March 8th, 2011
In Britain, Pancake Day is Shrove Tuesday, an annual Christian feast day, relative to fasting for lent, which starts tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. On Pancake Day you use up all the rich food left in the house, such as eggs, milk and sugar. Shrove Tuesday is also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras (hence the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, etc.). Incidentally, I was born on Pancake Day, so perhaps that’s why I love cooking, eating, drinking and staying up late. I learnt to make and toss pancakes on my first day at Cub Scouts in 1969 – I’ve always thought they were special.
Pancake Batter recipe (makes 4 pancakes):
4 ounces of plain flour
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
1/2 pints of milk
a pinch of salt
2 dessertspoons of melted butter
Ideally you need hand whisk and large mixing bowl for this.
Sieve the flour into the mixing bowl, from a foot or so above the bowl, to allow air between the flour. Sprinkle in the pinch of salt, make a well in the centre of the flour and place the egg and extra yolk in it. With the whisk, stir the eggs and add half the milk, slowly. Next, beat in the melted butter and continue to add the rest of the milk. Keep the batter in the fridge for half an hour before cooking.
Get the frying pan hot, you only need a touch of butter and pour a thin layer of batter around the pan, starting from the middle – move the pan around to get an even coating. When the pancake has browned a little on the underside, shake the pan to make sure it is loose, lift the pan off the hob, holding the handle with both hands, bring it down to waist height and flip it upwards, about a foot, in a single motion to toss the pancake and cook it on the other side. Aim for about another foot above the pan when you toss it or the pancake will catch on the side of the pan. If you are frightened, flip it over with a fish slice or plate. I think that tossing the pancake is easiest with a light weight, non stick frying pan. It’s traditional to stack up the pancakes on a plate, in order to be able to serve a number of people at once.
Savoury Filling recipe:
1 onion (sliced)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 large tomato (finely chopped)
4 slices of streaky bacon (chopped)
olive oil for frying
sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, sage and thyme (grind in a mortar and pestle)
some grated cheese (mature cheddar or goats cheese)
Fry the onion in olive oil gently, to caramelise it, keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. When the onion has become soft and sticky, stir in the chopped bacon and garlic. Add the tomato when the bacon has taken some colour, with a sprinkle of herbs and seasoning. It’s best to taste at this point to see if you require more salt and pepper. Put a spoonful of this filling and a handful of grated cheese in the middle of a pancake and fold it in half. You can do this while the pancake is in the frying pan so that the cheese will melt (slightly similar to a French omelette).
Sweet pancakes are normally served with a sprinkle of caster sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or maple syrup in Canada.