The experts' guide to the perfect pancake

Shrove Tuesday is nearly upon us. Get tossing with Mark Hix's classic batter, plus some of the planet's best pancake joints reveal their favourite toppings

Mark Hix's classic 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 of 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.

Pumpkin and chocolate raisins

The Friendly Toast, Cambridge and Portsmouth, Massachusetts, USA

Jake Gardner, a head cook at The Friendly Toast, serves up some fairly absurd pancakes, such as the 'King Cakes' – two ginormous pancakes filled with chocolate chips and bananas, covered in peanut butter, and then topped with whipped cream and a side of bacon.

The Toast also offers pumpkin pancakes with melted chocolate-covered raisins and whipped cream. He says the recipe calls for a mix of holiday spices – nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove – which help make the pancakes taste "just like pumpkin pie".

Gardner has several tips for making the perfect pancake: don't overbeat the batter, mix the wet and dry ingredients separately before combining them, and use cold water. "It's not so much what the ingredients are, it's more the execution of them," he says.

Top tip: Add sour cream to the batter. "It's still rich but it almost has a little tang to it."

thefriendlytoast.com

Bacon and maple syrup or nutella

The Greedy Pig, Leeds

The Greedy Pig in Leeds keeps it simple; Scottish-style pancakes with Nutella or bacon and maple syrup on top.

Jo Myers, who owns the restaurant with her husband Stuart, says, "I don't think we do anything particularly flash. We just cook to order, so you're getting something straight off the griddle and on to your plate. That's why we've managed to get a good reputation. We put in that care and attention and it comes through in our food."

Top tip: Myers says a good pancake is the result of a thick pan and a good, even heat.

The Greedy Pig, 58 North Street, Leeds

Blueberries and vanilla

The Blues Kitchen, Camden

The Blues Kitchen pancakes are buttermilk with either blueberries and vanilla cream, or with maple and bacon. Bernie Rogers, head chef, says they can serve about 600 pancakes every weekend, and that they go through about 50 litres of batter.

Top tip: When cooking pancakes, it is very important to wait until the bubbles appear before flipping. As for Shrove Tuesday recipes, Rogers suggests a 'rocky road' pancake for kids – with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and nuts.

theblueskitchen.com

Ham and cheese

The Breakfast Club, locations around London

Matthew Goussaert, executive chef at The Breakfast Club, says they like to "play with a mix of sweet and savoury flavours". Their 'Ham So Egg-sited' is a plate of pancakes layered with ham and cheese, and maple syrup and a fried egg on top.

Top tip: Goussaert suggests using buttermilk to stabilise the flavour of a pancake, and to make sure the pan is extra-hot before pouring the mixture in. He also says to chill the mix for half an hour before cooking.

thebreakfastclubcafes.com

Pulled pork, jalapeños & sour cream

The Riding House Café, central London

The Riding House Café serves up a variety of pancakes, including basic buttermilk pancakes (see The Table's recipe, inset) with clotted cream and berries, as well as 'ranch pancakes' with pulled pork, jalapeños, and sour cream.

Executive chef Toby Stuart says that in the days leading up to Shrove Tuesday, they will also be offering a classic English crêpe with lemon juice and sugar: "We will have riots if we don't have that one."

Top tip: Weigh the ingredients every time, because "a lot of people do it by eye and then they get inconsistent pancakes". Also, never use olive oil, because it will give the pancake a distinctive flavour.

ridinghousecafe.co.uk

Chocolate and yogurt or bacon, banana and syrup

The Table, Southwark

The Table has a few variations: one with Valrhona chocolate, vanilla yogurt and berries, and another with bacon, caramelised banana and maple syrup.

Founder Shaun Alpine-Crabtree says when making pancakes, it's important to buy a high-quality, Canadian maple syrup for its distinctive taste. "Once you've tasted it you really have an expectation, it really complements pancakes and bacon. It's worth buying a really great grade of Canadian syrup."

Top tip: In contrast to Mark Hix, Alpine-Crabtree also says to always use butter when frying the pancakes, never oil or spray. "If you're going to have a pancake, there's no point in going half-way. You don't do diet pancakes. Why would you do that? Life is far too short"

thetablecafe.com

Have you tried...

Basic buttermilk pancakes by the table's Shaun Alpine-Crabtree

200g plain organic flour
4tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp golden caster sugar
4 large eggs, separated
580ml buttermilk
2tsp vanilla extract (NOT essence)
1tsp orange flower/blossom water
50g butter, melted, plus extra for the pan

"The secret is in the mixing, or rather, lack of it: one wants a gentle, but firm, hand.

Sift the flour from a height along with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, this gets more air in, essential for light, fluffy pancakes.

Add the sugar and a pinch of salt into a bowl.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff.

Mix together the egg yolks, buttermilk and melted butter and whisk into the flour mixture until the batter is thick, smooth and creamy.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter until evenly mixed. Lumpy, fluffy bits are just dandy.

Hot pan.

Sizzling butter.

Plonk some batter in; when bubbles appear turn over.

Eat with relish.

LIFE'S TOO SHORT FOR DIET PANCAKES."

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