Eggs. Flour. Milk. These are the three simple ingredients that when combined, can evoke timeless and happy memories. Whisked together and fried, pancakes have been delighting children and adults alike for centuries and feature in many cultural diets. From thin French crepes and cheesy galettes, to sweet Dutch babies, spiced Sri Lankan Hoppers and salty Japanese okonomiyaki, these flat and floppy batter creations are beloved the world over in their varying forms. So perhaps it’s no surprise that in Britain, we have a day dedicated solely to the humble pancake. But where did Shrove Tuesday come from?
Stemming from Anglo-Saxon Christian culture, British pancakes were traditionally enjoyed on Shrove Tuesday – the last feast day before Lent. This was the final opportunity to use up fatty ingredients such as eggs and dairy before embarking on a Lenten fast until Easter. In fact, the word ‘shrove’ derives from the word ‘shrive’ meaning to obtain. So, pancakes were inevitably whipped up in kitchens across the country and consumed in large amounts to prevent wasting precious ingredients. But what makes the perfect pancake? Toppings aside, the batter should be smooth, silky and pour like single cream. The edges should be crisp but with a soft buttery centre as well as be so thin, it can fold onto a plate like a piece of fine lace. But first things first, the batter. Below is a fool-proof pancake equation that never fails, and it’s as easy as 1,2,3. 100g of plain flour +2 eggs (1 whole, 1 yolk) + 300ml of milk = silky pancake batter. Secondly, it’s important to rest your batter for at least thirty minutes before cooking. This allows the gluten time to relax, resulting in a lighter, fluffier pancake. Thirdly, fry the pancake in a non-stick hot pan with a knob of butter. Oil brings nothing to the party in terms of flavour, whereas butter (especially when allowed to brown slightly) has a far superior depth of flavour. Finally, the perfect pancake is NEVER the first pancake, so don’t be discouraged if your first attempt looks like it’s been scraped off the bottom of your shoe – it will still taste pretty great.
Let the pancake be your edible canvas and spread, drizzle and top with whatever you desire. Why not try scattering sweet pancakes with fresh berries and nuts before drenching in either maple syrup, warm chocolate sauce or fresh pouring cream. Alternatively, you could opt for something savoury and top with fried garlic mushrooms, a good grating of Gruyere cheese and a fried egg. As a purist, I like to eat my pancakes (at least the first one anyway) with a generous sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon but however you chose to eat yours, have a happy flippin’ pancake day. For more pancake recipe inspiration, try my pancake recipes this Shrove Tuesday:
Wholemeal lemon and sugar crepes
30g unsalted butter
150g wholemeal flour
1 medium egg
325ml semi-skimmed milk
Pinch of salt
1 tsp of rapeseed oil
Lemon wedges to serve
Golden caster sugar to serve
1. Start by melting your butter in a small saucepan on a low heat. Once melted, take off the heat and put to one side to cool slightly.
2. In a large mixing bowl, measure out your wholemeal flour and add a pinch of salt. In a measuring jug, measure out your milk and add 1 egg. Give it a good whisk until combined.
3. Make a well in the middle of the flour and start adding the milk mixture bit by bit, whisking continuously (this is easier than it sounds). Start to incorporate more and more flour from the outside until you have a smooth batter. Whisk in the warm melted butter and then pour the batter back into the jug.
4. Add the oil to a medium non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat. Once hot, pour a ladle of the mixture into the middle of the pan and manoeuvre the pan to spread it out to the edges evenly. The pancake should start to bubble and go a golden brown colour. Using a spatula, run around the edge of the pancake until it becomes completely loose and ready to flip. Be brave! 5. Flip the pancake over and cook on the other side for another couple of minutes. Turn out onto a plate and serve hot with a sprinkle of granulated sugar and good squeeze of lemon. If making more than one pancake, be sure to oil your pan before each pancake to prevent from sticking.
Gluten free buckwheat pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup
25g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
30g caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
125ml semi skimmed milk
2 tbs yogurt
Knob of butter
Greek yogurt and m
aple syrup to serve(optional)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients and put to one side. In a smaller bowl, whisk together one egg, 125ml of milk and 2 tablespoons of yogurt until combined. 2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth batter. (Buckwheat flour is quite different to regular flour, it has a gummy, sticky texture, this is normal). Put to one side for 10 minutes or until the mixture starts to bubble slightly.
3. Heat a knob of butter in a large frying pan on a medium to high heat. When the butter starts to bubble, ladle in your desired amount of batter (I like to make 3 at a time).
4. Cook for a couple of minutes or until they start to bubble and the edges look set. Flip over and cook for a further couple of minutes. Serve immediately topped with your favourite toppings.
Savoury green drop scones with rocket and avocado
175g spelt, wholemeal or plain flour
200ml semi skimmed milk
1 egg ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp rapeseed oil
3 springs onions, finely chopped
1 large handful of greens(you can use any chopped greens you like for this recipe – I use a mixture of savoy cabbage and kale but spinach, cavolo nero, chard or even brussels sprouts will work. You can also use grated root vegetables such as carrots or parsnips)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Handful fresh coriander, chopped
50g vegetarian cheese of your choice – I used cheddar
½ tsp sea salt
Rocket, avocado slices and extra virgin olive oil to serve
1. Preheat an oven to 100°C/80°C fan/210F/gas mark 1.
2. Weigh out the spelt flour and the baking powder and combine in a large bowl. Add 200ml of semi-skimmed milk to a jug and crack in 1 egg. Whisk the egg in the jug with the milk until fully incorporated. Put to one side.
3. Finely chop the spring onions, garlic, coriander and your selection of greens. Grate both cheeses and put to one side.
4. Add ½ tsp of salt to the flour and mix before making a well in the middle and pouring in the milk bit by bit, whisking continuously. Once you have a smooth batter, add the other ingredients until fully incorporated.
5. Put a large non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat and add a tsp of rapeseed oil. Once hot, drop a heaped tablespoon of mixture into the pan and push down with the back of the spoon to create a round-dish shape. Repeat this process making sure the drop scones are not to close together. After a couple of minutes, flip the scones over and press down on them with the back of a spatular to help them cook through – feel free to flip them over a couple more time to insure they are cooked all the way through.
6. Turn the scones out onto a plate, cover loosely with foil and place in the warm oven while you make your second batch of scones. Repeat this process until you have no batter left. Serve warm with a simple rocket salad, sliced avocado, a good crack of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
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