In the United States, pancakes are enjoyed more often; a thick stack of fluffy discs served with maple syrup, butter and crispy bacon is a common breakfast both at home and the diner. In France, savoury galettes and sweet crêpes are a popular street food and Brittany seems to have almost as many crêperies as it does residents! In Holland (and elsewhere in Europe), thicker pannekoeken are served with both savoury and sweet toppings; enormous, hearty and filling. The smaller poffertjes we enjoyed in Amsterdam last year remind me a little of Scottish drop scones. During our recent Japan trip, we discovered just a few of the many variations of okonomiyaki, savoury pancakes made from a mix of batter and other ingredients, and often cooked and served on a teppan (hot plate) at the table. Southern Indian dosa, made from a fermented rice or lentil batter, are eaten with almost every meal. Likewise, the slightly sour and spongy Ethiopian injera are a regional staple. In China, steamed pancakes are wrapped around meat or vegetable fillings. Who can resist Russian blini with sour cream and caviar or smoked fish?
But here in England, with the exception of Crêpes Suzette, seen only rarely on retro restaurant menus, and the occasional crêperie, which always seems a little out of place once transplanted across the Channel, pancakes are often relegated to a once-a-year slot.
Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday (which I rather prefer!) is the day before Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent. Traditionally, Christians observed a strict fast for the 40 days of lent, and rich foods such as meat, eggs, milk and sugar were certainly excluded. Perishable goods had to be used up beforehand. The majority of the population most likely didn’t have meat often enough to keep any in store, but would not have wanted to waste milk and eggs. Shrove Tuesday therefore came to be associated with pancakes.
These days, most Christians who continue to observe Lent tend to give up one or two favourite items rather than follow a severe fast, but pancake day has become such a cultural tradition that it’s commonly observed by Christians and non-Christians alike.
I’m across the pond this week, so I’ll do my best to enjoy a steaming stack of thick, buttermilk beauties on Pancake day.
Here are my picks of ways to enjoy pancakes today, this week, this month and anytime throughout the year!
- Raspberry Pancakes in the Masterchef Invention Test
- Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake
- American Dutch Pancakes
- Baked Spinach and Ricotta Pancakes
- Chinese Pancakes
- Chinese Peking Crispy Duck, Pancakes and Plum Sauce
- Classic Crêpe
- Crêpes Suzette
- Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake
- Drop Scones
- Drop Scones with Lemon Curd and Clotted Cream
- Finnish Pancake with Raspberry Red Wine Sauce
- Green Tea Mille Crepes
- Lemon Crepe Cake
- Overnight Buttermilk Pancakes
- Peanut Butter Pancakes
- Scotch Pancakes