Pancakes: There's a lot more to Shrove Tuesday than sugar and lemon

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Pan in hand, and batter at the ready, Amy Oliver takes a world tour in search of inspiration

Who would guess that the combination of milk, water, flour, eggs, salt and butter could make something quite so sumptuously delicious? We gorge ourselves on pancakes annually for Shrove Tuesday, which this year falls on 24 February, but the question is, why doesn’t this incomparably delicious – and fabulously quick to make – comfort food feature on the menu more often?

According to Rowley Leigh, chief-proprietor of the London restaurant Le Café Anglais, the original way of dressing pancakes is best, that is, with lashings of freshly-squeezed lemon and a dusting of sugar. “It’s a childhood thing – and they’ve got to be straight out of the pan,” says Leigh. On the menu at his restaurant, though, are delectable buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.

Although the ingredients are simple and inexpensive, pancakes can be quite difficult to get right, and horror stories of batter-stained ceilings after an overzealous flip are commonplace. Also disappointing is the undercooked cake – or one that’s too thick. The perfect pancake needs the perfect batter and, according to Leigh, this should be of a thin consistency; the trick is to use a mixture of both milk and water. And what about the perfect flip? “It just takes a flick of the wrist,” says Leigh. “The lighter and dryer the pancake, the less likely it is to end up around the gas ring.”

But so versatile is the pancake that it would be remiss to stick to a single annual lemon-and-sugar binge. “It’s crazy,” agrees Nick Willoughby, owner of the funky London crêperie Crème de la Crêpe, “and in France, they’re a staple. The pancake is the perfect blank canvas, and here we do banoffee-pie and apple-crumble fillings. I don’t think you need to stop at chocolate or sugar.” Almost every nation has their own version; for a world of inspiration, here’s our guide to pancake perfection.

Pancake perfection: The batter

By Nick Willoughby

(Makes approximately 8)

125g flour
2 large eggs
120ml milk
120 ml water
pinch of salt
40g melted unsalted butter

Whisk all ingredients until smooth. Heat a non-stick frying pan and melt in a knob of butter. Once the pan is sizzling-hot, pour in a ladle of batter and tilt the pan to allow batter to coat its surface. Cook until golden on the underside. Flip the pancake – then pick it up off the floor and serve!

Scotland: Drop scones

Scotch pancakes, or drop scones, are smaller, thicker pancakes usually eaten for breakfast with a drizzle of honey or homemade jam. The Scottish chef Tom Kitchin, chef-patron of the Michelin-starred Edinburgh restaurant The Kitchin, says: “It’s the kind of thing my granny used to make. They’re lovely and moist inside, a bit like a crumpet.” Drop scones can be savoury, too, and Kitchin suggests layering mushrooms, lardons and even a fried egg on top for a hearty breakfast. The Scots also celebrate Shrove Tuesday with crêpe-style pancakes and Kitchin has fond memories of the annual treat. “We would start with savoury ones with mushrooms, ham and sautéed onions, and then end with sweeter crêpes with honey and Nutella. When you’re a kid they’re always a favourite.” Kitchin also suggests pimping your pancake by adding a soufflé mix to the middle. “Cook off your crêpe and put a soufflé mix – whisked egg whites and something like Grand Marnier for a lovely orange flavour – in the middle. Fold the edges of your crêpe over and cook it in the oven. Serve with a nice syrup or vanilla ice-cream.”

Italy: Crespelle

“The pancake is used in so many ways in Italy. It’s very versatile,” says the godfather of Italian gastronomy, Antonio Carluccio. The rather grand-sounding crespelle is a basic batter of egg, flour, milk and a pinch of salt and, like the French crêpe, should be quite thin. Crespelle can be rolled, stuffed, stacked or folded; regional varieties abound, and they may also be used in lasagne or cannelloni. For a savoury dish, Carluccio suggests filling the crespella with ricotta and finely-chopped spinach, and for sweet, spreading a bit of mascarpone cheese and Nutella inside. “My mother used to do them as a dessert,” says Carluccio. “She made some crespelle and put a squeeze of lemon and sugar on them.” Interestingly, crespelle are also used in a soup similar to the Austrian dish frittaten suppe. “Make the crespelle, roll it and then cut it into very thin strips,” says Carluccio. “Put the strips into a chicken broth and add a little Parmesan. It’s just fantastic.”

Russia: Blini

A staple food all over Eastern Europe, blini are regarded in the UK as a luxury item to be covered in caviar and washed down with good Russian vodka. For the Michelin-starred celebrity chef Martin Blunos, whose Latvian parents fed him blini when he was growing up, they’re similar to crumpets. “People will eat them as a snack, almost like a tortilla in Mexico. They’re like a substitute for bread,” he explains. As with British pancakes, eggs, flour and butter are the main ingredients of blini, but theirs are with a fundamental difference: the addition of yeast. Buckwheat flour is also traditionally used, but white and rye flour are regularly substituted. “The blini have to be light,” says Blunos. “You need a crispy outside, and light and airy centre. If you don’t give the yeast enough time to work you can end up with a very heavy batter.” Blunos says 45 minutes should be enough time to let the batter stand, and when you come to cook them the pan shouldn’t be too hot. Savoury blini are eaten with gherkins, sour cream and pulses but, according to Blunos, blini as a dessert is delicious; he recommends a topping of sour cream and brown sugar.

Sweden: Plättars

“Pancakes are an absolute staple in Sweden,” says Anna Mosesson, a Swedish cookery writer. “We eat them all year round, but also every Thursday with a pea soup.” Swedish pancakes, called plättar, use the same ingredients as British pancakes, but are smaller and fried several at a time in a specially-designed plättlagg pan – a heavy iron griddle with circular indents into which the mixture is poured. Mosesson suggests adding fried bacon into the batter mix and then frying it as you would a French crêpe to make a snack that’s eaten every day in Sweden; for sweet plättar, lingonberry jam is a favourite filling. An ideal warming dish for a cold Scandinavian day is raggmunk – a pancake with shredded or grated potato and saffron originating from Gotland. Shaped into small patties, raggmunk are traditionally eaten with fried pork and lingonberries. “We have different names for each of our pancakes, so it’s a big thing,” says Mosesson. Pancakes are not eaten on “Fat Tuesday”, the Swedish Pancake Day. Instead they eat a cardamom bun filled to bursting with marzipan or almond paste and eaten in a bowl full of warm milk.

India: Dosas

Hailing from southern India, the dosa, a crispy pancake made from rice and black lentils, is mainly eaten for breakfast but, according to Atul Kochhar, chef of the Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant Benares, they can be eaten at any mealtime. Says Kochar: “Dosa are mainly savoury and eaten with coconut chutney, which is light and refreshing. You can experiment, though: I do a sweet version where I flavour the batter with coconut sugar.” To create dosa mixture, three parts of rice to one part of black lentils (or urad daal) should be soaked in water overnight; blend with fenugreek seeds to create a smooth yet slightly grainy paste. In India, the paste is cooked on a flat griddle called a tawa, but a large pan would do. “There’s no secret in getting dosa right, but they must be very thin,” he says. “Also, you don’t have to use basmati rice, long grain will do.” In northern India, chillas, pancakes made with chickpea flour and semolina, are also eaten for breakfast. “I’ve never seen these with a stuffing. Instead, the batter is flavoured with things like coriander and toasted cumin seeds.”

France: Crepes

What’s more French than a perfectly thin, lacy-textured crêpe? Eaten mainly for breakfast and lunch, what you put in your crêpe really depends on where you come from in France. Jason Atherton, the executive chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze and Maze Grill restaurants, lived for a time in Alsace while he was training. “They put cheese and bacon in their crêpes and then cover them with a béchamel sauce, but places like Brittany traditionally put apples, cinnamon and sugar in theirs. Down south, because of all the lovely sunshine, they use crème fresh and strawberries.” But, think of crêpes and you can’t help but think of crêpes Suzette, the Seventies classic which was extravagantly flambéd at the table but often ended up as a soggy, overly alcoholic disappointment. “The dish was bastardised quite badly by English seaside hotels,” says Atherton. “And I hope a restaurant can bring it back and do something sexy with it because ... it could be retro-cool.”

Suggested Topics
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Service Charge Accountant

    30,000 to 35,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: We are currently recruiting on...

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?