended-number-serves-adults


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Insect Hotel

In the past year I have focused on incorporating more beneficial plants and flowers into my vegetable garden to encourage bees to reside, pollinate and enjoy my garden. Since I began planting flowers for the bees I have noticed an  increase in both bees and also the volume of vegetables we harvested this summer as result of these changes. The garden also looks much prettier with flowers interspersed between the plants.  I wrote about the flowers I have been planting in a recent post, outlining why I believe each to be beneficial to the garden.  As part of this learning I recently discovered and planted Back Yard Buddies in two of my garden beds. It is a seed mix of annual and perennial flowers that attract and shelter  beneficial insects.  I love them so much that you can now buy them in my shop if you would like to add some to your own vegetable garden.

I have seen numerous examples of bug hotels around the internet but none inspired my curiosity enough to take action.  I launched my new book, Grow Just One Thing – The first step in a fresh food journey at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in March this year. Over the five days of exhibiting at the  event I met many inspirational and influential garden lovers, writers, artists, media and retailers. One of the people I met was Jodie from Every Day In The Garden.  I had the chance to look at and talk to her about her beautifully crafted insect hotels. They are created from re-cycled materials but more importantly, from years of her experience and observation.

Jodie inspired me to want to make a bug hotel for our vegetable garden and to learn more about the insects that populate and protect the garden. Jodie’s experience and explanations of the insects she has studied in her hotels inspired me. As I learn about beneficial plants that encourage insects, this seems to be another critical element to support and develop a healthy organic vegetable garden.

I aim to inspire my children with a new adventure in our garden with this bug hotel. I have no expertise or experience in this area but will be studying and recording what happens in our bug hotel over the coming seasons, we will learn together.

I believe that a bug hotel is a wonderful opportunity for my children to observe, monitor and record the insects, their activity and preference for materials.  I hope to be able to review their activity and the results of their presence – provided we have managed to create a hotel that is attractive to them and suited to their needs.

Some of the beneficial insects I hope to attract include:

  • Bees – solitary and native. I am hoping they will find shelter to lay their eggs and rest over winter
  • Lady bugs – predator of aphids and mites are said to enjoy nesting and resting in twigs and sticks
  • Hoverflies – also a predator of aphids plus a pollinator of plants also like to nest and rest in twigs and sticks
  • Lacewigs – their larvae feed on aphids and mealy bugs. They like to rest and nest in straw and wood

I hope that we have made a shelter that will provide protection during winter and a place to nest in spring.

There are sure to many other insects I have not heard of that are not going to wait for an invite to come and take up residence. I am hoping to document some of our visitors in pictures as they take up residence.

After the MIFGS I was so inspired by Jodie’s work that I have Mr Fresh knock me up a frame to use for our hotel. It is made from old fence posts. It then sat around for the last 3 or 4 weeks. The kids excitedly collected nuts, wood and pieces they wanted to include in the hotel and it then sat around for a little longer because I had no idea how to put it all together.

bug hotel frame

I have no skills with a drill, saw, hammer or tool of any sort other than a hand trowel for digging in the garden. Mr Fresh offered to assist me with this project but I was keen to make something that anyone (with no tools or equipment requirements) could do with the kids. If he had of helped me I know our bug hotel would have been amazing, neat and precise but this one is my free-style version that anyone can make with the kids.

I sorted through a pile of cut up pieces of wood scraps that we have at the side of the house from tidying the garden, replacing fences, and various house projects over the past years.  I sought pieces that were untreated, in their natural state. I put the pieces together in approximately 30 minutes using the bits and pieces the kids had already collected and the pieces of wood and grasses I gathered.

To keep everything in place I hammered three pieces of broken fence paling onto the back of the frame (badly! I won’t show you pictures of bent over nails, partly in the wood, or incorrectly sized nails poking all the way out the back. I really don’t think it matters – the insects won’t mind I am sure!).

The pieces of paling that I used for the backing are broken and uneven. I left them as I found them as I was too scared to contemplate using Mr Fresh’s power saw. By fluke I put the tallest one in the center (see picture below) and it has worked to hold the whole thing up where it is hanging in the garden from an old meat scale I had previous used to hang a basket. I nailed a little hinge kind of thing onto the wood so that the ring of the scale can hook onto it.

Once the back of the frame was in place I nailed the piece of wood that is placed horizontally across the frame into place by hammering a few nails from the back palings through. The rest of the pieces inside the hotel that the kids collected are simply resting inside the frame. My Fresh says they will fall out and he is probably right. If this happens I’ll take inspiration from Jodie and put some wire over the front to hold everything in place. In the meantime I am happy to consider it an experiment and we will monitor to see if the position in the garden and layout of the materials is attractive to the insects over the coming months.

I have positioned the insect hotel on the border of one of the garden beds and surrounded by pots of flowering plants and herbs. I hope that this will assist to attract some residents.

Bug Hotel hanging


One of the things I am unsure about is the bundles of dried lemongrass I twisted together. Lemongrass is said to repel mosquitoes which is a good thing as far as I am concerned but I am not sure if there is other food source, or beneficial bugs that it will keep away also. This will be one of the things we monitor and will remove and replace it if needed. After I’d taken these pictures I also found some gum nuts with beautiful big openings that the kids had collected so they have been set aside to add if needed.

My 8 year old is very excited about tracking the insects and progress to see what comes to visit and how they interact with the garden.

Do you have an insect hotel in your garden? Have you been studying the residents? I’d love to hear any learnings from your experience in the comments. 








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