It’s that time of year – when we flip, toss and cover ourselves in cream and maple syrup – yes, it’s Pancake Day or more formally, Shrove Tuesday!
Marking the last day before the start of Lent where you may elect to give up one of your favourite treats for forty days, Shrove Tuesday is associated with clearing your kitchen cupboards out of staples such as sugar, fats, eggs and other baking goods. So traditionally, pancakes were eaten on this day to use up these foodstuffs before the 40 day fasting season of Lent began.
The classic pancake recipe combines 100g plain flour with one large egg, 300ml milk and a pinch of salt, beaten together to make the basic mix which you can heat two tablespoons at a time in a hot pan using butter to fry. A simple squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of caster sugar is often preferred but for more indulgent options, the sky’s the limit – sweet toppings of fresh berries, cream, maple syrup and chocolate might be more to your taste, or for savoury fillings, cheese, mushrooms, ham, eggs or bacon.
There are several places where you can enjoy a classic pancake or crêpe in and around the town. The go-to eaterie is Gelatis on Broad Street. This lovely American style diner offers a range of delicious savoury and sweet treats such as pancakes or waffles with fresh strawberries, bananas, blueberries, chocolate flakes, white chocolate sauce, caramel syrup and chopped nuts. If you prefer something more savoury, their breakfast menu offers crêpes with ham, bacon, brie, cheddar, spinach or mushrooms.
Thorn’s Coffee Lounge located in Croft Court is celebrating pancake day with four mouth watering pancakes with toppings including Warm Berries with Mascarpone, Nutella & Banana, Biscoff and White Chocolate or a savoury option of Bacon and Maple Syrup – perfect with one of their lattes or a hot chocolate. With the warmer spring weather finally starting to appear, why not head over with your four legged friend and take a seat on the outside terrace and enjoy an alfresco pancake?
Just outside of town in Walford, you can enjoy a relaxing brunch in The Mill Race‘s lovely restaurant or on their sunny outdoor patio. On the menu are brunch favourites such as Traditional English Breakfast or Eggs Benedict as well as their delicious ‘Fluffy Pancakes’ served sweet, with fruit and maple syrup, or savoury, with local bacon and maple syrup.
Heading out towards Whitchurch, The Potting Shed serves breakfast from Tuesday to Sunday (10am-11.15am). As well as their traditional breakfast and brunch menu staples, try their ‘Oink & Maple’ pancakes – two buttermilk Scotch pancakes served with two rashers of bacon and topped with maple syrup.
Whilst pancake day is celebrated in English-speaking countries like the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada, elsewhere around the world, for example in France, and the USA, it is called Mardi Gras (‘Fat Tuesday’). In many countries, it can also be celebrated in the week before Lent on Thursday, Sunday or Monday with a wide variety of celebratory foods and festivities on offer.
Back in the 17th century in Poland, on the Thursday before the start of Lent, locals used to consume inordinate amounts of lard, bacon and vodka for a whole week. The more modern – and very slightly healthier – version, is celebrated on ‘Fat Thursday’ (or Tlusty Czwartek), where they eat nothing but pancakes, pastries and jam-filled doughnuts making it a very busy time for bakeries and cake shops.
Denmark, Norway, and Iceland all celebrate Bolludagur, their equivalent of Fat Thursday, which translates directly to ‘bun day’. This is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent and is all about sweet cream buns, filled with jam and topped with chocolate.
Meanwhile, in Lithuania, their traditional Uzgavenes (‘the time before Lent’) is a time for humour, pranks, superstitions and eating plenty of food. Often celebrated in public town squares, local parks and in the family home, they enjoy dressing up, singing and dancing, and children are encouraged to ask for pancakes and money (in a similar way to trick or treating at Halloween). If that isn’t enough, Lithuanians are encouraged to eat twelve meals during Shrove Tuesday to get themselves ready for the fast.
In the Ukraine, pancake day isn’t celebrated on Shrove Tuesday or even prior to Lent – instead they celebrate what is known as Maslenitsa from 11-17 March (Pancake Week) which is traditionally accompanied by visiting family, eating, drinking and lively festivities to celebrate the end of winter and the start of spring.
The Ukranian mlyntsi, is a thin pancake and very popular as a light breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or dessert – pretty much any time of day. Typical savoury fillings include cooked cabbage, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream or even caviar and fried chicken. If you fill your mlyntsi and then roll it and lightly re-fry, sauté or bake it, they are then known as a nalysnyk. Sweeter versions of the mlyntsi use similar toppings to British traditional pancakes and are filled with fruits, berries, whipped cream, honey or jam – or a traditional citrus curd. This is made using the juices of lemons, limes, grapefruit and tangerines or oranges combined with eggs and sugar and cooked over a medium-high heat.
Whatever your preference, the simple pancake, celebrated across the globe, is easy to make and one of the most versatile treats to enjoy at any time of day.