Just in case anyone’s missed it, today is Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day or in French, Mardi Gras, meaning Fat Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is an important day in the Christian calendar, being the last day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. Traditionally, it is a day of celebration and feasting when all of the good things in the house are eaten up to make way for the long Lenten fast, including butter, eggs and milk. As we know, butter eggs and milk (with a little flour) make pancakes. So it’s easy to see how a tradition of making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday came about – reckoned to be at some point in the Middle Ages.
Tossing pancakes is all part of the fun. If you’re feeling energetic as a result of all those carbs, you can burn them off in a traditional pancake race: pancakes are carried in a frying pan and tossed at the start and finish of the race, with points given for the best flip. I was surprised to learn that the first one recorded was as far back as 1445 in Olney, Buckinghamshire.
The day cannot go unmarked and in time honoured tradition, I made pancakes for breakfast. In a slightly less traditional approach, I added cocoa and banana to my batter – more Mardi Gras in sunny Rio than in grey rainy Cornwall. The recipe for cocoa Scotch pancakes I’ve adapted from a new arrival on my bookshelf, Chocolate by Jennifer Donovan. A review will follow. As usual, I decided to go my own way: due to a surfeit of bananas, I substituted one for the sugar and also added a little cinnamon.
This is how I made:
Chocolate Banana Scotch Pancakes
- Whizzed a banana into 250ml milk with a hand held blender.
- Sifted 250g flour (half wholemeal, half white) into a bowl together with 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp maca powder (for a mini health kick) and 1 tbsp cocoa powder.
- Made a well in the centre and added a duck egg (can use large hen’s egg).
- Stirred from the centre outward gradually adding the milk and incorporating the flour until all is well mixed.
- Heated a frying pan over medium heat and added a small knob of butter.
- Placed spoonfuls of batter on the frying pan and left to cook for a a couple of minutes or so, until bubbles started to appear on the surface of the batter.
- Flipped the pancakes over and cooked for a further minute.
- Kept warm in the oven until the batter was finished.
- Served with nectarines and maple syrup.
It’s not often we manage pancakes for breakfast on Shrove Tuesday, but fate was with us today. CT reckoned the pancakes were robust and hearty and not too sweet, just what was needed to set him up for the day. They had a real taste of the tropics with the chocolate and cinnamon flavours coming through loud and strong and the banana a faint undertow. I was really pleased I didn’t add any sugar to the mix as the pancakes were quite sweet enough from the banana and we were able to add maple syrup to suit individual preferences. The nectarines made for a surprisingly good combination and were a perfect foil for the carbohydrate laden pancakes giving freshness, acidity and added flavour.
There is still time to join in the pancake fun with Sainsbury’s who are offering four prizes for the best Twitter Pancake Selfie. Just tweet a photo of your pancake to @SainsburyPR and @Sainsburys including the hashtag #SainsbosPelfie by midnight on Tuesday 4th March. You will need to follow them both on Twitter too.
If you are anything like me, you will have odds and ends of recipes scattered around the house, used as bookmarks, scribbled on scraps or in piles somewhere or other and never to be found when needed. I keep meaning to get organised and to collect my favourite not to be forgotten recipes in one place, but somehow don’t seem to have managed it – yet.
Recently, I was sent A Cake Lover’s Recipe Notebook by Jane Brocket which would be perfect for this exercise or at least for keeping all my favourite cake recipes together. Published by Jacqui Small, it comes as a spiral bound hardback measuring roughly 20 x 23cm with a pretty vintage style textured cloth cover. The notebook is divided into sections, mostly categorised by type of cake and separated by tabs. It starts with an introduction, encouragingly entitled, let’s eat cake which celebrates the joy of baking. There then follows a chapter on baking essentials, which usefully outlines essential ingredients, equipment, methods and techniques. At the back of the book, you can find a list of addresses for suppliers. Each section includes two pre-prepared recipes. These are not meant to be particularly innovative, but classic cakes which, we are assured, are failsafe and perfect for the beginner. The recipes are all accompanied by beautiful vintage type illustrations that make me want to throw a tea party immediately.
Each section has about 16 recipe cards with space for ingredients, method and what size cake it makes or how many. It also has a handy little tick box for “make again”. There is a page to list the shape, size and number of your baking tins (or moulds in my case). I think I shall find this particularly useful as I don’t have the room to have them all in one cupboard or even all in the kitchen and often lose track of what I’ve actually got. At the back of the book, you will find pages for notes as well as favourite cake and baking shops, an idea I felt was particularly appealing.
Out of the twelve recipes included, I was relieved to see that three of them were chocolate ones: brownies, mocha cake and bûche de Noël. However, after considering making fondant fancies and covering them with chocolate icing, I decided to adapt the almond slice recipe instead. I had a jar of my chilli chocolate mincemeat left over from the Christmas before last and it was in need of using up. I thought it would make an ideal substitute for the raspberry jam in the recipe. I made only half the quantity as sadly, I had no tea party to give.
This is how I made:
Almond Mincemeat Slices
- Poured 100g flour (half wholemeal, half white) into a mixing bowl together with 25g ground almonds and 25g cardamom sugar (caster).
- Added 60g cubed unsalted butter and rubbed this into the flour until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
- Added 1 tbsp of cold water and stirred with a knife.
- Poured the mixture into a 7″ sq silicone mould and pressed it down with a spoon to form an even layer on the bottom.
- Baked at 180°C for 10 minutes.
- Creamed 70g unsalted butter with 70g cardamom sugar (caster) until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 1 duck egg.
- Sifted in 70g ground almonds, 40g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and ½ tsp baking powder.
- Stirred until just combined.
- Spread a layer of mincemeat over the shortbread base (about 8 tbsp) then covered this with the frangipane topping.
- Scattered a handful of flaked almonds over the top and baked at 180°C for 18 minutes until the top was risen and golden.
- Left to cool in the mould, then cut into 12 slices.
These slices were a true delight. The shortbread base was short and crumbly, the frangipane top was light and almondy and the chocolate mincemeat held it all together very nicely.
As my mincemeat was about to walk out of the cupboard and into the bin, I just got there in time. So I’m submitting this to the No Waste Food Challenge, normally hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen but this month by the wonderful Chris of Cooking Around the World.
Thanks to Jacqui Small for the notebook. There was no requirement to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
Occasionally, CT likes to explore his Welsh heritage. When we woke up this morning, he announced, “it’s the 1st of March, St David’s Day. Why don’t we have leeks?”. Well why not indeed. With Shrove Tuesday fast approaching, pancakes were on my mind and I’d been planning to make some for breakfast, so why not make them savoury. In fact, why not go one step further and make Welsh pancakes.