Forget lemon and sugar! The VERY non-traditional topping ideas to shake up Pancake Day (including paneer with avocado and trendy ACAI berries)

There’s no need to feel stuck in a rut this Pancake Day as a food writer has exclusively shared her very easy topping ideas.

Stephanie Brookes, 37, a food expert who has a regular slot on BBC London, has come up with nontraditional alternatives to the Shrove Tuesday staples: lemon and sugar, Nutella, or maple syrup.

From healthy acai berries to paneer with avocado, these unusual fillings and toppings will shake up your celebrations and ensure you have enough variation throughout the day to enjoy pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Here, the London-based radio host shares her favourite sweet and savoury recipes – and they’re very easy to follow as they can all be made with a shop-bought pancake mix. 

This spinach and ricotta pancake recipe adds the spinach and ricotta into the batter instead of being a filling for the crepes. Stephanie tops hers with runny eggs

This spinach and ricotta pancake recipe adds the spinach and ricotta into the batter instead of being a filling for the crepes. Stephanie tops hers with runny eggs

Stephanie Brookes is a food expert who has a regular food slot on BBC London radio

Stephanie Brookes is a food expert who has a regular food slot on BBC London radio

Stephanie told FEMAIL Food&Drink: ‘There’s a lot more to Pancake Day than just the usual lemon and sugar topping we’ve become accustomed to. 

‘This simple but traditional pancake recipe (while being an old favourite) can get a little dull, year after year, and may in fact have you thinking twice about bothering altogether. 

‘You’ll be pleased to know there are many more inventive ways to get your pancake day off to a flying start. 

‘The beauty of pancakes is that they work perfectly with both sweet and savoury fillings, making them one of the most versatile dishes around – pleasing even the fussiest eaters.’

Pancakes with Paneer, Tomato and Avocado

This savoury dish is the ideal lunchtime treat for its perfect mixture of sweet, spicy and smoky flavours. The spongy textured paneer is gently griddled with a dash of ground cumin giving it that earthy, smoky aroma. The creamy avocado, and sweet, fresh tomato, is matched perfectly with final flourish of chopped coriander. It’s a delicious spring-like treat to brighten up these cold, winter months. You’ll be making this dish long after Pancake Day!

Stephanie's most unusual savoury pancake topping is to top crepes with paneer, avocado and cherry tomatoes

Stephanie’s most unusual savoury pancake topping is to top crepes with paneer, avocado and cherry tomatoes

Makes 2-3 large pancakes 

Ingredients:

Store-bought pancake mixture

4 slices of paneer cheese

1 avocado

Handful of vine tomatoes

Half a teaspoon of ground cumin

Handful of roughly chopped coriander

Method:

Begin by halving the tomatoes and place in bowl. Season with salt and pepper to bring out the flavour. Roughly chop the fresh coriander and place into a small bowl.

Peel and slice the avocado into small, bite-sized chunks. If you have some lemons handy, squeeze a small amount onto the avocado to keep the colour fresh and vibrant. Slice the paneer cheese (around half an inch thickness).

Heat a griddle pan with a dash of sunflower oil or equivalent and half a teaspoon of ground cumin. Once the pan is hot, place four slices of paneer onto the pan and sear the cheese – it should have a crispy, outer edge. This will take a couple of minutes for each side.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan with sunflower oil and add some of the premade batter until it has covered the entire base. Cook for a few minutes until firm, and then flip the pancake over to completely cook the other side. The store-bought mixture I purchased stretches to around 2/3 large pancakes.

Once the pancake is cooked, adorn with the fresh tomatoes, avocado and cumin-scented paneer cheese. Finish the dish with a good sprinkle of coriander. 

Acai Pancakes with Blueberries and Strawberries

The superfood addition of acai berry powder is the perfect partner to pancakes, giving them a healthy boost of Vitamin A, Iron and Potassium. Topped with luscious fresh blueberries and strawberries, and a drizzle of runny honey, this is one of the healthiest ways of eating pancakes this year. You’ll love the purple hue the powder adds to the pancake batter, also giving it delicate, berry sweetness.

Makes 2/3 large pancakes 

Stephanie adds trendy and super healthy acai berry powder to the batter for these treats and then tops with fresh berries and runny honey

Stephanie adds trendy and super healthy acai berry powder to the batter for these treats and then tops with fresh berries and runny honey

Ingredients: 

Store-bought pancake mixture

2 teaspoons of Acai berry powder

100g blueberries

200g strawberries

Drizzle of runny honey

Method:

Start by halving the strawberries, and also put the blueberries into a bowl – all ready to adorn the cooked pancakes!

Add two teaspoons of acai berry powder to the store-bought pancake batter and mix well.

Heat a large frying pan with a drop of sunflower oil or equivalent, and then add some of the pancake batter. The pancake mixture I used makes around 2/3 large pancakes.

Allow the pancake to cook until you see it has become firm, and then gently flip with the pancake turner and cook the other side through. This should only take 1-2 minutes depending on the thickness of the pancake.

Once the pancake is ready, place onto a serving plate and mound with the fresh berries and a good drizzle of runny honey. 

Pancakes with Cherries, Dark Chocolate and Roasted Hazelnuts

This decadently rich pancake recipe practically overflows with cherries, and the most unctuous bitter-sweet dark chocolate. The addition of chopped roasted hazelnuts adds a perfect crunch and a delicious, nutty texture. The only drawback is the cherries have to be halved and pitted one by one – but it was actually quite therapeutic, I found. If you haven’t the time, I suggest supplementing the cherries for strawberries and raspberries. But I promise you, the cherries are most certainly worth the effort!

These decadent pancakes are topped with melted dark chocolate, nuts and cherries

These decadent pancakes are topped with melted dark chocolate, nuts and cherries

Ingredients:

Store-bought pancake mixture

300g cherries (chopped)

1 bar (100g) dark chocolate

Handful of chopped roasted hazelnuts

Method:

Begin by halving the cherries and removing the small stones – it’s a little time-consuming as I just mentioned, but thoroughly worth it, I promise.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat in short twenty-second bursts until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth.

Heat a large frying pan with a dash of sunflower oil or equivalent. Add in a small pouring of the batter until it fully covers the base of the pan.

Once the batter has firmed, flip with the pancake turner and cook the other side through. As I wanted to make this dessert extra decadent, I made three large pancakes, one after the other (unusually patient for me!).

Place the pancakes in a stack and mound with the ruby red cherries, and then glaze with a generous amount of the melted, dark chocolate. Sprinkle the entire dish with the chopped hazelnuts (bought in a small pack from the supermarket) and devour before anyone else sees the dish. 

Spinach and Ricotta Pancakes with Runny Eggs

This protein-rich recipe is perfect for a healthy, satisfying breakfast, or even a delicious supper. The best thing of all, it only requires three additional ingredients – simple!

This meal would be great for before or after a workout as it is packed with protein

This meal would be great for before or after a workout as it is packed with protein

Makes 2/3 large pancakes 

Ingredients:

Store-bought pancake mixture

2 large eggs

4 teaspoons of ricotta (per pancake)

A handful of chopped spinach

Method:

Start by chopping a good handful of spinach – make sure the spinach is fairly small so it can be added to the pancake mixture.

Add a tablespoon of sunflower oil or equivalent to a large frying pan and heat for a minute or two to allow the pan to get hot – you want a crisp, golden sear on the pancake.

Add in the store-bought pancake mixture to the pan. For the pancake mix I used, it only required water to make that perfect, smooth consistency. The batter was enough for 2/3 large pancakes.

Add some of the chopped spinach into the pancake mixture so it cooks right through – keep some aside for the other two pancakes. Add in 4 teaspoons of ricotta to the pancake so the soft cheese cooks into the batter.

In a small pan, cook the two large eggs, making sure the centre is still runny enough to ooze all over the finished pancake.

Using a pancake turner or equivalent utensil, peel away at the edges which should be lightly crispy, and then flip the pancake over to cook on the other side – this will only take a minute or so.

When the pancake is firm and cooked through, place onto a serving plate. Add the eggs and any left-over spinach. Season well with salt and pepper. Devour as quickly as possible. 

Chive Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraich

I absolutely love smoked salmon blinis (my all-time favourite canape) and I thought this beloved small eat would adapt perfectly to a simple pancake recipe. The batter is loaded with fresh chives and then topped with luscious pink curls of smoked salmon and a good dollop of crème fraiche. It’s highly moreish and the perfect treat for one…or two if you’re forced to share! This recipe is my personal favourite. 

Makes 2/3 pancakes 

Stephanie's favourite pancake topping is to combine pancakes with creme fraiche

Stephanie’s favourite pancake topping is to combine pancakes with creme fraiche

Ingredients:

Store-bought pancake mixture

20g chives

Two tablespoons of crème fraiche

100g smoked salmon

Method:

Start by snipping the chives into a bowl, making the little green flecks as small as possible.

Heat a large frying pan with a drizzle of sunflower oil or equivalent, ensuring the pan is hot so the pancake batter has a beautiful, golden sear.

Add half of the chives into the pancake batter and mix well.

Pour in some of the batter to make your first pancake. I was making extra-large pancakes, so my mixture was stretching to 2/3 pancakes.

Once the pancake has firmed up on one side, flip with a pancake turner to cook the other side through.

Serve on a large plate and adorn with a generous mound of smoked salmon, two large tablespoons of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of the remaining chives. Season well with salt and pepper. 

 For more inspiration visit stephaniebrookes.com and follow @stephbrookes.

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