FOOD & DRINK: Flipping great

The pancake used to be a handy way to use up goodies before Lent, but Mark Hix reckons it's a feast in itself

AS SURE as eggs is eggs, we'll be doing the ceremonial flipping as usual this coming Tuesday.

Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is the last day before Lent and in one form or another, pancakes are made all over Europe to mark the start of the fast that lasts until Easter.

It's a tradition that's worth keeping alive. But it seems a shame that we turn our back on pancakes for the rest of the year. I don't know why we don't cook them more, because they are simple to make, delicious and especially fun for kids. Maybe what puts parents off is having to stand over the stove instead of throwing dinner in the oven and getting on with something else.

At least most of us don't have to go to the same lengths as the women of Olney in Buckinghamshire, where there's been a Shrove Tuesday pancake race since 1445. Only local housewives can take part and they must make the pancakes themselves. Setting off when the church bells ring, contestants must wear an apron and a hat or scarf and toss and catch the pancake three times over the course. The winner and runner-up receive prayer books as a prize.

I'm all for a mad tradition, but can't help feeling that the French approach to pancakes is a little more dignified. I mean, flambeing a crepe Suzette with a good dose of Curacao sounds tastier than what's left in the pan after the merry wives of Bucks have run down the road while their old men are down the pub.

Or give me an Asian pancake any day. Just the other night in my local Vietnamese we were soaking our own rice-paper pancakes in warm water and rolling them round paper-thin slivers of beef that we'd cooked ourselves at the table.

Basic pancake batter

Makes 8-10 pancakes

These basic pancakes can be transformed into all sorts of sweet and savoury delights, by omitting the sugar, adding chopped herbs and so on. Savoury pancake fillings can vary from simple chicken and ham in a creamy cheese sauce, or you could go completely veggie and fill them with creamed wild mushrooms and herbs. Alternatively go for the classic sweet options like crepe Suzette, or my kids' favourite - just caster sugar and lemon juice.

250ml milk

120g flour

1 small egg

1 tsp caster sugar

Pinch salt

Vegetable oil for frying

Whisk all the ingredients together with one third of the milk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk then strain if necessary. Heat a non-stick frying pan or a good favourite black pan, rub with a little vegetable oil then pour in a little pancake mix, and immediately tilt the pan so that the mixture spreads evenly. Turn after one minute with a spatula or palette knife.

If you need to make a large quantity of pancakes, make them in advance and stack them up between squares of greaseproof paper. When you're ready to serve them re-heat in the oven for a minute or so. Batter keeps in the fridge for up to two days; just re-whisk it before using.

Vietnamese savoury crepes (Banh xeo)

Serves 4-6

Banh xeo are often referred to as Vietnamese crepes, although they look more like an omelette. In Vietnam the recipe also calls for yellow split mung beans, soaked in water and blended with coconut milk. If you can find these beans, soak about 40g in cold water for 1-2 hours, drain them and blend in a liquidiser with the coconut milk.

The filling for these crepes can vary, but the vegetables need to be crunchy, so bean sprouts, spring onion and white radish make a good start, then you can add some Asian herbs and leaves such as Thai basil, perilla, coriander, Vietnamese mint and mizuna, plus shredded cooked chicken or prawns. Pickled white radish and carrot (either bought from Asian stores or made by pickling the sliced vegetable in rice vinegar, rather like the Korean kim che) can also be added for a little acidity.

for the pancakes

100g rice flour, or potato flour

1/2tsp turmeric

150-200ml coconut milk

40g yellow split mung beans soaked in water (optional)

Salt

Vegetable oil for frying

for the filling

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

6-7cm mooli, shredded

3 spring onions, shredded on the angle

A selection of Asian leaves and herbs (see above)

120-150g shredded cooked chicken, or cooked and peeled king prawns

to serve

Nuoc cham (fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, rice vinegar, chillies and garlic mixed to taste)

Sweet chilli sauce

Soy sauce f

If using mung beans, drain and liquidise with the coconut milk. Then, to make the pancakes, put the rice flour and turmeric in a bowl and slowly whisk in enough coconut milk to make a smooth batter. Season with salt. Heat about 1/2 a tablespoon of vegetable oil in an 18-20cm non-stick pan, pour in a quarter of the pancake mixture and turn the pan from side to side to spread the mixture evenly. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until crisp. Remove with a spatula on to some kitchen paper and keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. To serve, mix the vegetable, herbs and chicken or prawns together and arrange on one half of the pancake so that it can be folded. Serve with nuoc cham or some sweet chilli sauce or soy for dipping.

Crepe ris de veau forestiere

Serves 4

I fondly remember this dish from my days working in the kitchens of the Grosvenor House hotel. I could never resist the combination of delicate sweetbreads and earthy chanterelles or ceps wrapped in that herby pancake and glazed in a creamy sauce. Instead of sweetbreads you can use chicken breast or thigh. You can make a vegetarian version with various mushrooms.

4 pancakes made from half the quantity of pancake batter from the first recipe, without the sugar, mixed with 1tbsp chopped parsley

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

500g sweetbreads, lamb or veal, trimmed

60g butter

150g wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut into pieces about the same size as the sweetbreads

120ml chicken stock

50ml white wine

300ml double cream

1tbsp chopped parsley

2tsp chopped tarragon

1 egg yolk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If you are using veal sweetbreads, cut them into 2-3cm nuggets; lamb sweetbreads are small so they can be left whole. Heat half the butter in a frying pan or heavy-bottomed sauce pan then season and gently cook the sweetbreads and shallots for 3-4 minutes, turning them occasionally until lightly coloured. Add the white wine and chicken stock and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Remove the sweetbreads with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Boil the cooking liquid until it has reduced by two thirds. Add the double cream and continue simmering until it has reduced by about two thirds again and is fairly thick, then add the parsley and tarragon and season to taste.

Meanwhile saute the wild mushrooms in the rest of the butter for 2-3 minutes, then add the sweetbreads and bind with about half of the sauce. Spoon a quarter of the mixture on to half of each of the pancakes. Fold the pancakes over and put them on an oven-proof dish. Pre-heat a grill to its hottest setting. Mix the egg yolk with the rest of the sauce and spoon over the pancakes and glaze under the grill for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly coloured. Serve immediately, with spinach, if it's your supper. E

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Geography Teacher

    £130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

    Do you want to work in Education?

    £55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

    Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

    Day In a Page

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players