Flipping marvellous: Mark Hix's pancake recipes

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Sweet or savoury, plain or fancy, they're delicious eaten for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, says our chef.

Pancakes are great fun to make - with or without kids in attendance - and while Shrove Tuesday is the annual excuse for flipping, there's no reason not to get friends round for pancake parties more often. I wouldn't do a whole three courses of pancakes, but try experimenting with three different recipes from the ones below - or make up your own concoctions.

Every country has their own style of pancakes; generally they are egg-based but are often made with different flours – the Asian ones contain rice flour – or are crisp and self-wrapping like the Vietnamese banh xeo. All make for a tasty sharing dish.

Basic pancake batter

Makes 4-5 pancakes

125ml milk
60g flour
1 small egg
½tsp caster sugar (optional)
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 non-stick frying pan or favourite old 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.

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

Seafood pancakes

Serves 4

These are great, old-fashioned, establishment pancakes, the type of thing you would get at the Savoy Grill or a big banquet. I remember making these when I was in Nice, aged 20 and competing in a cookery-competition final. It was a big, grand banquet at the Negresco and the smell filled the room as the waiters silver-served the pancakes from large oval dishes.

You can use all sorts of seafood, or just prawns if your budget is a bit tight – but buy with the shells on so you can make the rich sauce.

Pancake batter
12 raw large prawns with the shells on
100g freshly picked white crab
Any other shellfish like scampi, mussels, etc

For the sauce

2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and 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
A few sprigs of tarragon, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the prawns for 1 minute, then drain in a colander and refresh in cold water. Carefully remove the heads and peel the tails, leaving the meat as intact as possible. Crush or chop the shells a little and place the tails in the fridge – they're perfect for a bisque.

Melt the knob of 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 fine-meshed sieve into a clean pan.

The sauce should be quite thick and of a coating consistency; if not, continue simmering for a few minutes until it thickens.

Cook the pancakes as above.

Add the prawns, crab and any other shellfish you are using to the sauce, with the tarragon, and simmer for a minute or so.

To serve, lay the pancakes on to warmed plates, spoon the filling and sauce into the centre and fold the pancakes over into a triangle – or leave them halved then pour any extra sauce over.

Hedgerow garlic and Asian mushroom brik

Serves 4

I'm a big fan of brik à l'oeuf, which is the crisp North African pancake made with warka pastry with a soft egg inside. I occasionally play around with this simple classic and this one works as a breakfast dish or a starter or snack.

4 sheets of feuille de brik or warka pastry
100-120g fresh shiitake, sliced, or a mix of fresh Asian mushrooms
2 spring onions, cleaned and thinly sliced
A few leaves of wild or hedgerow garlic, chopped
2tbsp chopped coriander
4 medium eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of vegetable or corn oil for frying

Heat a frying pan with a little vegetable oil and cook the mushrooms for a minute or so on a low heat, then add the spring onions, wild garlic and coriander and cook for another 30 seconds; season and stir in the eggs to give them a little heat, but not actually cook them, then transfer the mixture into a bowl.

To serve, heat a large, preferably non-stick frying pan on a medium heat, lay a sheet of the pastry in the pan, spoon a quarter of the mix in the centre and fold it in half immediately. Fry for a minute or so until crisp then flip it over and crisp up the other side. Serve them as soon as possible so they stay hot and crisp.

Scotch pancakes with bramley apple

Serves 4

In Scotland they refer to what the English call drop scones, or Scotch pancakes, as dropped scones – and what's more they cook them on a girdle and not a griddle.

After one of my fishing and research trips to Scotland, I was sent a girdle as a gift, and it's basically a round cast-iron plate that sits directly on the stove with an arched steel handle which enables you to move it around while the scones are cooking.

You can vary the fruit you serve with the dropped scones according to what's in season, and also make them as sweet as you wish by adjusting the sugar quantity.

I've served these with some saffron custard, but you could use crème fraîche or clotted cream.

For the compote

2 bramley apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
100g caster sugar

For the dropped scones

225g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
30g granulated sugar
1tbsp golden syrup
2 eggs, beaten
250-275ml milk
Butter for greasing and to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. First make the compote. Put the apple and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan; cook for a few minutes on a medium heat, stirring every so often until the apple begins to soften.

Heat a griddle pan, or non-stick frying pan, and rub it with a little butter. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and let them cook for 3 minutes until bubbles rise, then turn them over with a palette knife or spatula and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Place them on kitchen paper while you are cooking the rest.

Serve warm with the compote spooned over and your choice of topping.

Crespelli with spinach and gorgonzola

Serves 4

There's no end to the variety of fillings you can put in these classic Italian pancakes: from meaty ragouts to pumpkin, or even sweet fillings like custard and amaretto.

Pancake batter
250-300g spinach, cleaned and washed with any thick stalks removed
60ml double cream
120-150g gorgonzola, broken into pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

250g mascarpone cheese
30g Parmesan cheese, grated
120ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make four pancakes as above.

To make the sauce, put the mascarpone and Parmesan in a heavy-based pan and bring to boil. Add the cream and season. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then blend in a liquidiser. Return to the pan, and cover with clingfilm to keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4. Cook the spinach briefly in boiling, salted water; drain, then coarsely blend in a food processor; transfer to a pan with the cream; season and cook until thick.

To serve, stir about two-thirds of the gorgonzola into the spinach, lay a quarter of the remaining mix along one edge of a pancake, roll it up and do the same with the rest; heat in the oven for 5-6 minutes.

Heat up the sauce until it's a thick, coating consistency. Lay a pancake on a warmed serving plate, scatter over the rest of the gorgonzola and spoon over the sauce.

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