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Flipping fantastic: Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday


The custom of eating pancakes at Shrove Tuesday is popular in many parts of the world

The custom of eating pancakes at Shrove Tuesday is popular in many parts of the world

The custom of eating pancakes at Shrove Tuesday is popular in many parts of the world

Shrove Tuesday has come around once again – and that means that it’s time for pancakes.

Pancakes were historically made at this time of year in order to use up the last rich foods before Lent, so the fact that they weren’t the healthiest of options didn’t matter.

How you eat them depends on where you are in the world. The Italians call their pancakes “crespelli” (see the recipe below), the Vietnamese have a delicious savoury version, “banh xeo”, the French crêpe is a popular national dessert, Americans tend to eat them for breakfast, and in the UK we’re not terribly adventurous and just sprinkle lemon and sugar on them and give them to the kids. But pancakes are very simple to knock up, economical, filling and tasty, especially if you think a little more imaginatively when it comes to the fillings.

Basic pancake batter can be transformed into all sorts of sweet and savoury delights, by omitting the sugar, adding chopped herbs and so on. Savoury pancake fillings can vary from retro ones like simple chicken and ham in a creamy cheese sauce, to the completely veggie, with pancakes filled with creamed wild mushrooms and herbs.

Basic pancake batter

Makes 8-10 pancakes

250ml milk

120g flour

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1 large egg

1tsp caster sugar

Pinch of salt

Vegetable oil for frying

Whisk all 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 a little 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, re-heat in the oven for a minute or so.

Batter keeps in the fridge for up to two days; just re-whisk it before using.

Crêpe soufflé with blood oranges

Serves 4

This is a classic French dessert, and although it’s not actually a soufflé, the filling does rise a little, transforming a simple pancake into a luxurious and interesting pudding. You can make this with any fruit really and use different flavourings, alcohol or fruit in the filling.

1 quantity of the basic pancake batter

4 blood oranges

1tbsp Cointreau

2tbsp caster sugar

1tsp cornflour

1 egg white

For the custard

1/3 of a vanilla pod

200ml single cream

4 egg yolks

50g caster sugar

1tsp cornflour

First make the custard: split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds with a point of a knife. Put the cream, vanilla pod and seeds into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. In a bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together. Remove the vanilla pod from the cream and pour on to the egg mixture and mix it well with a whisk.

Return to the pan and cook gently over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens (but don’t let it boil). Remove the custard from the heat and give it a final mix with a whisk and transfer to a clean bowl. Meanwhile, finely grate the rind of two of the oranges and stir half into the custard with the Cointreau and add the rest to the pancake batter. Cover the surface of the custard with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool.

Peel three of the oranges by cutting the top and bottom off with a small serrated knife then carefully cutting away the skin and pith to reveal the flesh. Cut them into segments over a small saucepan to catch any juice and squeeze out the remaining bits once segmented. Place the segments into a small bowl. Squeeze the last orange into the saucepan. Add the sugar to the pan and bring to a simmer. Dilute the cornflour in a little water and stir into the juice and continue simmering for a minute until the sauce thickens, then leave to cool a little and pour over the orange segments.

Make 8 pancakes with the batter as described above. Clean a mixing bowl and whisk with boiling water to remove any traces of fat then whisk the egg white until stiff and carefully fold into the custard.

Place a spoonful of the custard mix just off the centre of each pancake, then fold in half and half again, into a triangle, and place on to a baking tray. Cook in the oven for about 10-12 minutes; they should rise a little but don’t worry if not. Transfer on to warmed plates and spoon the orange sauce over.

Scampi crêpes

Serves 4

These make a great old-fashioned starter for a dinner party; if you can’t get large, plump langoustines or scampi in their shells, then you could settle for large raw prawns in the shell as you need to use the shells to make the sauce.

You could also use a mixture of seafood such as mussels and scallops, and even add a little firm white fish.

Half a quantity of pancake batter, omitting the sugar and adding a good pinch of salt

20 large scampi (langoustine or Dublin Bay prawns) in the shell

2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

5 black peppercorns

10 fennel seeds

A couple of good knobs of butter

1tsp flour

1tsp tomato purée

A good pinch of saffron

100ml white wine

200ml fish stock

350ml double cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the scampi for 1 minute, then drain in a colander and refresh in cold water. Carefully remove the heads and peel the tails, leaving the meat as intact as possible. Crush the shells a little and place the tails in the fridge until required.

Melt a knob of the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently fry the shells with the shallots, garlic, peppercorns and fennel seeds for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the flour, tomato purée and saffron, stir well then gradually add the white wine and fish stock. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes then add the cream, season and continue to simmer very gently for another 10 minutes. Blend about one-fifth of the shells with some of the liquid in a blender until smooth then return to the pan and simmer for a few more minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl.

Melt the other knob of butter in a wide pan or frying pan, season the scampi and fry on a low heat for a minute, then add the sauce and simmer for another minute. The sauce should be quite thick and of a coating consistency; if not, remove the scampi with a slotted spoon and simmer the sauce for a little longer. Cook the pancakes as above. To serve, lay the crêpes on to warmed plates and spoon the scampi and the sauce into the centre and fold the crêpes over.

Crespelli with braised hare

Serves 4

1 quantity of the pancake mixture, without the sugar but using salt instead (or use half if serving only as a starter)

The legs from 1 hare coarsely minced or finely chopped

1 onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1tbsp vegetable or corn oil

1tsp chopped thyme leaves

A couple of knobs of butter

1tbsp flour

tbsp tomato purée

A glass of red wine

500ml beef stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

250ml double cream

2tbsp freshly grated parmesan

1tbsp chopped parsley

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan then season the hare and fry on a high heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring every so often to break up the meat until it is lightly coloured. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the onion, garlic and thyme for 2-3 minutes, then add the hare, flour and tomato purée and stir well for a minute or so. Slowly add the wine and stock, season, bring to the boil and simmer very gently for an hour, stirring every so often. The sauce should be quite thick and just coating the meat, if not, continue simmering until it’s thickened up then re-season if necessary.

Pre-heat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4.

Bring the double cream to the boil and simmer until it has reduced by about two-thirds and thickened. Whisk in the parmesan, season to taste and add the parsley. Meanwhile, make the pancakes as above; you can do one for a small starter or two for a main course.

To serve, spoon some of the hare mixture down the middle of the pancakes, roll them up and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Re-heat for about 10-15 minutes, then transfer to a warmed serving dish and spoon the hot sauce over.

Potato pancakes with scrambled eggs and smoked haddock

Serves 4

For the pancakes

1 small baking potato, peeled, boiled and mashed

1 small egg

25g plain flour

25g potato flour (optional, replace with ordinary flour if unavailable)

1tsp baking powder

50-100ml milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Vegetable oil for frying

To serve

6 medium free-range eggs, beaten

A couple of good knobs of butter

1tbsp double cream

150-200g natural smoked haddock

Cool the mashed potato then mix, in a bowl with the egg, both the flours and the baking powder, then whisk in enough milk to form a smooth but thick batter, add the nutmeg, then season. Poach the haddock in a pan just covered with water for 3-4 minutes, then drain and leave to cool. Remove the skin and any bones and flake into fairly large pieces.

Now make the pancakes. Rub a little oil in a non-stick or pancake pan, heat gently and pour a quarter of the mixture into the pan. Don’t let it spread too much; the pancakes need to be fairly thick. Turn the pancake over with a spatula after a couple of minutes or when lightly coloured. Then continue with the rest of the mixture, making four pancakes. Keep warm. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the eggs and cream, season and cook the eggs on a low heat, stirring constantly until lightly scrambled. Remove from the heat, fold in the cooked haddock; spoon the mixture on to the pancakes and serve immediately.

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