Shrove Tuesday is coming around fast. For as long as I can remember, we always had pancakes on Tuesday before Lent started the following day. When we were very small, Shrove Tuesday was the only day of the year that my mom would make pancakes, so we always regarded it as a special day and looked forward to it for weeks. I never really thought much on ‘why pancakes? Why not cakes or buns?’ until today, I just took it as a given.
Following a couple minutes of googling I found that the reason we choose pancakes on the day preceding lent, is because in people in olden times took Lent very seriously and were very strict for the 40 day fasting season. So making pancakes was their way of using up rich food ingredients such as sugar, eggs and milk, as they would refrain from eating food that would give pleasure for the coming 40 days. (This was a time before confectionary existed) Nowadays, the Lent fasting has almost completely vanished, but the Pancake Day has exploded into such a big day, we had forgotten the reason behind it. Food companies are of course cashing in on this, with pre-made pancakes or instant pancake mix packed on the front shelves of supermarkets in the few weeks coming up to the day.
When myself, my brother, and my sister were little, there wasn’t the choice of the imaginative pancake toppings that we have today. We always had two pancakes each, with either strawberry jam, or lemon and sugar. These are still my favourite toppings for pancakes to this day.
We used to watch American TV shows and think that Americans ate pancakes everyday for breakfast, with maple syrup. We used to beg out mom to make us pancakes for breakfast, like they do in America. Sometimes (after much pestering) my mom used to get up early and make us pancakes for breakfast as a treat. To this day, the smell of pancakes cooking on the pan always reminds me of delight we felt as we ran down the stairs with the waft of pancakes in the air.
As the years were on, we started to be more adventurous with toppings, choosing bananas and Nutella chocolate spread,and strawberries perhaps. And now, these days pancakes are used in savoury dishes, desserts on menus, little pancakes are made for nibbles and appetisers and so on.
We are learning the versatility of pancakes. And pancakes are so easy to make. In fact I say this to myself every time I cook them, made in minutes, why don’t I do this more often!! And then I remember why, this pesky diet!!! I’m going to share with you my Weight Watchers pancake recipe, which are very healthy, non fattening, and super tasty. I will of course share a more indulgent recipe also. As I’m due to open a B&B in the coming months, I’ll be testing recipes for the best pancake batter and accompaniments to go on my breakfast menu. At the moment I’m thinking blueberries and maple syrup. It’s so classic and simple, but really delicious.
The Low Fat Pancake Batter
· 125g sifted plain flour
· 1 medium egg
· 300ml semi skimmed milk
· Low fat cooking spray
Add the flour to a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the egg. Stir to combine. Then slowly add the milk, whisking to get a smooth consistency. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Heat pan to medium, spray with oil and pour a ladle full of batter onto the pan. Swirl the pan to get an even thin layer and allow to cook until air bubbles form (this tells us its ready for flipping (or turning for the less brave, i.e. me!!). Cook for a further minute or so and then transfer to a plate and keep warm in a low oven until you have cooked your ‘stack’.
The low fat toppings are fresh fruit and honey, low cal jam, or a sprinkle of sugar and squeeze of lemon.
The Classic Pancake Batter
· 150g of plain flour
· 1 tsp of baking powder
· 2 tbsp of caster sugar
· 3 large eggs
· 250ml full fat milk, with juice of half a lemon
· Knob of kerrygold butter for cooking (any butter will do, Kerrygold is a favourite)
· Cooker cutter/pastry cutter (optional)
Sift the baking powder and the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the eggs and sugar. Stir to combine. Then slowly add the milk, whisking to get a smooth consistency. We are looking for a thicker batter than the low fat pancakes above. Allow to stand for 30 minutes at the least. At this stage if you prefer to pour from a jug rather than ladle, then pour the mixture into the jug now. Heat pan to medium, spray with oil, place the cutting rings on the pan and pour in the batter until the ring, so it come up 1 cm on the sides. Allow to cook until air bubbles form, this tells us it’s ready for turning. Turn the pancake over (you can remove the rings at this stage cook for a further minute or so, add some butter finally for a real luxurious flavour. and then transfer to a plate and keep warm in a low oven until you have cooked your ‘stack’.
(Use a love heart shaped ring if cooking breakfast in bed for a loved one on Valentine’s Day, or perfect to bring to your mom on a Sunday morning on Mother’s Day)
The luxury toppings are perhaps smoked salmon and crème faiche and dill, or maple baked streaky bacon and maple syrup, or even just blueberries and maple syrup.
Some people treat pancakes as omelettes, making cheese, ham and tomato crepes, and that’s perfectly fine too.
For a really sweet treat, try Nutella chocolate spread and chopped bananas and strawberries. (when we were backpacking on Phi Phi Island in Thailand, a Thai lady set up her vendor cart outside out bungalows, and being the pigs that we were, we had her Nutella pancakes every morning for breakfast, with bananas)
However you like to eat your pancakes, skinny or full-on, I hope you enjoy this coming Shrove Tuesday and come up with some interesting toppings/accompaniments for them. If you have any usual pancake ideas, I’d love to hear them!