Flipping marvellous: Mark Hix takes pancakes to a new level with his posh fillings

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Shrove Tuesday is upon us again and I find that it's always a good excuse for creating some posh pancake recipes. Not that there's anything wrong with simple pancakes served with sugar and lemon juice – but there are so many more great things you can pop into a simple pancake. Here's a recipe for a basic batter, plus four other pancake ideas.

Basic pancake batter

Makes 8-10 pancakes

250ml milk
120g flour
1 large egg
1tsp caster sugar (optional)
A pinch of 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 good non-stick frying pan, rub with a little vegetable oil, then pour in some pancake mix, and immediately tilt the pan so that the mixture spreads evenly. Turn after one minute with a spatula or palette knife – or if you're feeling confident, flip it!

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, just re-heat them in the oven for a minute or so. Batter keeps in the fridge for up to two days; just re-whisk before using it.

Chicken and coconut curry pancakes

Serves 4

This is a fun way to serve pancakes, especially if you've made a bit too much curry and are wondering what to do with the leftovers.

12 chicken thighs, boned, skinned and halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g clarified butter or ghee
1tsp cumin seeds
2tsp cumin powder
2tsp turmeric
1 pinch saffron strands or one-third of a tsp ground saffron
4tsp curry powder
A small piece of cinnamon stick
A good pinch of curry leaves
2tsp paprika
4 cloves
1tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
85g ginger
2 small chillies, finely chopped
2tsp tomato purée
1ltr chicken stock
100g block coconut cream
2tbsp chopped coriander
30g flaked almonds, lightly toasted
4 large savoury pancakes

Season the chicken pieces. Heat the clarified butter in a large pan and fry the spices with the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli for a couple of minutes to release the flavours. Add the chicken and the tomato purée, and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring all the time.

Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Check and correct the seasoning.

Cut the cream of coconut into pieces, drop it into the curry and stir until it dissolves. Then add the chopped coriander and simmer for 5 minutes.

To serve, warm your pancakes in a low oven or under the grill and lay them on serving plates with one end hanging over the plate. Spoon the chicken and some of the sauce into the centre of the pancakes and fold the left side in first, then the bit that's overhanging the plate, to form a kind of triangle which also exposes the chicken filling.

Spoon a little more sauce over the chicken and scatter with the almonds and coriander.

St Clements crêpe soufflé

Serves 4

This is a classic French dessert, and although it's not actually a soufflé, the filling does rise a little, transforming a simple pancake into a luxurious and interesting pudding. You can make this with any fruit really and use different flavourings and alcohol in the filling.

quantity of the basic pancake batter
4 blood or ordinary oranges
2 lemons
1tbsp Cointreau
2 egg whites
30g caster sugar

For the custard

One-third of a vanilla pod
200ml single cream
4 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
1tsp cornflour

First make the custard: split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds with a point of a knife. Put the cream, vanilla pod and seeds into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Then, in abowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together.

Remove the vanilla pod from the cream. Pour the cream on to the egg mixture and mix well with a whisk.

Return to the pan and cook gently over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens (but don't let it boil). Remove the custard from the heat and give it a final mix with a whisk and transfer to a clean bowl.

Meanwhile, finely grate the rind of two of the oranges and the lemons and juice all of them. Simmer the juice and zest in a pan until you have about a tablespoon left.

Stir half into the custard with the Cointreau and add the rest to the pancake batter. Cover the surface of the custard with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool.

Make 4 pancakes with the batter as described on the previous page. Clean a mixing bowl and whisk with boiling water to remove any traces of fat, then whisk the egg white until fluffy, add the sugar slowly and carefully fold into the custard.

Divide the custard mix between the pancakes and spread almost to the edges, then fold in half and half again and place on to a baking tray. Cook in the oven for about 6-8 minutes; they should rise a little but don't worry if they don't . Transfer on to warmed plates and serve.

Crespelle with butternut squash

Serves 4

A crespelle is basically an Italian version of a French crêpe – but the word sounds a whole lot sexier, doesn't it?

1 medium-sized butternut squash weighing about 800g
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A few sprigs of thyme
A couple of good knobs of butter
4 medium pancakes

For the sauce

500ml milk
50g butter
50g flour
1 small bay leaf
200ml double cream
100g grated mature cheddar
1 large egg yolk

Pre heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Make some incisions in the squash with a knife and spread the garlic and butter over each half, then season and scatter the thyme over.

Wrap in foil, place on a tray and bake for about 45 minutes until soft.

Leave to cool a little then scoop out the flesh, mash it in a bowl and re-season to taste.

Meanwhile, put the milk in a saucepan, season and bring to the boil. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan then stir in the flour on a low heat for 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in the milk to avoid lumps forming, add the bay leaf, re-season and simmer very gently for about 15 minutes.

Add the double cream and continue simmering for about 5 minutes; the sauce should be quite thick by now, if not, continue simmering gently until it's a thick coating consistency. Remove the bay leaf, stir in three-quarters of the cheddar and the egg yolk.

Lay the 4 pancakes on a flat surface, divide the squash between them and roll up into cylinders. Place them in individual dishes or 1 large ovenproof dish. Spoon over the sauce and scatter the rest of the cheese over it, then bake for about 15 minutes or until nicely browned.

Lobster pancakes

Serves 4

These make the perfect luxurious starter with which to kick off a smart dinner party. If you don't want to splash out on lobster you could use a mixture of shellfish such as crab, prawns and mussels.

4 medium-sized pancakes
2 cooked lobsters of about 500-600g each
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
5 black peppercorns
10 fennel seeds
A couple of good knobs of butter
1tsp flour
1tsp tomato purée
A good pinch of saffron
100ml white wine
200ml fish stock
350ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp chopped chives

Remove the claws from the lobster and carefully crack the shells to remove the meat, reserving the shells. Remove the heads, squeeze the shells between your fingers and the palm of your hand until you hear the shell crack and carefully remove the meat, again keeping it as intact as possible. Crush the shells a little and place the tails in the fridge until required.

Melt a knob of the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently fry the shells with the shallots, garlic, peppercorns and fennel seeds for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the flour, tomato purée and saffron, stir well then gradually add the white wine and fish stock. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes then add the cream, season and continue to simmer very gently for another 10 minutes. Blend about one-fifth of the shells with some of the liquid in a blender until smooth, then return to the pan and simmer for a few more minutes. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a bowl.

To serve, slice the lobster tail meat and reheat in the sauce with the claw and leg meat. Quickly heat the pancakes under the grill then lay them on warmed plates. Spoon some of the meat and sauce to one end of the pancakes and roll them up, then spoon the rest of the meat and sauce on top and scatter with chives.

A crespelle is basically an Italian version of a French crêpe – but the word sounds a lot sexier

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