Shrove Tuesday, famously preceding Ash Wednesday, is the last day of gluttonous delight before the fasting period of Lent in the Christian calendar. For those of us not practicing, it’s the day that supermarkets sell frying pans and bottled lemon juice at double the usual prices, and we all set our smoke alarms off.
‘Why Moomins?’ I hear you ask, and I respond simply; why not.
Of course, as with all the best traditions, the roots of pancake day lie well beyond one single religion. Different peoples and nations around the world celebrate similar holidays at similar times of the year- there’s something about this transitional point in the calendar that calls us to use up the last of the fatty winter food and empty our larders in hope of spring freshness and lighter diets. It’s the cosmic version of having one big treat before you finally start a diet.
In Finland it is traditional to celebrate Laskiainen with green pea soup and a special pastry called laskiaispulla, which is a sweet bready thing full of cream and either jam or almond paste. In parts of India the day is known as Hithrooz, and is celebrated with drinks and home-cooked meat recipes. In Lithuania, people celebrate Užgavėnės with pancakes and little doughnuts called ‘spurgos.’ On the Portuguese island of Madeira, the day coincides with the ending of the Carnival of Madeira, and is celebrated with ‘malasadas.’ These are like yeasty doughnuts, made in order to use up all of the lard and sugar in the house- it’s a tradition that travelled to Hawaii, where the day is known as Malasada Day. This dates back to the nineteenth-century sugar plantations, where many of the workers were of Catholic Portuguese descent.
“Someone who eats pancakes and jam can’t be so awfully dangerous. You can talk to him.” Tove Jansson, Finn Family Moomintroll
The Finnish Embassy revealed their own secret pancake recipe online, in honour of the publication of the Moomins Cookbook. This book serves as a charming introduction to Finnish cuisine and a fun childhood flashback for lots of us. The book also includes recipes for full meals or small snacks inspired by characters like Grandpa Grumble or Snufkin, which is so fun.
One of my favourite facts about Pancake Day is that in the UK, the Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race takes place. There are teams from the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Fourth Estate, who race in relay for the coveted title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions. It’s supposed to raise awareness of Rehab, a charity which supports disabled and disadvantaged people across the country, championing diversity and inclusion in workplaces, social spaces and public life. You can watch a clip of the 2015 race on the BBC YouTube channel here.
So in celebration of this honoured day of fatty foods, here are two recipes for the sweet-and-savoury-toothed alike. The sweet pancakes are the thin, crepe-style ones I grew up with, while the savoury pancakes are thicker, and bit more American. Enjoy!
Sweet: Crepes a la Marry Berry
125g plain flour | 1 egg and 1 egg yolk | 300ml milk | a drop of oil | some spoons | a frying pan.
- Sift the flour into the bowl, and make a well in the middle with a spoon
- Whisk together the egg and egg yolk with a little milk, then pour this into the well
- Gradually whisk in the remaining milk, drawing the mixture together a little at a time, to make a smooth batter
- Heat the frying pan with a little oil
- Ladle in two or three tablespoons of batter and tilt the pan about to spread it evenly.
- Cook over a high heat for between 45-60 seconds, or until small holes appear on the surface and the edge starts to curl. Loosen the pancake with some hand swishing, and then turn it with a palette knife or flip it.
- Cook the other side for about 30 seconds, and tip the pancake on to a plate.
- Repeat this process until you’ve used up all of the batter, remembering to grease the pan as often as you feel you need to.
- Serve the pancakes as you desire; traditional toppings include lemon juice and icing sugar, seasonal spring fruits like strawberries, or make like a Parisian tourist and have nutella.
Savoury: Vegan Tomato & Mushroom Pancakes (for two)
Adapted from this recipe on BBC GoodFood here.
140g self-raising flour | 400ml soya milk | vegetable oil, for frying | 250g button mushrooms | 250g cherry tomatoes, halved | 2tbsp soya cream or soya milk | large handful of pine nuts | snipped chives | some spoons | a frying pan | a blender
- Sift the flour into a blender, and add the soya milk. Blend until it becomes a smooth batter
- Heat a little oil in the frying pan (medium, non-stick) until it gets very hot. Pour about 3 tbsp of the batter into the pan and swish until evenly spread.
- Cook this until bubbles appear on the surface, then flip with a dramatic hand gesture, or a palette knife
- Cook the other side until golden brown
- Repeat with remaining batter; you should get about eight pancakes
- Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan and cook the mushrooms until tender
- Add the tomatoes for a few minutes, then pour in cream/milk, pine nuts and cook until combined
- Divide the pancakes between two plates and spoon over the toppings. Scatter with chives before serving
Did you enjoy this post? There’s a bit of a series going on now, with the first ‘Literary Recipes’ post here, and a special Christmas edition here. If you’d like to see more, or less, of this kind of content then please leave a comment below, or find The Slow Pulse on Twitter,Facebook and Tumblr. If you want to contact me directly, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org