The joy of pancakes: 10 top chefs on their favourite recipes – from apple crepes to duck dosa

Chocolate pancakes with chocolate sauce, a favourite of Ella Mills.
Chocolate pancakes with chocolate sauce, a favourite of Ella Mills. Photograph: Tetiana Shumbasova/Alamy
Chocolate pancakes with chocolate sauce, a favourite of Ella Mills. Photograph: Tetiana Shumbasova/Alamy

Pancake day is upon us, but don’t feel restricted to sugar and lemon juice. Celebrated chefs, including Heston Blumenthal and Ravinder Bhogal, share their suggestions

Leah Harper

Last modified on Mon 15 Feb 2021 14.20 EST

There’s no better way to start the day than pancakes – and tomorrow they are practically compulsory. If you’re an old hand looking for new ideas, you’ll find sweet and savoury suggestions below from everyone from Heston Blumenthal to Ella Mills. But before we talk toppings and infusions, here’s how to make the classic Shrove Tuesday treat.

Perfect pancakes

Felicity Cloake, author of Completely Perfect: 12o Essential Recipes for Every Cook

To make about eight pancakes, sift 125g plain flour into a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, and add one whole egg and another yolk. Mix 225ml whole or semi-skimmed milk with 2 tbsp water, then pour a little into the egg and beat together.

Whisk the flour into the liquid ingredients, followed by the rest of the milk until your batter has the consistency of single cream. Cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Heat a small knob of butter in a frying pan on a medium-high heat – just enough to grease the bottom of the pan. It should be hot enough that the batter sizzles when it hits it.

Spread a small ladleful of batter across the bottom of the pan, quickly swirling to coat. When it begins to set, loosen the edges with a thin spatula or palette knife, and when it begins to colour on the bottom, flip it over with the same instrument and cook for another 30 seconds.

Bacon-infused maple syrup

Heston Blumenthal, chef proprietor of The Fat Duck, Berkshire

I make a bacon-infused maple syrup to go with my pancakes. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4, and spread 200g smoked streaky bacon out on a tray lined with parchment paper, then cook until crispy (17-18 minutes). Roughly chop the bacon and place into a small bowl or jar, pour over 150g maple syrup and set aside to infuse. After an hour, strain the maple syrup, reserving the bacon for use in another recipe. Cook your pancakes and serve warm, topped with slices of banana, and finish with a generous drizzle of the bacon-infused syrup.

Wild rice, spinach and gruyere

Sam Clark, chef patron and co-founder of Moro, London

Apple pancake
Apple Dutch pancake with powdered sugar. Photograph: bhofack2/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The young ones in my family are quite keen on sweet pancakes for breakfast. I sometimes add diced bananas to the batter, but other than that we keep it simple: eggs, milk, flour, melted butter and salt. If you want to make it more like a dessert we might top with whipped cream or caramel. I like using Lodge cast-iron skillets to cook pancakes. I’m pretty anti-nonstick pans, which can buckle and bow. With savoury pancakes, we use half strong flour and half buckwheat flour, and stuff them with wild rice, spinach, gruyere and a little bit of nutmeg. Leeks are good, too.

Apple pancakes

Richard Corrigan, chef patron of Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, Daffodil Mulligan, Corrigan’s Mayfair, London, and Virginia Park Lodge, Ireland

I always look forward to pancake day. I love adding a little bit of melted butter to the batter to enrich it and I also add butter to the pan before cooking, to give them bubbly streaks of colour. I like to make my pancakes paper-thin, and serve them with a spoonful of rhubarb compote, as well as honey and whipped cream on the side. Alternatively, you can slice an eating apple and coat it with sugar, then cook in butter until it starts to caramelise before adding a ladle of pancake batter. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top, flip it or grill it, and you have the most delicious little apple pancake in the world.

Piña colada pancakes

Ravinder Bhogal, chef owner of Jikoni, London

For brunch at Jikoni, our signature is piña colada pancakes, which we make with coconut milk – they are really fluffy and cakey – and serve with caramelised pineapple, as well as rum and coconut ice-cream. We also do sweetcorn pancakes with fried eggs and jalapeño relish. Something that is quite indulgent – and I think we all need a little indulgence right now – is a mac and cheese pancake I made recently. You make American-style pancake batter, start to cook it, then spoon your macaroni mix on top and add grated cheese – cheddar or gruyere or parmesan – before flipping. You get a lovely ooze from the uncooked batter running to the bottom. It’s super delicious.

Vegan crepes with kimchi

Ella Mills, founder of Deliciously Ella

People are quite nervous about vegan pancakes but they are the simplest thing and a weekly staple in our house. I use plain flour, porridge oats, coconut oil and chia seeds (these two work as a binder), plus almond milk and a splash of maple syrup to make the batter. It takes five minutes, which is ideal when you’ve got a hungry toddler. We often make savoury crepes with kimchi, which are delicious. But I’m a peanut butter fiend, so I like peanut butter pancakes with fresh raspberries in the batter. On pancake day we go all out: crepes (made with chickpea flour) with garlicky tomatoes and roasted veg, followed by a big stack of chocolate pancakes with homemade chocolate sauce for pudding.

dosa
Dosa recipe with sambar and chutney. Photograph: Arundhati Sathe/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Duck dosa

Samyukta Nair, co-founder of Jamavar and Bombay Bustle, London

In India, we make a savoury pancake called a dosa which is often served with a potato filling, known as aloo masala. The dosa itself is made from a rice-lentil batter; I like to eat them really thin and crisp. It is important to let the batter ferment overnight and spread it evenly on the pan when cooking. Using half an onion dipped in oil helps spread an even layer of grease, which avoids the batter from sticking to the pan. At home we make a duck dosa, which is a south Indian recipe with more of a peppery, chestnutty flavour, and something that I grew up eating. If I have a sweet, crepe-style pancake, I go for Nutella and strawberries – very decadent!

buttermilk pancakes
American-style buttermilk pancakes with butter and maple syrup. Photograph: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Buttermilk pancakes

Chris Tucker, baker and founder of Betta With Butta

My biggest tip is not to over mix your batter; you want to just mix it until your flour disappears, then you’re good to go. I always use buttermilk, but I follow a mainly plant-based diet so I make it using almond milk. I put white vinegar in with my almond milk and allow it to curdle overnight, and that gives the same sharpness as a regular buttermilk. I like to go for fluffy, traditional [American] pancakes and I’m a real purist when it comes to toppings: loads of butter and maple syrup. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll go for some fruit – whatever is in season, or needs using up. Don’t flip your pancakes until you see little tiny bubbles forming on the surface, and remember that the first side takes a little longer than the second.

Seafood pancakes

Shaun Rankin, chef patron Ormer Mayfair, London and Grantley Hall, Yorkshire

I tend to make drop pancakes for my family: my son Harry likes Nutella and bananas, whereas Ethan is a peanut butter fan, and I tend to go for fruit and yoghurt. When I worked at the Black Bull Inn in Moulton, we made a seafood pancake: you’d steam salmon, scallops, dover sole, cod – whatever you had – and then make herb crepes with parsley, chives and tarragon in the batter. Then, you’d mix the fish with a white wine bechamel sauce, roll it up in the pancake, cover with a mornay sauce and cheesy breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Baghrir pancakes
Baghrir pancakes with honey. Photograph: Konstantin Kopachinskiy/Alamy

Baghrir pancakes

Pamela Yung, head chef at Flor, London

We have a baghrir pancake – something I first tried in Morocco – on our brunch menu. It is made with semolina flour, water and yeast, and it’s allowed to get really bubbly so that when it cooks it’s almost like a crumpet with holes in it. It’s only cooked on one side, so you get a super airy, soft, spongy texture on the top, and the bottom is flatter and darker. In Morocco, it’s served with honey and butter, or a kind of cream cheese or, my favourite, amlou: a condiment made from argan oil, ground almonds and honey. It’s delicious.

Sourdough pancakes

Apollonia Poilâne, CEO Poilâne Bakery

I like buttermilk pancakes; I used to top them with maple syrup, but these days salted butter is more my thing. Recently, I’ve also been making sourdough pancakes, which make use of sourdough discards. I think pancakes ought to be fluffy – it’s nice for them to have a cushioned, mattress-y feeling – and I stack them up with butter between each layer. If I’m making crepe-style pancakes, I’ll use buckwheat and give them a sweet filling. You can make a big batch and freeze them but the trick is to let them cool properly first, otherwise they will stick together in the freezer.

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