Tuesday February 28, 2017, is Pancake Day in the UK
In February we celebrate Shrove Tuesday, or as it is also known in the UK, Pancake Tuesday. This is not a tradition as widely celebrated as in the past but many families still join in the fun. However, behind the fun is a religious holiday.
Shrove Tuesday is the last day of indulgence before Ash Wednesday and the period of Lent begins. On Shrove Tuesday in the distant past the last food indulgences were used up in pancakes. Shrove Tuesday falls somewhere between 2nd February and the 9th March each year, depending upon which date Easter falls for that year.
For more than a 1,000 years Shrove Tuesday has traditionally been a day for Christians to confess their sins. Shrove is actually an old word for Shrive meaning to confess all sins. After these were absolved by a priest the period of Lent began. Some UK Christians even today will give something up for Lent. It could be chocolate or beer or any food or drink.
It is usually something which they enjoy or else there is no point.
The pancakes were the last treat before the frugal period of Lent and in the past it was often eggs, milk and butter that were omitted from a person’s diet during Lent. Pancakes were a great way to use up household stock, which otherwise would waste.
As a child, brought up in a religious Christian home, pancake Tuesday was a mixed bag. We lived in a tiny terraced house in 50s post-war England. The kitchen was minuscule. I have fond memories of my Mum on Pancake Tuesday though.
My brother and I would sit at the table both trying to consume as many pancakes as possible. Mum would be in the kitchen for ages. Having mixed a large bowl of pancake batter she would proceed to make one pancake after another so we could eat them hot straight from the pan.
Of course expert pancake Mums on Shrove Tuesday have to toss the pancake in the pan. This takes nerves of steel. I have never quite managed it as I tend to dither and then turn the pancake with a spatula.
Mum however was fearless. Up would go the pancake in the air.
Most of the time the pancake landed perfectly back in the pan, on the correct side. Occasionally though she would slightly miss and half the pancake would slip to the floor. Rarely she would miss altogether and the pancake would land on the floor and be binned.
Each year at least one pancake would hit and stick to the low kitchen ceiling. Looking back I do think some of this was my Mum's humour and done to entertain us kids. The kitchen ceiling was not high so perhaps it was accidental but I shall never know now.
Thoughts of pancake Tuesdays of the past have left me wondering about today's children.
These days you can buy readymade frozen pancakes which cook in the microwave in seconds. Alternatively you can by pancake mixture. My poor Mum must be turning in her grave.
How to make the pancakes
Making pancakes from scratch though is quite easy and cheap. Of course some will taste better than others but the mixture is easy and simple to make:
The ingredients and how to make:
Ready to cook?
Place the frying pan over a reasonable heat on your hob. Add a knob of butter or oil if preferred to the pan. Make sure that the fat has melted and is hot before you add the pancake mixture. If there is too much fat drain away the excess.
Spoon or ladle a spoonful of the pancake mixture into the pan, swirling the pan around as you do so. This ensures that the pancakes are thin but that the pan is evenly covered.
It will only take a minute or two to brown the pancake on one side and then you will need to flip, toss or turn your pancake over. Make sure that you ease the pancake away from the pan before you attempt any of these.
Go on give it a whirl and toss the pancake high into the air. I dare you!
If you want to make lots of pancakes and keep them warm to serve together you can.
However you cannot beat fresh hot pancakes straight from the pan.
You can choose to eat the pancakes plain or add a filling
As children syrup or golden treacle was the favourite filling. Some people prefer jam and even cream. Others prefer simply a squeeze of lemon juice. You can make a savoury filling but of course you will need to adjust the ingredients. You will not want to add sugar for these.
So what about you? Do you enjoy Pancake Tuesday? Will you join in the celebration this year and next?
There are still many pancake races around this lovely eccentric country of ours, namely the UK. Take a look at the YouTube links below and have fun.
It seems it is not just we eccentric English who run a race whilst trying to toss a pancake in a pan after all.