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Photograph: Shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

Unique pancakes for an unquestionably unique year

15 fun twists on the traditional dish from top London chefs

By Kate Lloyd
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Pancakes have a basic rep. And it’s well deserved to be honest. They’re a beige dish – formed from very few ingredients – that’s designed to be a vessel for other flavours. A transporter rather than the main event. 
 
But maybe it’s time to give them more respect. 
 
With an extremely strange pandemic Pancake Day racing towards us, we decided to ask some of our favourite chefs for the most unusual takes on pancake recipes they could think of. Or as we’re calling them: unique pancakes for a unique year. 
 
Read on for international takes on the dish, toppings you’d never imagined would work and kooky twists that are guaranteed to upgrade your batter. Or just order some ridiculous pannies from our list of restaurants and cafés delivering pancakes to your door. 

Unique pancakes for a unique year

Put ciabatta flour in the batter

Robin Gill from The Dairy
 
‘I’m going to go quite indulgent this Pancake Tuesday. I’m making the mix with grains from our pals at Gilchesters and adding in 60 percent ciabatta mix and 40 percent rye flour. I also think we will go big on the toppings. Perhaps we’ll add some salmon and serve this with Exmoor caviar cultured cream, a squeeze of Amalfi lemon, sliced shallots and fresh dill.’ 

Do pancakes the Iranian way

Marwa Alkhalaf from Nutshell
 
‘Iranians actually have a pancake called Khagineh which is more of a sweet saffron crepe with high egg-to-flour ratio. Traditionally these are served with rose syrup ( ½ cup sugar, ½ cup water, 1 tsp rose water added at the end). Personally I prefer them with date molasses and a sprinkle of chopped walnut or pistachio.’
 
Khagineh 

Ingredients 
Two medium eggs
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
Pinch saffron infused with a tablespoon of water
 
Method
1. Whisk the eggs with the wet ingredients.

2. Fold in the dry ingredients. Rest the mix for 5 – 10 minutes.

3. Place your non-stick medium-sized pan on medium heat and brush with oil.

4. Pour half of your mix in and cover it. When the edges start to dry out flip it on the other side.

5. Repeat with the rest of the mix.
 

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Do something sweet and spicy

The team at Colette

‘We're going to be serving a classic crepe suzette to takeaway from outside our Fulham Road site over the next week, and we've put together a spicy twist on this classic. The warmth of the chilli actually works really well with the traditional boozy orange sauce.’

Crepe suzette with chilli 

Ingredients
675g full fat milk
675g plain flour
675g water
Five free range eggs
Pinch salt
100g caster sugar
50g butter
75g fresh orange juice
25g Grand Marnier
Pinch chilli flakes

Method
1. Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and make a well.
2. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk together.
3. Add the mixed eggs in to the middle of the flour, and add 100g of milk.
4. Start whisking from the centre, gradually drawing the flour into the eggs and milk.
5. Once the flour is incorporated, beat until you have a smooth paste.
6. Slowly add the remaining milk, until you have a smooth crepe batter.
7. Heat your frying pan over a moderate heat, and wipe with oiled kitchen paper.
8. Ladle some of the crepe mix into the pan, tilting the pan so the mixture can move around. This creates a thin even layer. Quickly pour any excess, batter back into the mixing bowl, and return the pan to the heat.
9. Leave to cook undisturbed for 30 seconds – you are looking for a golden-brown colour – after 30 seconds the crepe should be ready to turn.
10. To flip the crepe, hold the pan handle and ease a palate knife under the pancake, then quickly flip it over. Make sure the crepe is lying flat in the pan, without any folds, then cook for a further 30 secs, when the crepe is cooked turn them out onto a plate.
11. Continue the process, until all the crepe batter has been used up.
12. Make the sauce. Place the sugar into a saucepan, then place the pan over a low heat. You are looking to make a light golden-brown caramel.
13. Once the sugar has reached a light golden caramel, add the orange juice and Grand Marnier. Reduce this down by 25%, then whisk in your butter. Finally add the chilli flakes to taste.
14. To serve take your crepes and place them on a plate and pour the hot sauce over.

Glug in some port

Fred Bolin from Dartmouth Arms
 
‘Here is a wonderfully indulgent white port and pancakes recipe. The port provides the perfect balance with the citrus pancakes. Make the batter 24 hours in advance for perfect pancakes.’ 
 
White port and citrus pancakes 
 
Ingredients
Two eggs
100g plain flour

200ml milk
Pinch salt
One orange
One pink grapefruit
100g caster sugar
50ml Graham’s Blend No.5 port
100g butter

Method
1. Mix eggs and flour, add milk and salt and whisk into a smooth batter.

2. Zest the orange, add zest to the batter.

3. Take the segments out of the orange and segment the pink grapefruit, saving the juices.

4. Fry the pancakes in 80g of the butter and put them to side.
5. Add Graham’s Blend No.5 port, sugar and citrus juice to the pancake pan, bring to boil and reduce a little.

6. Take the pan off the heat, add the rest of the butter bit by bit to emulsify.

7. Add the citrus segments last. It should be a thick, syrupy sauce.

8. Plate up the pancakes, serve with the sauce on top.

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Make bánh xèo

Thao Ta from Mien Tay

‘Vietnamese savoury pancake crepes get their name from the sound of the sizzling hot pan. Bánh xèo literally means “sizzling cake”. They are eaten all over Vietnam but the further south you go the bigger they get. In the South West region of Mien Tay we like them as big as our biggest pan! Our batter is similar to the typical British pancake but we prefer to use rice flour, a touch of turmeric for colour and swap plain milk for coconut milk for an aromatic flavour.  The biggest difference is how to serve and eat a bánh xèo; to serve we fill with ingredients such as chicken, tofu, pork and beansprouts and fold them in half. To eat tear off a piece, wrap in lettuce with some herbs then dip in nước chấm and eat. It’s crispy, soft, savoury, sweet, aromatic, fresh and spicy all at once. That magic taste that is so unique to Vietnamese food."
 
Bánh Xèo
 
Ingredients
140g rice flour
Tablespoon of cornflower
Pinch salt
Pinch turmeric
325ml water
120ml coconut milk
Spring onions 
Toppings
 
Method
1. Combine dry ingredients and then slowly add in liquid until smooth. This can be made a few days in advance or leave for around 30 minutes.
2. Make a dipping sauce by combining the juice of two fresh limes, three tablespoons of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sugar, a clove of minced garlic and minced chilli to taste. 
3. Prepare your filling by slicing and cooking whatever your preference; pork, chicken, beansprouts, prawns even bits of leftovers, whatever you like!
4. When you are ready to cook add some spring onions in your batter. Heat oil in a large pan, we use a wok, go as big as you like! Swirl the batter around, listen to the sizzle, and let it cook slightly.
5. When the pancake is cooked and crispy on the bottom add your filling, slide a spatula underneath and fold it in half over the top of your filling. 
6. You can make individual ones or ones to share, place on a plate with some lettuce leaves, nuoc cham and lots of fresh herbs (ideally Asian, but coriander, mint and basil are all okay). To eat: lay out the lettuce, add some bánh xèo, add some herbs, roll up and dip in the sauce. 

Think about your #aesthetic

Francesca Strange from The Proof

‘For my kids, the aesthetic is just as important as the taste. You can colour your batter with gel food colouring or natural fruit colourings and create a rainbow stack of pancakes that gives everyone a bit of visual joy as well as treating your tastebuds. For me? I prefer a bit more decadence and a few extra calories. I flavour the batter with vanilla extract and then top with creme chantilly and a warm dark chocolate sauce.’

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Make them ball-shaped

Oli Marlow from Aulis

‘A welcome change to the typical pancake that I have recently come across Is called a ‘takoyaki’. It is a Japanese dish made from a basic pancake recipe that’s cooked in a special moulded pan that gives you ball shapes. They’re traditionally savoury but delicious when sweet. Rich chocolate ganache or sweet jams are a personal favourite filling.’ 

Opt for something fishy

Rick Toogood from Prawn on the Lawn

You could do an easy crab/lobster pancake thermidor: thermidor sauce poured over four or five rolled pancakes (stuffed with a mix of crab/lobster meat, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs), topped with grated gouda and baked in the oven oven for 15 minutes. Or maybe lace your batter with fresh coriander, turmeric and mustard powder and use it to make chunky pancakes, served open with smoked haddock, a poached egg and a light curry sauce made with creme fraiche, curry powder and lemon zest. Always finish with coriander.’  

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Make farinata or rakott palascinta

Jacob Kenedy from Bocca di Lupo
 
‘A worker’s lunch in Liguria is often humble farinata – a deliciously earthy, starchy and slightly greasy, crispy-chewy chickpea pancake. It’s the same as Provencal socca – I have no idea how the names diverged so much when the cuisines in these neighbouring regions stayed tight. Anyway, to make it, mix chickpea flour and water to make a batter (100g chickpea aka gram flour to every 300ml water), along with a slug of oil (30ml) and add a sprig of rosemary, finely chopped. Heat a frying pan good and hot, add a little oil to the pan, then pour in the batter to make a layer maybe 3-5mm thick. Put the pan in a hot oven and bake for 15 minutes, until browned on top and crispy below: it is delicious served hot or warmed, especially with sliced salame or prosciutto.

‘Want to do something more spectacular? Agnes, my gran used to, on special occasions, make pancake cake: Rakott Palascinta. Make many, many crepes (I reckon she’d use perhaps 30) and in a cake tin layer them with alternating layers of finely ground walnuts mixed with sugar, jam (apricot or raspberry), and a ganache of dark chocolate melted with either cream or water (I have to say I prefer a water ganache). I believe the cake is then normally baked to help it set, though I don’t recall Agnes doing this. Coat the cake with more chocolate ganache before serving.’ 
 
Bocca di Lupo At Home makes monthly tours of each region, and will be bringing Ligurian cuisines to homes for the month of May. 

Add cardamom and fennel

Dayashankar Sharma from Heritage

‘My favourite way to eat pancakes is rolled up like an Indian Chilla. I soak sweet jaggery in water and then add it, plus cardamom and fennel, to the batter to create a delicate, aromatic pancake batter. It is perfect topped with dates, figs and honey for a naturally sweet touch.’

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Be inspired by mochi

Masaki Sugisaki from Dinings SW3
 
‘How about making pancakes with rice flour? It has a unique mochi-like texture and is gluten-free! I like to serve them with matcha ice cream and some berries.’ 
 
Gluten-free mochi pancake

Ingredients
45g brown sugar

Two eggs
200ml whole milk
12g vegetable oil
200g Japanese rice flour

4-5g baking powder
 
Method
1. In a bowl, mix sugar and egg and mix well by using a whisk. 

2. Once well combined, add milk and oil and stir well. 

3. Add rice flour and baking powder and stir well. 

4. Cover with cling film and rest in fridge for 20min.

5. On a flat work surface, place a few layers of kitchen paper and drizzle some water on top (this will be used to control the temperature of a non-stick pan).

6. Apply a very thin layer of vegetable oil or butter on to non-stick pan and heat up on medium heat. 

7. Once you start to see smoke, place the bottom of pan on dumped kitchen paper for 5 seconds to drop down the temperature. 

8. Put the pan back on low heat, pour in the pancake mix and put the lid on (this will make the pancake perfectly moist).

9. After a few minutes, turn them and cook for a further 2-3 mins with the lid on. 


Make jian bing

Z He from Pleasant Lady
 
‘Try making jian bing – thin crispy pancakes, covered in a mixture of egg, fermented bean paste, chilli oil, herbs and protein. At Pleasant Lady our batter is made with 10 different types of grain, the most prominent one being the mung bean flour which gives the pancake a light crunch and a nutty flavour. But the real (not so) secret that makes Pleasant Lady’s jian bing so addictive is using fermented bean sauce - it gives this unstoppable umami!"

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Add hazelnut butter to the batter

Dario Avenca from Le Deli Robuchon
 
Le Deli Robuchon's Crêpe Recipe
 
Ingredients
1 litre whole milk
500g flour T55
10g salt
Nine eggs
250g caster sugar
One vanilla pod
125g hazelnut butter
60g vegetable oil
300g water/milk
 
Method

1. To start, grate the vanilla pod into the milk. Gently cook the butter until it gets a light brown colour and begin to strain it.
2. Heat the milk until lukewarm and incorporate hazelnut butter.
3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, eggs, sugar, salt and oil. Once mixed, slowly pour in the heated milk and hazelnut butter, and keep stirring until you get a smooth mixture. Add water to create your perfect consistency. Rest your mixture for a minimum of one hour before use.
4. Once rested, cook in a frying pan. Once cooked, add your favourite toppings.

Give thosai a go

Dom Fernando from Paradise Soho
 
‘Thosai is Sri-Lanka’s version of a savoury pancake and is influenced by the staple dosai found in South India. We eat it for breakfast traditionally but they can be found throughout the day in roadside stalls/cafés throughout the island. Although cooking time is pretty short, the batter does require planning for soaking, grinding and fermenting. We’re working on a fresh turmeric thosai pancake for Paradise – combining husked black gram (urid dahl), fenugreek seeds, fresh turmeric and a little salt and ghee. After the batter has been fermented for 8-10 hours, we’ll fry the thosai in a frying pan and eat with our mint, coriander and coconut chutney.’ 

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Top with lunu miris

Aushi and Eroshan Meewella from Kolamba

Nothing beats lunu miris – essentially onion muddled with chilli – as an accompaniment. Dazzling red and fiery, we have it with our hoppers for breakfast or evening meals.’ 

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