Shrove Tuesday (which falls on February 13 this year) is the day Christians traditionally feast on pancakes, from fluffy fat stacks to lace-thin crepe wraps. Sure, start with a squeeze of lemon and sugar, or syrup and crisp bacon, but then get tempted by some fresh variations.
Classic thick pancakes
These are the sort mum used to make on the old Sunbeam electric frying pan and call pikelets. Today we'd think of them as brazenly fat American-style breakfast pancakes. They're very easy to make, even if you're feeling bleary-eyed and half asleep when you wake up.
450g plain flour
2½ tsp baking powder
100g sugar, any sort
about 300ml milk, any sort
butter or oil for frying
1. Put the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl and toss it together with a spoon. Next break in the eggs, adding enough milk and whisking like a demon to make a batter that's thick but drizzles gently from the back of a spoon.
2. Tip the batter into a jug as this makes it easier to pour. Set the mixture aside for 30 minutes to give the baking powder time to work very slightly, which will help give a lighter texture.
3. Heat the frying pan, drop a teaspoonful of butter into it and swirl it around until it's sizzling. The first pancakes can be considered testers, telling you whether the pan needs to be hotter, cooler or if there are spots that scorch easily.
4. Tip a couple of tablespoonfuls of batter into the pan and leave undisturbed until bubbles appear on the surface, and the edge of the pancake just begins to set slightly. Then confidently flip the pancake over and cook the other side until the centre of the pancake feels slightly firm when pressed. Scoop it out of the pan onto a clean tea towel and cover while you cook the rest.
Toasted almond and fresh pear pancakes
Put 200g of almonds onto a baking tray and cook at 150C fan for about 15 minutes, until tan in colour, then leave to cool. Cook the pancake batter but this time, slice some ripe pear into small, thin slices and drop this onto the top of the pancake while it's cooking, then sprinkle with almonds. Flip carefully, cook the other side, then they're ready to serve with sour cream and honey.
Classic thin pancakes
These pancakes have a bigger ratio of eggs to milk than other recipes, and this makes them much easier to pour thinly and flip. I like to dress these up with a handful of chopped herbs and a teaspoon of chilli flakes to make a savoury brekkie much more perky.
½ tsp salt
300ml milk, any sort
150g plain flour
butter or oil for frying
1. Whisk the eggs, salt and milk until smooth then whisk in the flour. Don't worry if it's a bit lumpy. Just chill it for 30 minutes (or up to eight hours in the fridge) then whisk again.
2. Make the pancakes by melting a teaspoon of butter in a frying pan until sizzling hot. Ladle in enough batter to coat the base of the pan thinly, swirling off the heat to spread the mixture as evenly and thinly as possible. Cook until the mixture starts to colour underneath, then flip the pancake to cook the other side. Remove from the pan to a plate while you cook the remainder, stacking as you go.
Makes about 8
Baked smoked salmon breakfast crespelle
Perfect for an easy Pancake Day breakfast or a lazy evening meal as you can make and fill the crepes a few days ahead, keep them in the fridge and bake them for 30 minutes to serve. Excellent served with grilled tomatoes, watercress and horseradish sauce.
8 thin pancakes
400g cooked, drained and chopped spinach (about 600g frozen, heated and drained)
50g dry breadcrumbs
600g sliced smoked salmon (or 16 slices)
butter for the dish
freshly ground black pepper, grilled tomatoes, watercress and horseradish sauce to serve
1. To assemble the pancakes, mix together the spinach, ricotta and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Place one pancake on the work surface, lay two slices of smoked salmon on it then spoon an eighth of the mixture across the salmon like a sausage. Roll the pancakes up then repeat with the remaining pancakes, salmon and filling. At this point they can be stored in the fridge, covered, for a few days.
2. To serve, heat the oven to 180C fan, get a baking dish and rub the inside with butter and have some melted butter ready. Chop each pancake into three or four and stand them on end in the dish. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until crisp and golden on top and piping hot. Serve with freshly ground black pepper, grilled tomatoes, watercress and horseradish sauce.
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