Around the world people feast on the day before Lent begins, but in the U.K. there is a tradition of eating pancakes. Lydia Brownlow tells you how to make them—and provides recipes for some wild variations.
There will be celebrating around the globe today to mark Shrove Tuesday in its various guises. Whether it’s a wildly colourful Spanish carnival (from the medieval Italian carne levare or putting away the meat) or a feast of rich foods to mark a South American Mardi Gras (from the French for fat Tuesday). In Iceland, they will be enjoying salt meat and peas to welcome in Sprengidagur (bursting day) and it doesn’t stop there. In Sweden, they choose to party with Semla, a sweet bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream sitting in a bowl of hot milk. What they all have in common is the ritual of eating up rich foods before the 46 days of abstinence leading up to Easter Sunday.
In the U.K., where things are a little more restrained, the nation celebrates Shrove Tuesday by eating pancakes traditionally served with lemon and sugar. So sad that the moreish crepe is too good be consigned to just one day of the year. Unleash your skillet today and get tossing!
PANCAKES Makes 12 1 cup all purpose flour Pinch of salt 1 level teaspoon sugar 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk 10 fluid ounces whole milk 1 tablespoon vegetable oil Butter for frying
1. Sift the flour, salt, and sugar into a large bowl. Add the egg, egg yolk, and half of the milk. Whisk well to make a smooth batter, then add the remaining milk and oil.
2. Melt a small knob of butter in a 9-inch nonstick skillet. Add 2-3 tablespoons of batter, quickly tip the pan so the batter runs over the surface to make a thin pancake. Cook over moderate heat for 2 minutes, then toss or flip the pancake with a spatula to cook for another minute. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of sugar or one of the following suggestions:
FOR THE SWEET-TOOTHED:
• Spread each pancake with mascarpone cheese, sprinkle with chocolate chips, and chopped toasted hazelnuts. Fold up, drizzle with melted butter, and warm through. • Bring the butter, sugar, and orange juice to a boil in a large skillet and simmer until syrupy. Add the folded pancakes, bring back to a boil and serve with a sprinkling of Grand Marnier. • Eat the pancakes with a good quality apricot puree and whipped cream. • Simmer together maple syrup and blueberries, pour over pancakes, and serve with vanilla ice cream. • Top with warm poached peaches, raspberries, and ricotta cheese. • Or simply serve with sliced bananas, clover honey, and plain yogurt. • Roll up pancakes with stewed apple and brown sugar, serve with cinnamon ice cream.
FOR THE MORE SAVORY-MINDED:
• Spread pancakes with plum sauce and roll up with shredded roast duck, scallions, and cucumber. • Fill with ham and Swiss cheese. Warm through until the cheese melts. • Eat the pancakes with lightly poached salmon, mayonnaise, cucumber, and a sprinkling of dill. • Roll up with slices of avocado, finely chopped lettuce, hot bacon slices, and a smear of mayonnaise and ketchup. • Fill pancakes with cooked haddock, spinach and cheese sauce, roll up and heat through until piping hot. • Slices of warm roast lamb, char-grilled vegetables, hummus, and a squeeze of lemon. • Spread with smoked salmon and cream cheese.