by Stephen Andrews
I love pancakes. I mean, who wouldn’t? Slathered with butter and honey or a thousand other yummy toppings, from ice-cream to fruit, they’re one of the tastiest dishes around …
You probably call them ‘hotcakes’ but they’re both pretty much the same, although the British pancake tends to be a bit thinner than a Japanese hotcake.
In the UK, the traditional day to eat pancakes is called Shrove Tuesday or simply Pancake Day. This year it’s on Tuesday 21st February. So get your taste-buds ready!
The invention of pancakes: a tasty idea
Some clever person had the idea of making pancakes a very long time ago. In fact, the pancake has a long history and featured in cookery books as far back as 1439. ‘Tossing’ the pancake – throwing it up into the air and then catching it in the pan – also goes back centuries.
Essentially, long ago, making pancakes developed out of the practical need to use up all of the remaining eggs, butter, milk or other animal products that were in the house.
So families began to look for what they could make quickly and easily that would use up these ingredients. And, in England and Ireland, the result turned into a special day to make and eat lots and lots of pancakes!
Try this recipe
To make 8 or so pancakes you will need 8oz plain flour, 2 large eggs, 1pint milk, salt.
Mix all together and whisk well. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, pour in enough batter to cover the base of the pan and let it cook until the base of the pancake has browned. Then shake the pan to loosen the pancake and flip the pancake over to brown the other side.
Golden syrup or lemon juice and caster sugar are two of the most popular toppings for pancakes. But you can add whatever you like. Me, I like ice-cream and strawberries.
In the UK, people go mad for Pancake Day
In the UK, pancake races form an important part of the Shrove Tuesday celebrations – an opportunity for large numbers of people, often in fancy dress, to race down streets tossing pancakes. The object of the race is to get to the finishing line first, carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake in it and flipping the pancake as you run.
The most famous pancake race takes place at Olney in Buckinghamshire. Competitors have to be local women and they must wear an apron and a hat or scarf. Each contestant has a frying pan containing a hot pancake and must toss it three times during the race. The first woman to complete the course and arrive at the church, serve her pancake to the church’s bellringer and be kissed by him, is the winner.
At Westminster School in London, the annual Pancake Grease is held. A verger from Westminster Abbey leads a procession of boys into the playground where the school cook tosses a huge pancake over a five-metre high bar. The boys then race to grab a portion of the pancake and the one who ends up with the largest piece receives money from the Dean.
In the seaside town of Scarborough in Yorkshire on Shrove Tuesday, everyone assembles on the promenade overlooking the sea, to skip. Long ropes are stretched across the road and there might be ten or more people skipping on one rope. Everyone taking part then has a pancake race and earn point depending on how much pancake they have left in their frying pans at the end of the race.
If you’ve never made a pancake before, why not give it a go this Pancake Day?