I loved pancake day as a child, in our household it was Dad that would invariably be the one flipping the pancakes, and it was always a competition to see if the next one could be flipped higher than the last (without ending up on the floor or the ceiling)!
Our toppings back then were fairly basic, Mum and Dad went for the added dried fruit (currants, raisin and sultanas), but for my sister and I it was plain lemon and sugar all the way. Now of course imagination is allowed to run wild and anything goes, but in my house, my eldest son is still a purist ‘lemon and sugar’ partaker, my youngest is chocolate spread all the way, although he is partial to some oranges or strawberries now and then, my husband likes dried fruit in the batter with a small scraping of butter over the pancake when its still hot (don’t knock it until you try it), whereas my favourite has to be sliced pear, almonds and a little melted chocolate, yum!
But for those who don’t know, what is a pancake?
It is a flat cake, often thin and round, prepared from a batter often containing eggs, milk and butter and cooked on a hot surface like a griddle or frying pan and often fried with oil or butter. In Britain, pancakes are often resemble a crêpe French term derived from the Latin crispa, meaning tiganitai with "creases’ and are thin pancakes.
Crêpes are traditionally served in France on Candlemas (La Chandeleur), 2 February, also known in France as "Le Jour des Crêpes" (translated as "The Day of the Crêpes"). They can be sweet – made with wheat flour, and served as a dessert with sweet fillings, or savoury - made with non-wheat flours like buckwheat and commonly served for lunch or dinner with cheese, ham, eggs, mushrooms and various meats e.g blinis
In North America, baking powder is added to the batter to create a thick fluffy pancake. In Scotland and the USA buttermilk is used instead of milk allowing a tart flavour to develop. Scotch pancakes are thicker than thin style crepes and cook with a very slight crust. They're also slightly sweeter than either the crepe or the American style pancake meaning they’re perfect for a little addition of salty half-melted butter. Our ‘Zesty Orange and Chocolate pancakes’ recipe is based on this type of scotch pancake, and definitely a firm favourite in our house as equally enjoyable hot or eaten cold or a day or two later (on the rare occasion any are left).
But whatever your pancake preference, here's everything you need to know about Pancake Day in the UK, also known as Shrove Tuesday.
The date changes every year according to Easter, however this year Shrove Tuesday falls on 5 March 2019.
For Christians, Shrove Tuesday marks the last day before Lent which begins this year on Wednesday 6 March, and traditionally marks a period of abstinence (including performing 'Christian prayer, 'Penance', 'repentance of sins', giving up any type of luxuries and often fasting) which explains the using up of goods such as sugar, fats and eggs, in the creation and consumption of pancakes before the 40-day fasting season of Lent began. However, although important in Christian tradition, Pancake Day is widely celebrated and enjoyed by those outside of the faith.
The word 'shrove' derives from the English word 'shrive', which means “to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of confession and penance”. Christians would be called to confession, also known as ‘shriven’ ‘to ‘present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution’ by the ringing of the church bells which came to be known as the 'pancake bell' and it is still rung in some churches today.
The pancake has a very long history and is featured in cookery books as far back as 1439. The tradition of tossing or flipping them is almost as old. According to legend, the tradition was born in the 15th century when a woman in Buckinghamshire rushed to church to confess her sins while mid-way through making pancakes. Whereas in France, it’s believed that catching the crêpe with a frying pan, after tossing it in the air with your right hand whilst holding a gold coin in your left hand, would allow great riches to come to you that year.