It’s that time of year again people- pancake day! Yes, tomorrow is the one day of the year where you can pig out on sweet pancakes, savoury pancakes, even those daft little drop scone things that are super stodgy but ridiculously tasty. You’ve already eaten pancakes for breakfast, had them for lunch in town, and now your head is saying “no more!” But your stomach will soon be saying “yes please!” when you read this recipe. This year you can forget the mad dash to Asda for the sickly sweet Warburtons variety…make your own! This simple but tasty recipe is easy enough for even the most inexperienced of cooks, and is an easy way to keep up with the tradition in the most authentic way.
This year I decided to find out a little more about this staple food that is forgotten about by most of us during the rest of the year (crêpes at the Christmas markets don’t count!) in order to see where the pancake actually originates. I was surprised at what I found out- pancakes, or tagenias, go back as far as the ancient Greeks, with references even being found in the literary works of the Fifth Century BC poets Cratinus and Magnes. These early pancakes were surprisingly similar in composition to our modern recipe, consisting of a mixture of wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk. The pancake, or something similar, is also believed by some archaeologists to have possibly been the earliest cereal food eaten in prehistoric societies, although the modern term ‘pancake’ only came into use in the Fifteenth Century.
The tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday originates alongside the Christian concept of Lent, traditionally a time of fasting and prayer. The pancake was seen as a good way to use up perishable foods before the beginning of this period, before the fasting began. Whilst for many this idea is now out-dated, pancake Tuesday continues to survive and is as popular as ever in the UK.
There are various versions of the traditional recipe which survive around the world, from the South African pannekoek to the Indian uttapam or the Japanese okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake which incorporates, of all things, cabbage. The recipe below creates a basic pancake which can be eaten as either a savoury or a sweet dish; so get creative with your toppings guys! Pancake mixture can be made and cooked straight away, although it is always better if it is made the night before and put in the fridge overnight to rest.
Ingredients: (Makes approx. 4 medium sized pancakes)
- 1 egg
- 1-1.5 cups of milk.
- 2 cups plain flour
- Pinch of Salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (for sweet pancakes)
- Butter or cooking oil (for frying the pancakes)
- Sieve the flour into a bowl or glass jug (and add the sugar if desired), beat the egg in a separate mug or bowl, then add half the milk to the egg and beat together.
- Add the egg and milk mixture to the flour and whisk together (preferably using a hand whisk, non-electronic). The resultant mixture should still be fairly thick. Add the rest of the milk and whisk. If the mixture is still a little thick, add more milk until the mixture is fairly runny,
but not so runny that it resembles milk. If the mixture gets too thin, sieve in a little more flour until it is the perfect thickness.
- At this point, the mixture should ideally be covered and refrigerated for a few hours (or overnight), but don’t worry if you don’t have time.
- Now comes the fun part- frying! Add a little oil or a blob of butter to a frying pan and heat until sizzling. Stir the mixture which may have separated slightly, then pour a little into the hot pan so that it covers the bottom of the pan. Cook for approximately 1 min on this side, then flip (toss it in the air if you’re feeling brave, or use a spatula if you want to ensure your pancake doesn’t end up stuck to the walls or other various parts of your kitchen).
- Cook on this side for around a minute then plate up and repeat with the remaining mixture.
You can really get creative with toppings; here are a just a few suggestions.
- Traditional sugar and lemon
- Golden syrup
- Fresh blueberries/strawberries served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
- Cheese and ham
- Peanut butter and banana
- Bacon and maple syrup (sounds disgusting but apparently it’s pretty good)
- Roasted veg and goats cheese