PANCAKE Day is fast approaching and with it the excuse to get everyone in the kitchen and see who can flip the best pancake.
For me though, pancakes aren’t just great on Shrove Tuesday. In our house, pancakes are a staple for simple suppers, brunches or as a sweet treat.
They are so versatile, I wonder why anyone would make pancakes just once a year. They’re a quick and easy meal when you’re pushed for time as you don’t need a lot of ingredients. They can make a thoroughly tasty, cheap and satisfying dinner for the whole family. What’s more, pancakes can be so much fun to make and everyone can get involved.
Pancakes are our secret for cheering the kids up. They can’t help but have fun making them and the reward at the end is always worth it. They can help with the mixture, adding the ingredients or fillings, and as they get a little older, you can challenge them to try a flip. It’s a great way to start teaching them some real basics of cooking.
We often have pancakes for dinner. You can use up odds and ends in the fridge or cupboards by adding them to your pancakes. The right ingredients can form a pretty healthy meal and the mixture keeps really well in the fridge. Use it up over a couple of nights to make it even more economical. Get some additional fibre in the meal by adding buckwheat or wholemeal flour – the kids will never notice.
Everything from salmon, vegetables or cheese work well in savoury pancakes, while sweeter versions can be a good way to use up seasonal fruits and berries. We often use this as a way of getting our boys to eat all their dinner with the promise of sweet pancakes with their favourite toppings the following evening. If your kids are anything like mine, it’ll work every time.
Pancakes can also make a pretty sophisticated dinner, snack or even brunch for grown-ups. Pancakes, galettes, crêpes, blinis – they all use the same foundation recipe and can be elegant and delicious. The trick is to think carefully about what you add to them, and about how you’re presenting them.
We enjoy making pancakes for Sunday brunch when we have a day off. We always make an effort to sit down and eat together in the morning, and having everyone making their own pancakes or choosing their own ingredients is ideal. I created this wonderful pancake twist on a traditional British breakfast dish, which is really fun to make.
No matter what ingredients you add, which occasion you enjoy them on, or what time of day you eat them, the essence of a good pancake is all in the foundation recipe – and, of course, your flipping technique. Get over the fear factor when flipping, or turning, the pancakes. My recommendation is always resign yourself to knowing that the first one usually never works, so just try to relax and have fun with it.
The real secret to great, delicious pancakes is in finding a good-quality frying pan, otherwise they will never work. You need one that is smooth with an unscratched surface. The trick is to get the pancake mix nice and thin in the pan, and make sure you use a spatula to help you turn it. If you can start to enjoy pancakes throughout the year, and not just for Pancake Day, you’ll have perfected them in no time.
knob of butter
4 sautéed button mushrooms
1 slice Parma ham
handful baby spinach
1 tsp sliced spring onion
2 slices fresh chilli
2 cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters
cracked black pepper
1 tsp chives
Fry the butter in a non-stick frying pan before adding the mushrooms.
Cook over a high heat until the mushrooms are golden brown, then set aside.
Wipe the pan clean and fry your egg to your own taste.
Place your freshly made pancake (as per the basic recipe) and put it on a large serving plate.
Place the slice of Parma ham on the pancake, then add the fried egg.
Add a handful of baby spinach leaves on top of the pancake, then sprinkle on the spring onions and chopped chillies.
Spoon the hot sautéed button mushrooms on top, then add the sliced cherry tomatoes.
Add cracked black pepper and chives to serve.
Makes around eight pancakes
150g wholemeal or plain flour
30g melted butter
Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the milk and egg, then add the melted butter and whisk all the ingredients together. Set aside and leave the mix to rest for 15 minutes.
Take a good-quality, non-stick frying pan. Brush it with oil over a medium heat – the pan should be hot enough that the batter sizzles when it hits the surface.
Pour a ladleful of your pancake mix in slowly, ensuring you achieve a thin, smooth layer across the pan, and swirl the mix so you coat the whole of the bottom with the batter.
When it begins to set, loosen the edges with your spatula, then when it begins to colour on the bottom, flip it over with the spatula and cook for another 30 seconds.
If you’re brave enough, you can flip the pancake in the pan but make sure you hold the handle tightly with both hands and just give it a small flip up and slightly towards you.
Pancakes are best enjoyed piping hot, but if you are cooking for a crowd, you can keep them warm and separated by layering them between sheets of kitchen roll.
Smoked Salmon Pancakes
2 slices smoked salmon
1 tsp capers
2 slices red onion
2 radishes, sliced
1 tbsp crème fraîche
cracked black pepper
3 sprigs dill
Follow the basic pancake recipe and when your pancake is ready, lay it out flat on a plate. You can build up your ingredients so it forms a sort of open sandwich. Add the smoked salmon, capers, red onion and radishes then spoon on the crème fraîche.
Finish with cracked black pepper and sprigs of dill.