Pancake Day 2023 is finally here, with people across the UK set to crack out their frying pans to cook the tasty treats.
Marking the traditional starting point of the Easter period for Christians, Shrove Tuesday has become more about foodie creations than religion in recent decades. But people living on and around the British Isles have been marking the event in some form for more than 1,000 years, with pancakes having been a part of it since at least the Middle Ages.
The eve of Lent - the period when some people opt to give up indulgences for more than a month - has also become a day for unique traditions, including pancake races and mob football games. In other parts of the world, the celebration is called Mardi Gras and involves parades and lots of drinking.
Now it is finally upon us, you might well be thinking about how you’re going to make your pancakes. But part of the joy is also working out how you’re going to top them, with there being no end of ways you can make the fried delights even more delicious.
So NationalWorld has put together some ideas for how you can move beyond lemon and sugar and be more adventurous with your pancake toppings.
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1. Lemon drizzle
Yes, this is basically lemon and sugar - but it’s very different from your traditional pancake topping.
The difference comes from reaching for lemonade rather than the lemon juice. Upmarket soft drinks brand Fentimans recommends creating a sauce using its Victorian Lemonade.
It even says you can put 190ml of it into your batter mix to add zing to your pancakes - although this might be a step too far for many people. To create the topping sauce, combine 100g of icing sugar with 100ml of lemonade and gently mix it together.
2. Get fruity
If the zing of citrus is a bit too traditional for you, why not delve into the fruit aisle at your local supermarket?
Blueberries and strawberries are a conventional combination, but you can turn them into something even more exciting with the addition of blackcurrants or redcurrants and prunes that will add top and bottom flavour notes to the fruity mix. And if you want to get more of your 5 a day into your pancakes, you can substitute the flour and milk in your standard batter recipe for banana.
You’ll need one large banana for every four pancakes you make. Start by mashing the fruit into a purée, stir in two beaten eggs, a pinch of baking powder and a splash of vanilla extract. Then throw this batter into the pan and cook it like a regular pancake.
3. Get nutty
If you haven’t got that much of a sweet tooth but want to nestle into the warm fattiness of regular pancakes, a solution is to chuck some nuts across the top of your pancake.
This topping works especially well with thicker American-style pancakes accompanied with cream or moist banana pancakes. A mix of chopped pecan nuts and hazelnuts will work especially well with either option. Or, if you want to push the boat out, you could give almond flakes a go.
4. Turn it into a cake
The word ‘pancake’ already has cake in it, so why not make them into one? Cook up a batch of 10 pancakes and coat each layer with a ‘cake filling’ of your choice.
If you have a very sweet tooth and don’t mind ingesting a year’s worth of calories in the space of an hour, you could add buttercream to each layer. Or why not add Nutella before drenching the top of the ‘cake’ with melted chocolate and chocolate sprinkles or hundreds and thousands to decorate?
5. Make it savoury
Who says pancakes have to be for dessert? A lot of Asian cooking involves pancakes. For example, think about the paper-thin duck pancakes you can order from your local Chinese restaurant.
Some countries in the region - like Vietnam - make pancakes that look similar to the ones you see in the UK and Europe. But, rather than eggs, milk and wheat flour, they use coconut milk and rice flour in the batter and have fish and/or pork mince as a filling.
Known as ‘banh xeo’, the pancake’s batter requires one cup of unsweetened coconut milk, two cups of rice flour, one cup of cornflour and four cups of water. Some recipes also recommend adding puréed mung beans to the batter - although these can be hard to get hold of as they’re usually only found in Chinese supermarkets.
You’ll then want to season the batter and add in thinly sliced spring onions and a couple of teaspoons of ground turmeric. For the filling, NationalWorld recommends frying pork mince and prawns with onion, a few splashes of soy sauce and a flash of fish sauce.
They can also be made vegan fairly easily by subbing the filling for jackfruit marinated in BBQ sauce, which will recreate some of the flavour and texture of pork. Once cooked, the completed pancakes can be served with a sweet chilli dip.