Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Yesterday was shrove Tuesday or as it's better known in these parts pancake day (not Mardi Gras, we don't do that kind of thing). So time to get pancaking.

I'm not talking about US style buttermilk pancakes, nor am I talking about crêpes, the closest none English equivalent is the Dutch pancake, except they cook the filling into the batter.

This is one in the frying pan. To make them you need a thinnish batter, I base mine on 2 eggs & 500ml of whole milk with enough flour (self raising) to make a batter that drips. Some people add a little melted butter, some use less egg and some water instead of all milk, that is as far as I'm concerned a bit on the stingy side. We were taught in school that the pancake (and its traditional sugar & lemon "filling") was made to use up ingredients that were forbidden during lent, so there is no need to hold on to spare eggs, milk, cream or butter. The batter should be allowed to stand, 30 minutes is a minimum, at home pancake batter was made in the morning & pancakes eaten in the evening. The batter goes into a hot frying pan, here we meet the first cooking ritual. A bare amount of fat goes into the pan over a high heat and it's then carefully watched for the blue haze. Once this elusive wisp of smoke is seen in goes some batter. Enough to cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of about 5mm (any more is a bit too thick, much less is stingy). Once the top of the pancake is set you get to turn the pancake over.

Tosser or Flipper ?
 As you can see I'm a tosser (it took several attempts to get this shot, so I'd taken to pulling faces to amuse myself).
Which is the traditional way to turn a pancake over. There is a whole host of peripheral stuff associated with the pancake toss. Its a staple of slapstick (they stick to the ceiling and fall down at the most hilarious moment) and several folk rituals, usually races. Science tells us that the best toss comes when the pancake has slithered to the far side of the pan, experience tells us that a crisp wrist action is better than power from the fore-arm. If this sounds like hassle & a potential waste of good food, flipping is the answer, just slide a spatula or fish slice under the pancake and turn it over in the pan, we won't think any less of you, but you'll be missing out.

After a couple of minutes the underside should be done, slide the pancake out onto a warm plate, sprinkle with sugar and squeeze lemon juice over, roll up slice & eat (The chef usually gets to eat whole as they are a pancake production line). If you can get everyone in the kitchen & dole out hot pancakes to them so much the better, there is no really satisfactory way to keep them warm. The "filling" is traditionally lemon & sugar as described, some people go with jam, others with syrup (either golden or maple) but generally on pancake day the filling is sweet.

Here is another interesting take on the English pancake day experience

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