In centuries past, in the households of the great and good, it was customary to celebrate the evening of the Christian religious observance of Shrove Tuesday by giving a performance of plays and masques in a celebration of life.
Shrove Tuesday is basically the day of preparation for Lent; a day for confessing ‘sins’. The following day is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
The Christian religious observance of the season called Lent became over time an opportunity to cleanse – first your soul, then your kitchen, and then the rest of the house. It is the origin of the tradition known as Spring cleaning.
For centuries old clothes were mended, and new ones purchased. In the cultural tradition of the Ukraine, houses were also whitewashed inside and out during Lent.
The word “shrove” comes from the past tense of “shrive”, which means to hear confession of, assign penance to, and absolve.
It was the day you need to consume all the fat, eggs and dairy products left in the kitchen before you went without.
Shrove Tuesday gradually came to be affectionately called Pancake Day, because the ingredients symbolize four crucial points of significance at this time of year.
Eggs ~ Creation
Flour ~ Staff of life
Salt ~ Wholesomeness
Milk ~ Purity
When I was living at St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane 2000 – 2005, I became involved in running ‘Pancake Races’ to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, which was a lot of fun. Many stories and legends have grown up around the tossing of pancakes.
Although the observance of Shrovetide in England never ran to the wild excesses which often marked this period of license in southern climes, still various sports and games were common.
Today it is regarded as bad luck (not to mention bad food handling practice) if a pancake falls on the floor mid-toss.
It is said Napoleon – who with Josephine liked to cook and eat pancakes – blamed the failure of his Russian campaign on one he dropped years before at the Chateau at Malmaison.
For the blinis:
75g/2¾oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 medium eggs
full fat milk
30g/1oz unsalted butter
For the salmon topping:
150g/5&frac;oz salmon fillet, skinned and very finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 red spring onions, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Greek yoghurt, for serving
paprika, for serving
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, eggs, salt and enough milk to make a thick batter.
2. Gently melt the butter in a small frying pan.
3. Drop 2 separate tablespoons of the batter into the frying pan at a time, leaving room for each blini to spread out.
4. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through and golden. Remove and set aside on kitchen paper before cooking
the next batch.
5. In a small frying pan, gently heat the oil for the salmon.
6. Sauté the onion for 1 minute.
7. Add the salmon and cook for 1-2 minutes. Season and allow to cool.
8. Serve each blini topped with a heaped spoonful of the salmon mixture, a drop of Greek yoghurt and a pinch of paprika.
Pancakes with Lemon
For the pancake mixture:
110g/4oz plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
200ml/7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml/3fl oz water
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets a airing. Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs – any sort of whisk or even a fork will do – incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you do so.
Next gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking (don’t worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk). When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any elusive bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream. Now melt the 50g/2oz of butter in a pan. Spoon 2 tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it in, then pour the rest into a bowl anduse it to lubricate the pan, using a wodge of kitchen paper to smear it round before you make each pancake.
Now get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and, to start with, do a test pancake to see if you’re using the correct amount of batter. I find 2 tbsp is about right for an 18cm/7in pan. It’s also helpful if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it’s tinged gold as it should be. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife – the other side will need a few seconds only – then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
Stack the pancakes as you make them between sheets of greaseproof paper on a plate fitted over simmering water, to keep them warm while you make the rest.
To serve, spinkle each pancake with freshly squeezed lemon juice and caster sugar, fold in half, then in half again to form triangles, or else simply roll them up. Serve sprinkled with a little more sugar and lemon juice and extra sections of lemon.
Blueberry and Ricotta Pancakes
190ml/6½fl oz milk
4 eggs, yolks and whites seperated
255g/9oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1. Separate the egg yolks with the ricotta and milk. Sieve the flour, baking powder and the salt and mix it with the ricotta, milk and yolk mixture.
2. Whisk the egg white to a soft peak. Add a third of the egg whites to the other ingredients to loosen the mixture, then add the remaining whites.
3. Add 110g/4oz of the blueberries to the batter. In a small pan add the remaining blueberries, with the sugar and 110g/4oz of butter and allow them to simmer for a couple of minutes so that some of the berries have collapsed.
4. Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and add a ladle of the batter to the pan. Once the pancake bubbles a bit after about 1-2 minutes, turn the pancake over and cook on the other side.
5. Serve by placing 3 pancakes on top of each other and drizzle some of the blueberry compôte over the pancakes and plate. Finally put a scoop of crème fraîche on the pile of pancakes. Garnish with a few fresh blueberries.
Guinness Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Cheese
For the pancakes:
140g/5oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
250ml/9fl oz Guinness(approximately)
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the topping:
4-6 rashers of dry-cured bacon
knob of butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 heaped tbsp grated mature cheddar
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (eg: chives, parsley, basil)
1. Mix the flour, baking powder, eggs and thyme with enough Guinness to create a thickish batter with a drop scone consistency.
2. Heat a little oil in a large, flat non-stick frying pan. When the oil is almost smoking pour in 2-3 ladlefuls of the batter.
3. Cook over a medium heat until bubbles appear on the surface and the underside is brown (3-5 minutes). Turn over and brown the other side. Continue until you have 8-10 pancakes and keep warm.
4. Fry the bacon with a little butter and oil until crisp. Mix together the cheese and chopped herbs.
5. Arrange the pancakes on a warm plate, scatter with the cheese mixture and top with the hot bacon. Serve at once.
Canadian Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Syrup
4fl oz/120ml buttermilk
5oz/150g plain flour
½ level tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 large eggs, beaten
about 1-2oz/25-50g lard
lots of pure maple syrup and creme fraiche
First sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together in a roomy bowl and make a well in the centre. After that, whisk the buttermilk and 3fl oz/75ml cold water together in a jug and gradually whisk this into the bowl, slowly incorporating the flour with each new addition of liquid. Finally, add the eggs a little at a time until you have a smooth batter.
Now place a large, solid frying pan over a medium heat, add 2 teaspoons of the lard and heat it until the fat shimmers. Then, using a tablespoon of batter per pancake, place 2 or 3 spoonfuls into the pan.
They will take about 1 minute to turn golden brown, then turn them over using a spatula and fork, being careful not to splash yourself with the hot fat. Give them another 45 seconds on the other side, by which time they should have puffed up like little soufflés, then briefly rest them on some kitchen paper to absorb any excess fat.
Repeat this with the rest of the batter, adding a little more lard if necessary. They will keep warm in a low oven, but to enjoy them at their best, have everyone seated to eat them as soon as they come out of the pan.