It’s Shrove Tuesday and if you ever needed an excuse to make pancakes – this is your day!
Mix a pancake,
Stir a pancake,
Pop it in the pan;
Fry the pancake,
Toss the pancake –
Catch it if you can.
Christina Rossetti’s fun poem says it all. Though I have to confess I’ve never been much good at tossing pancakes and catching them!
I’m not really religious and don’t come from a religious family but we always had pancakes on Shrove Tuesday as I grew up and it’s a tradition I continued with my own kids. Shrove Tuesday is the day you use up the eggs, milk, sugar and other rich foods before Lent begins the following day – Ash Wednesday. Lent, of course, marks the time that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to fast and pray and Christians will give up something that’s important to them to make their own sacrifice in honour of Jesus’s own. Despite not being particularly religious (though holding many spiritual beliefs), I have at times, when much younger, given something up – sugar, perhaps, when I took it in my tea and coffee (which I haven’t done for ages) and many people give up things like alcohol or foods they like a lot and would miss.
The idea of fasting is not confined to Christians, of course. Jews fast for Yom Kippur; Muslims for Ramadan; Buddhists regularly fast to purify their bodies and gain clarity in their thoughts. Many people now fast regularly as there’s some evidence that intermittent fasting brings many health benefits. When I hear them, a thought will pass through my head that I must try it sometime. But in all honesty I’m not good at not eating! I think and live by food to a large extent. I do take care to eat well though and have always thought a balanced diet of good quality, fresh food is the key to good health.
When I cook pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, I always end up thinking: Why do I only make them once a year? In some countries pancakes are celebrated more. I love Peking Duck in Chinese restaurants where slices of gorgeous crispy roast duck are rolled up in pancakes with spring onions, cucumber and Hoisin sauce. Closer to home, there are two countries I like to visit where you will find wonderful pancake houses: The Netherlands and France. In France there are crêperies serving what we think of as more traditional pancakes, thin with just a simple dressing of sugar or honey and lemon; in Normandy you’ll find gorgeous buckwheat pancakes with savoury fillings that make a great lunch. Likewise in The Netherlands, whenever I go to Amsterdam I like to eat savoury pancakes in a pancake house for lunch.
Here are three posts from the past that celebrate pancakes. They are all a little different and I hope they’ll inspire you if you’re cooking pancakes today.
Pancake Day Dutch Style: Pancakes with Goats’ Cheese
I made the pancake above – with goats’ cheese, honey, walnuts and thyme – after a trip to Amsterdam. I just love having pancakes there for lunch. They’re served quite simply, as I’ve made mine here, but they’re big! You need a huge plate to serve them on! The batter I used is a traditional one (à la Delia Smith in this case). Use your imagination with the topping but don’t overdo it; these pancakes are a bit like pizza – a little is more and you don’t want to smother your base in an overexcited topping of everything lurking in your fridge. The batter can be used to make traditional pancakes to serve with sugar (or honey) and lemon and folded over. The Dutch also make gorgeous little pancakes called poffertjes, which they smother in icing sugar and butter. I first ate them fresh from a market stall in Gouda and they have to be one of the best pancakes treats you could ever have.
To read my post on these Dutch pancakes, click here.
Sunday Breakfast: Blueberry Pancakes, Fresh Orange Juice & Pastries
My son went through a phase years ago of making Jamie Oliver’s American-style pancakes quite often for Sunday breakfast. I really must encourage him to do it again! These light, fluffy pancakes we usually fill with blueberries (although other fruit can be used) and serve them with crispy bacon and maple syrup. We did this back in February 2013 when my daughter was down from Birmingham for the weekend and we all got together for breakfast at my house.
Of course you can have these gorgeous pancakes at times other than breakfast. The fluffiness comes from separating the eggs and beating the whites until stiff before folding them in. It’s really worth the extra little effort. For the recipe and to find out a little more about pancakes, click here.
Buckwheat Pancakes with Mushrooms, Creme Fraiche & Parsley
Making these lovely buckwheat pancakes (often called galettes in France), stuffed with a creamy mushroom sauce, was inspired by a holiday in northern France. My family and I rented a gîte in Normandy back in the summer of 2012. We enjoyed similar pancakes on our first day in a crêperie in nearby Falaise, in the Calvados region, and famously the birthplace of William the Conqueror, first of the Norman kings of England.
These pancakes make wonderful lunches or light suppers. Other popular fillings include egg & ham, cheese & ham, egg & cheese. To read all my post, click here.
Well, having reminded myself of all those lovely pancakes, I really do feel I should make some pancakes this evening! Enjoy Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day!