Pancake filling choices are a deeply personal thing. One that encompasses tastes and traditions, and can spark contretemps, deep-seated conflicts or lifelong bonds.
In our household, it is compulsory to indulge in both savoury and sweet pancakes, and in that order, with no doubling back. My husband’s family insist on one with cheese and marmite, followed by one with jam, with my father-in-law taking it one step further, placing both fillings on one pancake, each side eaten in turn, like a sort of Bedfordshire Clanger.
I tend to go for the oldies but goodies, if only because, like the ingredients for pancakes, they are store-cupboard staples: lemon and sugar or Nutella. But if the classics aren’t up your street, here are some ideas to jazz up your pancakes:
– Go retro with a crèpe suzette: Douse your pancakes with a boozy, bittersweet orange caramel. Heat three tbsp of caster sugar in a pan until it melts and turns amber. Remove from the heat and carefully add (it might hiss and spit) 250ml orange juice. Stir 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp Grand Marnier and zest from the orange through the orange caramel. Return to a gentle heat and stir in 50g butter, cooking the sauce until it reduces a little. Pour over hot pancakes.
– Be indulgent with banoffee: spoon a blob of salted caramel into the middle of each pancake, top with sliced bananas and a little whipped cream.
– Get fruity with hot, spiced fruit: Try apples, peeled and stewed with a little ground cinnamon, or plums roasted with light brown sugar and some star anise. Or – as the season demands – a couple of sticks of rhubarb heated with a tablespoon of sugar and just a little vanilla, until soft.
– Try savoury: Mix half a teaspoon of creamed horseradish with a tablespoon of crème fraiche, spread on the pancake, and top with twists of smoked salmon, and horseradish, smoked salmon and pieces of pickled or roasted beetroot. This one might sound odd, but think of it as an oversized blini.
– Go veggie: Slice an onion into wedges and cook in a little oil until soft, and starting to caramelise. Set to one side, turn the heat up, and cook sliced mushrooms until they have given up all their water, dried and started to take on colour. Add the onions back into the frying pan, along with a splash of madeira or brandy, cook for two more minutes, and tumble onto the centre of the pancake, with all their juices.
For my money, no matter what the filling, the key is to serve them hot hot hot. A flabby, slightly-warm pancake is a terrible disappointing thing. You can try to keep them warm once cooked, on a plate in a low oven, but the best way I think to adequately achieve crisp hot pancakes, is to gather your diners near to you as you cook and flip, and instruct them to eat as served, returning for further offerings as and when they are cooked, and embracing the relay nature of the sport.
For best results, make the batter the night or morning before you intend to cook it. The batter will improve as it sits (this is also true of waffle and Yorkshire pudding batter, for what it’s worth). Don’t worry if you don’t have time for this: even 30 minutes’ resting will make a difference, but this recipe will still produce delightful pancakes without any rest at all. And for savoury pancakes, consider subbing half or even all of the plain flour with buckwheat flour, for a dark nutty pancake, like the Breton galette.
If fluffy, puffy American or Scotch pancakes are more your thing, you can find our recipe here.
Makes: 6-8 pancakes
Takes: 5 minutes, plus overnight rest
Bakes: 2 minutes per pancake
110g plain flour
40g salted butter, plus extra for the pan
1. Melt the butter in a small pan and set to one side while you make the batter.
2. Sift the flour into a bowl, and add the eggs and milk. Whisk gently but thoroughly, until the batter has the texture of single cream. Pour the slightly cooled butter into the batter and stir through with the whisk. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but ideally overnight.
3. Heat a frying pan over a high flame until really quite hot, and then turn down the hob to a medium heat. Drop a small piece of butter into the pan, and swoosh it round with a piece of kitchen roll, being careful not to burn yourself. Take a ladleful of the pancake mixture, and pour it into the pan, swirling the pan so that the batter forms an even layer, reaching all the way to the edge of the pan.
4. As the edges start to crisp and life, reach underneath them with a spatula, which will help the pancakes loosen. When the pancakes can move freely on the pan, turn it over carefully with a wide spatula or, if you’re brave and deft, flip it. The pancake should be golden and mottled on the flipped side. Cook until the second side will move freely and then serve and eat straight away.