This year Pancake Day falls on 9th February 2016.
Pancake day, also known as Shrove Tuesday is traditionally a feasting day as it is the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, when many people choose to give something up for 40 days.
For centuries, people have feasted on pancakes on this day to use up rich, indulgent foods like eggs and milk before the 40-day fasting season of Lent began.
Shrove Tuesday dates back to Anglo-Saxon times when Christians would go to confession and were acquitted or ‘shriven’ for their sins, thus the name ‘Shrove’.
Although pancake day is widely associated with Christian tradition, their is strong evidence to suggest that Pancake Day may have originated from a Pagan holiday. Pagans would eat warm round pancakes which symbolised the sun and celebrated the arrival of Spring.
The ingredients for pancakes symbolise four points of significance at Easter and Springtime of the year. The eggs signify creation, the flour the ‘staff of life, salt is for wholesomeness and milk is purity.
Pancake races happen all over England throughout Shrove Tuesday. The tradition is thought to have originated in Olney in the 15th century, after a woman lost track of time while cooking pancakes. When the bells for mass rang, she ran out of her house with the pan and pancake still in hand. Olney still holds a pancake race every year.
We Brits enjoy a traditional lemon and sugar pancake above all others but in recent years, we seem to have been getting more experimental with our toppings.
Here is a recipe to whip up a perfect batch of pancakes, you just have to decide what to top them with….
100g plain flour
300ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tbsp sunflower oil or vegetable, plus extra for frying
Blending in the flour: Put the flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the middle, then pour in about 50ml milk and 1 tbsp oil. Start whisking from the centre, gradually drawing the flour into the eggs, milk and oil. Once all the flour is incorporated, beat until you have a smooth, thick paste. Add a little more milk if it is too stiff to beat.
Finishing the batter: Add a good splash of milk and whisk to loosen the thick batter. While still whisking, pour in a steady stream of the remaining milk. Continue pouring and whisking until you have a batter that is the consistency of slightly thick single cream. Traditionally, people would say to now leave the batter for 30 mins, to allow the starch in the flour to swell, but there’s no need.
Getting the right thickness: Heat the pan over a moderate heat, then wipe it with oiled kitchen paper. Ladle some batter into the pan, tilting the pan to move the mixture around for a thin and even layer. Quickly pour any excess batter into a jug, return the pan to the heat, then leave to cook, undisturbed, for about 30 secs. Pour the excess batter from the jug back into the mixing bowl. If the pan is the right temperature, the pancake should turn golden underneath after about 30 secs and will be ready to turn.
Flipping pancakes: Hold the pan handle, ease a fish slice under the pancake, then quickly lift and flip it over. Make sure the pancake is lying flat against base of the pan with no folds, then cook for another 30 secs before turning out onto a warm plate. Continue with the rest of the batter, serving them as you cook or stack onto a plate. You can freeze the pancakes for 1 month, wrapped in cling film or make them up to a day ahead.
Recipe from Good Food magazine, February 2007