Pancake Day (5th March) is fast approaching – and I am a serious fan. In fact, I am always looking for ways to make my batter better. After all, it’s one of my favourite foodie days of the year!

Pancake Day is, on many levels, a moveable feast. Also known as Shrove Tuesday, the exact date changes every year. This is because it’s determined by Easter, which can fall any time between 22nd March and 27th April. Shrove Tuesday always takes place the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. And Lent marks the start of the 40 days leading up to Easter.

Pancake Day Pancakes with berries and maple syrup

So far, so simple – but where does the pancake connection fit in? Lent is traditionally a time of abstinence and reflection. The name ‘Shrove’ is derived from the old English word ‘shrive’. This references penance, confession and the absolution of sin. Lent is supposed to be a sombre period, marked by fasting from rich food. Its purpose is to replicate the suffering of Jesus during his 40 days in the wilderness. To avoid temptation, before Lent started, people tried to use up ingredients such as eggs and milk. The result? Pancakes galore.

Fasting aside, Lent is also supposed to a festivity-free period. That’s why many countries seize the opportunity to hold Mardi Gras carnivals before it starts. ‘Mardi Gras’ literally means ‘Fat Tuesday’ in French – another reference to the idea of using up food before Lent begins.

Batter basics

There is no single definitive recipe for pancakes. After all, historically Pancake Day was all about using up whatever niceties were languishing in your cupboards! The French are masters of the thin, versatile crêpe, while Americans excel at thick, fluffy pancakes. But if you’re looking for a classic British version, I think BBC Good Food’s is fairly foolproof.

Simply combine 100g plain four, 2 large eggs, 300ml milk and 1tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil in a bowl or large jug. Add a pinch of salt, then whisk to a smooth batter. If possible, allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. This recipe make 12 pancakes, so double the amount if you have guests – or are greedy, like me!

Next, warm a medium frying or crêpe pan over a medium heat, and wipe (carefully!) with some oiled kitchen roll. Once hot, cook your pancakes for around one minute on each side, until golden. Keep them warm in a low oven as you go.

Pancake Day Healthy brunch, pancakes topped with banana and nuts

Let’s talk about toppings

Whether you’re a fan of sweet or savoury, there’s a pancake topping out there for everyone. Keep things simple for Pancake Day with sugar and lemon, or layer on lashings of Nutella for a satisfying chocolate hit. Tick off one of your five-a-day by adding bananas and/or berries. Golden syrup, salted caramel sauce, clotted cream and jam are other indulgent options if you’re not counting calories.

But if sugary stuff doesn’t float your boat for Pancake Day, don’t despair. There are hundreds of savoury pancake options to choose from. Cheese and ham is always a fail-safe combination, as is smoked salmon and chives. But if you’re looking for something more substantial, look no further than these creamy leek & mushroom pancakes from Waitrose. They take just 30 minutes from start to finish (including prep) – and they taste divine!

For the pancake batter, mix plain and dark rye flour, then add egg and a pinch of salt. Gradually beat in the milk until smooth, then set aside to rest, while you sort the filling.

Gently fry your leeks until soft, then add your garlic and the mushroom mix. Next, cook your pancakes and keep warm. Divide your filling between your pancakes and top with a generous scoop of soft cheese. Fold and serve immediately – delicious!

Pancake Day Deliciously Ella

Allergens and special diets

One of the great things about pancakes is their versatility – and this extends to allergens too. For example, it’s really easy to adapt most basic recipes to make pancakes gluten-free. Simply select a flour that suits your needs. Gluten-free flour, chickpea flour, coconut flour, oat and even rice flour all work well.

The same goes for anyone following a dairy-free diet and wanting to join in all the fun on Pancake Day. Just keep the classic dry ingredients, and use soya milk or any dairy-free alternative. Need more inspiration? Click here for The Independent’s pick of the five best pancake recipes for vegan and gluten-free diets.

With eggs a key ingredient in pancakes, can vegans really indulge too? The answer is an unequivocal yes! These days there are hundreds of delicious vegan recipes to choose from. But trailblazer Ella Mills (aka Deliciously Ella’s) Simple Pancakes are hard to beat.

Her recipe includes chia seeds, maple syrup, almond milk and Bircher Muesli. She recommends serving her pancakes warm with a dollop of coconut yogurt, and a sprinkle of chopped pecans and coconut chips.

Protein pancakes

If you’re serious about sport and keeping fit, the chances are you’ll know all about the importance of protein. Upping your protein levels can help you to build muscle and lose weight. So why not experiment with some protein pancakes this Shrove Tuesday?

We’re big fans of The Body Coach Joe Wicks, and his banoffee pancakes are, to coin his trademark phrase, absolutely “bangin”. His recipe combines egg white, vanilla protein powder and yoghurt – plus banana – for multi-layered lusciousness.

Pancake Day Colourful, tasty and savoury breakfast with crepes and different fillings and sauces

Pancake restaurants

Pancakes might be de rigueur on Shrove Tuesday, but what about the rest of the year? Step forward the UK’s pancake restaurants. My Old Dutch, Where The Pancakes Are and Jo’s Pancake House are just a few of the available options. Thanks to these restaurants, any day can be Pancake Day – and I think that that’s flipping fabulous!

Want to know where to go in London, Cornwall or Provence to discover the unique and unexpected dining experience? Then read my exclusive interview 15 mins with…Milly Kenny-Ryder of Weekend Journals.