You should know batter
Anna Jones’s pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and beyond
Like bottomless coffee and waitresses with name badges, pancakes are thoroughly American territory to me. Growing up in California, we’d visit diners on Saturdays and there was only ever one thing on my mind: a short stack with a pat of whipped butter and a Pyrex jug of maple syrup.
I’ve been excited about pancakes ever since. Buckwheat crepes filled with melting swiss cheese on Alpine ski holidays; classy, light-as-a- cloud ricotta hotcakes for a London breakfast; caramelised banana and lime-spiked pancakes overlooking the sea in Bali ... Everywhere I go, I find a version of the pancake.
I welcome (and eat) pancakes in all their forms on Shrove Tuesday. It isn’t about getting too fancy: the joy of a pancake is that it is made quickly. This week, I offer two versions.
The first, a just-sweet, fluffy American-style pancake, is a cinch: the recipe is based on a rough ratio, so you won’t even have to get your scales out. I use this on weekend mornings if I want to make a quick batch. The sweetness comes from bananas and, for kids, these are a favourite with blueberries or apple added just before the flip. Pick a topping from the sidebar on the right; mix and match.
The second, savoury number is more of a dinner: golden-edged potatoes, crispy fried capers and spoonfuls of milky ricotta to fill thin rye crepes. While they sit well next to a glass of white wine, their flavours are popular enough with all ages.
I cook my pancakes in both nonstick or steel frying pans. Either way, I add some fat – butter or a flavourless oil – then wipe the pan before cooking with a little kitchen roll: too much fat and you’ll deep-fry your pancake, too little and the batter will stick.
If you are patient, you can stack each pancake between sheets of greaseproof paper in the oven; at our house they are eaten straight from the pan while we argue who’s next.
Pancakes ... so good: make them this week, but don’t wait another year .
Go-to fluffy pancakes
I use a standard mug (300ml) to measure my flour and milk, but this recipe works on ratios, so any cup or mug will work: a little more or less egg and banana will work either way. If you like, you can make the batter the night before and store it in the fridge. A range of flours work well here: regular plain, spelt and buckwheat are all suitable. You can also use a range of milks – I most often use cow’s, almond or oat milk. Then finish with any of the topping ideas on the right.
Pancake Day isn’t about getting too fancy: the joy of a pancake is that it is made quickly
Makes about 8 pancakes
1 medium banana 1 large egg 1 mug of plain flour (about 200g) ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda 1 mug of milk (about 300ml) A pinch of salt Butter, coconut oil or groundnut oil, for frying
1 In a jug, mash the banana really well with a fork. Add the egg, flour, bicarb, milk and salt. Mix or blend really well to a smooth batter, or use a stick blender or electric hand whisk to blend in the jug. If you’ve got time, let the batter sit for an hour before you use it – the pancakes will be better for it.
2 Heat a large nonstick frying pan over a medium heat and add a little oil or butter. When the fat has melted, add around 2–3 ladlefuls of the pancake batter to the hot pan to make several pancake rounds. Once the bottom of the pancakes has set, you can add fruit on top, if you like: a few blueberries, slices of apple etc (see the previous page for some suggestions). Cook for 2–3 minutes, or until bubbles rise to the surface. Use a spatula to carefully flip the pancakes over and cook on the other side. Keep them warm while you cook the rest of the batter.
3 Serve the pancakes stacked high and covered with more of your chosen toppings.
Rye pancakes with crispy capers and potatoes
If you don’t buy rye flour often, do think about trying it here. The rest of the bag can be used to make bread and is great in brownies; in fact, any chocolate baking. I often make a double batch of these pancakes and store them in the fridge to use throughout the week as wraps.
Serves 4 (makes 8-10 pancakes)
110g rye flour 100g spelt flour A pinch of sea salt 3 eggs 500ml water, plus more if needed Olive oil
For the topping
400g new potatoes, chopped into small cubes 4 spring onions Olive oil 2 tbsp capers 1 unwaxed lemon 200g ricotta cheese 60g rocket A small bunch of parsley, leaves picked
1 To make the batter, combine the flours and salt in a bowl. Use a fork to stir in the eggs until the mixture has a raggedy appearance, then gradually whisk in the water. The batter may seem a bit thin at first, but leave it to rest for 5 minutes while you get on with the toppings and it will have thickened up nicely.
2 Add your potato cubes to a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes until just tender (they will cook a little more in the frying pan). Drain and allow to steam-dry for a minute in the colander. Finely chop the spring onions.
3 Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan and add the drained capers. Leave them to cook for 4 minutes, until crisp, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and leave to one side. Leave the pan on the heat.
4 Add the potato cubes to the frying pan. Cook on a high heat, turning every so often, for about 10 minutes, or until starting to crisp and turning golden. Add the spring onions and fry for a further 3 minutes, then grate over the zest of a lemon and add half of its juice. Turn the heat to low while you make the pancakes.
5 Warm another medium frying pan over a medium heat. Rub the pan with a touch of oil, then pour in just enough batter to thinly coat the bottom. As you pour, rotate and tip the pan so the batter covers the entire base. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the pancake is browned, then flip with a spatula to brown the second side. If you are making a few pancakes, put your oven on low, stack them on a plate as you go and keep them warm in the oven.
6 Serve filled with the potatoes, crispy capers and ricotta. Scatter over the rocket and parsley and finish with a final squeeze of lemon juice.