You don’t need to be a Christian to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day or Mardi Gras. Whether or not you follow the religious inspiration of using up food before the restrictions of Lent, or just love a huge plate of fluffy pancakes it is one of the best-loved – and simplest to celebrate – traditions in the year.
For some countries Mardi Gras is carnival time. Across the USA, as well as parts of Southern and Central America and the Caribbean, people take to the streets in celebration. Belgium has its traditional Carvinal of Binche and there are famous parades in Nice, Prague, Venice, the Netherlands, and Sydney. It’s a truly international day of feasting, partying and preparing for the forthcoming time of more mindful consumption.
Pancakes are not just delicious, they are hugely versatile. So we thought we would find some recipes for you, whatever time of day you like to eat yours. We’ve got the classic towering pile of light, fluffy, syrup-drenched buttermilk pancakes as well as savoury and more unusual versions. And then there’s the fun of tossing your pancakes into the air and trying to catch them back in your pan, the moment of held breaths around the kitchen as they flip and plop back down. Remember, the first one is always rubbish, so scoff that down quickly at the stove, and then get on with the rest. Cook’s prerogative.
These are the ultimate Mardi Gras breakfast treat. If you prepare the batter the night before all you need to do in the morning is fry and flip, making this a great work/school day way to celebrate Pancake Day.
This recipe makes 8 pancakes so adjust the quantities according to how many hungry mouths you are feeding. Avoid over-mixing the batter as this can make for tough pancakes. When what you are aiming for are meltingly soft, fluffy little pancakes. Top with fresh fruit, yoghurt, maple syrup, honey, nuts, creme fraiche or chocolate sauce.
1 1/2 cups (195 g) all-purpose/ plain flour
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (295 ml) milk, (dairy or non-dairy)
1 large egg
4 tbs butter, melted, plus more for the pan
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix the dry ingredients together first, combining the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Gently heat the milk and whisk with the egg, melted butter and vanilla extract in a jug. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the contents of the jug, mixing lightly with a fork to ensure all the flour has been stirred in. Brush a non-stick frying pan or skillet with melted butter and heat over a medium heat. Drop a ladleful (or use a 3/4 cup) of the batter into the pan and shape into a small pancake. Cook for a minute or two, until you see bubbles appearing on the top. If you want to flip, shake the pan to make sure the pancake is loose (if not, use a wooden spatula to gently loosen) and then flip into the air with a bold, sharp movement. Or just turn it over if this is too stressful. Once the other side is golden brown, remove from the heat and keep warm in a low oven while you make the rest of the batch.
For a more substantial meal involving pancakes, this recipe makes 6-8 basic pancakes which are then stuffed with a scrumptious cheesy filling to be devoured for lunch or dinner.
For the pancakes
30g butter, melted and cooled
100g all-purpose flour
1 level tbsp caster sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
For the filling (enough for four pancakes)
1 kg onions
3 tbsp oil
250ml double cream
200g spinach leaves
180g Emmental or similar cheese, grated
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl or jug, then stir in the sugar. Pour in the cooled melted butter. Beat together the egg, yolk and milk and then pour into a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Whisk lightly and leave to stand for half an hour, or overnight if making in advance. Heat a non-stick frying pan and brush with melted butter. Spoon or pour in enough batter to lightly cover the pan, and swirl the pan to ensure the batter reaches the edges. Cook for one minute. Loosen with a palate knife or wooden spatula and then flip to cook the other side.
Roughly slice the onions and fry gently in the melted butter until soft and golden (around 20 minutes). Wash the spinach and discard any long stems, then wilt quickly in a pan of boiling water. Drain and refresh with cold water, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add to the onions, along with the cream, mustard and some black pepper. Stir in the grated cheese and a pinch of nutmeg. Season then remove from the heat. Divide between the pancakes and cover them almost to the edge. Fold the pancakes into four, then place in a baking dish and drizzle with a bit more cream and butter, before topping with the Parmesan. Bake for around 30 minutes at 180C/ gas mark 4.
With just three ingredients, these vegan pancakes from the lovely folk at Sweet Simple Vegan are also gluten free. Layer with their Maple Berry syrup or different fruits, or try adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter. You could also top with coconut flakes or nuts.
3 cups gluten-free rolled oats or oat flour
2 cup almond milk
2 super-ripe bananas
Blend the oats until they form a fine flour. Mash the bananas into the milk and then add to the flour, stirring to produce a silky batter. Heat a non-stick pan and brush with melted coconut oil if needed, then pour in a 2/3 cup portion of batter. Cook until bubbles form and then turn to cook the other side. Keep the pancake warm whilst you make the rest of the batch.
These are an indulgent, rich way to jazz up the humble pancake. This recipe makes 10 pancakes and is simple and quick to make.
1 cup milk
2 tbs butter or margarine (melted)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbs icing sugar
Mix the butter, egg and milk until well combined. In another bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together, then make a well in the centre. Pour the milk mixture into the well and stir gently. Lumps are fine – make sure you don’t over-mix. Heat a non-stick pan and brush with melted butter, then drop 1/4 cup of the batter in, swirling to ensure it reaches the edges. After 1-2 minutes, flip and cook on the reverse. Serve with melted chocolate and raspberries, or toasted chopped hazelnuts and cream.
These are the traditional French pancakes, thinner and more textured than their fluffy cousins. This crepe recipe is quick and easy, and makes 6 crepes. Serve simply with sugar and lemon, or any other topping that takes your fancy. You can spread with fillings then fold the crepe to create layers of deliciousness. These are amazing covered with hazelnut-chocolate spread.
30g unsalted butter melted (plus more for frying)
150g all-purpose flour
325 ml milk
1 large egg
Melt and cool the butter until still warm, but not hot. In a large jug whisk the flour, egg and milk gently until combined. Pour in the melted butter. If you are making the batter in advance, leave out the butter until you are ready to cook the crepes. Heat and lightly butter a crepe pan or non-stick frying pan, then ladle in 2-3 spoonfuls of batter. Immediately swirl the pan so the batter runs to the edges, filling the pan. Cook over a medium heat for just a minute before turning or flipping to cook the other side. Keep warm, or make the whole batch ahead and reheat in a microwave.
What are your favourite toppings? Let us know in the comments below.