Pancake Day, one of the most anticipated days in the yearly calendar in the UK. While we all know it as Pancake Day, it is also known as Shrove Tuesday and is a Christian Festival. This festival is celebrated before the beginning of Lent Sunday. Based on the word Shriving, it relates to listening to the sins of someone and forgiving them.
Why is it Celebrated?
During Anglo Saxon times in England, people would go to church on Shrove Tuesday, where they would confess their sins and be forgiven, with a bell being rung for people to attend confession. The bell was known as the Pancake Bell. So, this special day was also the day where people would use up all of their eggs and fats and it is from this mix of ingredients that pancakes were made!
So, it has now become a tradition in the UK to get together as a family or with friends to enjoy making pancakes. From this has come the famous pancake tossing which has been perfected by some and still remains a challenge for many but, either way, it is all part of the fun associated with this wonderful festival.
The UK Traditions
Pancake day is now a day where people enjoy pancakes and getting creative with their culinary delights. Traditionally, lemon and sugar were once enjoyed but now there is a wealth of toppings that give the children the opportunity to get creative. They can mix ice cream with chocolate sauce or use golden syrup…. the possibilities are endless!
Another tradition is Pancake racing where participants have to race while flipping a pancake as they run, of course, this becomes a race that’s filled with laughter and mishaps!
How About the Rest of the World?
In Denmark, they celebrate Pancake Day on the Sunday before Lent begins. It’s known as Fastelavn and they will eat Danish style buns with cream and jam. Children will dress up too, giving the day a different dimension!
Pancakes are made with objects that have a symbolic value in them. This could include wedding rings, buttons or coins. Whoever finds the coin will be richer and the one to find the wedding ring will be the first to get married.
Known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, people will wear masks and disguise themselves. In Nice, the carnival will last for ten days and is an event that has parades, concerts, acts and more.
Here they start the celebrations early on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. It is also known as the Day of the Omelette and here they will use ingredients from their pantries such as meat and bread before eating together, with the main dish being an omelette.
Public parades are common on Pancake Day in Italy. People will take to the streets and celebrate together while they can also indulge in Chiacchiere which are savoury sweets that are made from flour and fried before benign coated in powdered sugar.
Making pancakes is great fun for the family and an activity that children can learn from. Use the opportunity to ask them to count the ingredients and weigh them while they can write down the steps they take to make them.
Once the pancakes have been made, set them a challenge to decorate them using anything they want!
For the pancake mixture
- 110g/4oz plain flour, sifted
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 200ml/7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml/3fl oz water
- 50g/2oz butter
- caster sugar
- lemon juice
- lemon wedges
- Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets an airing. Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs – any sort of whisk or even a fork will do – incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you do so.
- Next gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking (don’t worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk). When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any elusive bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream. Now melt the 50g/2oz of butter in a pan. Spoon 2 tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it in, then pour the rest into a bowl and use it to lubricate the pan, using a wodge of kitchen paper to smear it round before you make each pancake.
- Now get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and, to start with, do a test pancake to see if you’re using the correct amount of batter. I find 2 tbsp is about right for an 18cm/7in pan. It’s also helpful if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it’s tinged gold as it should be. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife – the other side will need a few seconds only – then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
- Stack the pancakes as you make them between sheets of greaseproof paper on a plate fitted over simmering water, to keep them warm while you make the rest.
- To serve, sprinkle each pancake with freshly squeezed lemon juice and caster sugar, fold in half, then in half again to form triangles, or else simply roll them up. Serve sprinkled with a little more sugar and lemon juice and extra sections of lemon.
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