Why do we celebrate Shrove Tuesday or 'Pancake Day'?
Shrove Tuesday traditionally precedes Ash Wednesday which is a day of fasting in Christianity. This fasting is said to represent the forty days and nights Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert. Ash Wednesday also marks the start of Lent for Christians. You may have heard of Christians giving up certain foods, drinks or activities for Lent for example, and loosely defined they are mirroring this experience of Jesus Christ. Pancakes were traditionally made to use up food items left in cupboards before this day of fasting began.
This year, Shrove Tuesday falls on Tuesday 17th February. Commercially, Shrove Tuesday is huge but this depends on where you are in the world. You may have different names for this well known date or not even celebrate it at all. Shrove Tuesday or 'Pancake Day' as it is equally referred to, is an enormous event in the United Kingdom and you can’t walk past a single supermarket without seeing pancake mixes on the shelves and the date is always mentioned on the news. Families make pancakes together and I have even known of people holding pancake making parties! In addition, many of the television shows the same evening will have the presenters holding frying pans and making their own versions of pancakes.
Some people prefer their pancakes sweet and simple with lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar, whilst others may add chocolate or even more savory items such as cheese, bacon or eggs. However you enjoy your pancakes, or if you haven’t ever attempted to make them before, then why not give this quick and easy recipe a go. The amount of different fillings and toppings a pancake tastes good with vary widely from ice cream to ham. This means that no matter what your tastes, you can probably enjoy the humble pancake with something! So let’s get started on this easy 3 step recipe and on the ingredients you will need to make them...
- 100 grams of plain flour
- 300 ml of milk
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp of sunflower/vegetable oil or butter for frying
Before we start, remember that the size of your frying pan will help to determine the thickness and texture of your pancakes! A smaller one is recommended as it will be easier for you to obtain a nice rounded shape with a good thickness to the pancake, rather than a larger pan which will give you thinner and more delicate pancakes.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar and eggs. Incorporate the milk gradually, and whisk the mixture. Continue to whisk until you have added all the milk and the mixture should then be smooth in texture. All the lumps will gradually disappear as you whisk. Add a little extra milk or a drop of water if the mixture feels too thick or is difficult to whisk. Once you are happy with the mixture, move on to step 2.
Heat your frying pan on a low to moderate heat and add the oil (or butter if you prefer). Swirl the pan around slightly to make sure you have coated the entire bottom of the pan. This will help ensure that your pancakes stick less to it when you come to remove them. Let the oil heat up gently and re-swirl the oil around if needed.
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Once the oil in the frying pan has warmed up, then using a ladle or cup, pour a small amount of the batter mix into the frying pan. Again, tilt and swirl the pan around to help spread the pancake mixture out into a nice circular shape as doing this will also help ensure it cooks more evenly. Then, after approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute, check the underside of the pancake using a spatula. Observe if it looks slightly golden, and if so, you can turn the pancake over to cook the other side.
The more adventurous chefs among you may also want to flip the pancake onto its other side. This has become quite an art in some parts of the world! If you do attempt pancake flipping, then a steady hand and sharp eye will help ensure the mixture doesn’t go everywhere! Only flip the pancake once you have already cooked one side of it.
Stack the pancakes on a plate and use either kitchen roll or some grease proof paper in-between each one to help stop them all sticking together and to keep them warm. You can then keep any leftover mixture that you didn’t use in the fridge covered with some cling film. This will keep well for up to a few days to enjoy on another occasion.
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If you are a first-time pancake maker, then you may want to opt for a more simple topping and one that is widely suggested and recommended is lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar on top. This gives a classic flavor to the pancakes which is not too heavy or strong in taste. Alternatively, honey, maple syrup, chocolate spreads or jams go very well with pancakes if you have more of a sweet tooth. On the other hand, if you prefer the savory options instead then cheese and ham would be a great place to start. The warm pancakes melt the cheese slightly and go very well in combination with a meat or spread. However, you can experiment a great deal with pancakes and come up with your own favorite combinations!
It is a shame that pancakes are often ignored in the United Kingdom as they are mainly only made and consumed around Shrove Tuesday. However, with such a simple recipe, we can enjoy pancakes any time throughout the year and I hope you enjoy making them. If you would like to then do comment below and mention what your favorite pancake toppings are for others to try out!
Below is a fantastic selection of pancake recipes creatively entitled the ‘Twelve Days of Pancakes’ from the Youtube channel Betty Crocker. You can select a variety of toppings that will make your mouth water, enjoy!