In the UK, pancakes are synonymous with Shrove Tuesday. #PancakeDay, a day when fatty and perishable goods such as milk, eggs and butter had to be used before #Lent which began on Ash Wednesday. Many would argue that the British invented the pancake but archaeologists place its origins firmly in prehistoric times.
#ShroveTuesday is known in other countries such as the United States and France as Mardi Gras which is French for Fat Tuesday, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.
There are of course many variations of the humble pancake, as different countries have their own shape and structure to it. In France it is called a crepe which is a thinner pancake originally from the Breton or Brittany region in France. Wales has the crempog and Scotland the Scotch pancake or drop scone. Either way you look at it they are all delicious in their own rights irrespective of where they come from.
With the many different variations of pancakes there are as many different ingredients you can add as a topping. This is where there is much debate.
Do you… have yours plain with just a sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon or smothered in Nutella? Or drizzled with maple syrup and topped with strawberries and bananas? Exactly, where do you stop?
So what makes the perfect pancake? Simply throw together plain flour, eggs, milk and a pinch of salt. And that is it.
The quantities of the ingredients will depend on the amount of pancakes you want to make. I use this one which is enough for 6-8 nice sized pancakes.
60g (2oz) plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 medium egg
175ml (6fl oz) milk
Oil, for frying
You can if you wish not use salt and you can substitute oil with a non stick vegetable spray such as Flora.
Tip the flour into a bowl and stir in the salt. Lightly beat together the egg and milk. Pour over the flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking it well, to give a smooth pancake batter.
Heat a frying pan and very lightly grease the base of it with a piece of kitchen paper dipped in oil. Pour a thin layer of batter over the base of the pan. Cook it until the edges start to curl back. Either toss the pancake, or use a palette knife to loosen it around the edges and then use it to help flip it over.
Cook the pancake briefly on this side, then slide it out on to a plate. Place a sheet of kitchen paper on top. Cook the rest of the mixture in the same way.
You’re half way there to that scrumptious pancake. Now all you need is to choose the toppings to finish off your delicious treat. But that’s the tricky part, a hotly contested subject. What to have on your pancakes? Think outside the box, be as adventurous as you like. You never know, it might add to the fun! The possibilities are endless, but here are a few of my favourites…
Dark Chocolate with Pears
Melted dark chocolate with pears is a combination made in heaven. Finish by adding chopped nuts to the fresh yet gooey filling.
Lemon and Sugar
Simply sprinkle sugar and add a dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice onto your warm pancake.
Cinnamon, apples and raspberries, topped with lashings of fresh custard, makes for a wonderful pudding.
Chocolate and Banana
Melt milk chocolate and once done, add slices of fresh banana and smother on your pancakes for a delicious topping.
Arctic Pancakes with a Butterscotch Sauce
Scoops of ice cream sandwiched in between 2 soft pancakes and topped with fresh butterscotch sauce. To make the perfect butterscotch sauce all you need is sugar, a little water and butter. For a full recipe, click here.
Blueberries and Crème Fraiche
Mix a handful of fresh blueberries with a dollop of low-fat crème fraiche and wrap in a pancake.
Vanilla Ice Cream with Apple Sauce and Cinnamon
Make a stack of pancakes and have them ready to fill with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, a spoonful of apple sauce and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Soak whole, pitted black cherries in kirsch, top with whipped cream and crumbled digestive on top.
Whilst pancakes are historically eaten on Shrove Tuesday, you can eat them any day of the year – why not try a different topping each day!