How to celebrate Pancake Day
By Ellie Buchdahl at Education UK, Updated 26 January 2016
Pour, flip, eat, repeat!
February 9 2016 is Pancake Day in the UK – so stir up your batter, heat up your frying pan and join in the fun!
Hang on – wasn’t this in March last year?
The date of Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day in the UK) depends on when Easter falls – which is on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the March equinox (when day and night are of equal length). It can be any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9. This year, Easter Sunday is March 27, so Shrove Tuesday is February 9.
What has that got to do with pancakes?
Many Christian cultures around the world observe a 40-day fasting period called Lent, which takes place between Ash Wednesday (February 10 this year) and Easter Sunday. This is because Jesus is said to have spent 40 days fasting in the desert.
This meant giving up rich ingredients such as sugar, butter and eggs – so to get rid of them (and enjoy one last feast!), people in the UK started making pancakes on the day before Lent.
Nowadays, many people who aren’t Christians (and also many Christians who don't choose to fast) also join in.
So it’s basically an excuse to eat a load of pancakes, then…?
Not only that! There are some even more bizarre Shrove Tuesday traditions in the UK…
Take Westminster School’s annual Shrove Tuesday ‘Greaze’. The chef makes a special pancake containing, among other things, horsehair. He throws it over a metal bar in the ceiling of the school hall, and when it lands, pupils from the school fight over it – sitting on pancake pieces, throwing them, shoving them in their trousers… until the headmaster blows a whistle and the pupil with the biggest piece wins!
‘Pancake races’ are also popular across the UK – these are silly but highly competitive events, where contestants must toss pancakes in a frying pan while running! For a traditional experience, head for Olney in Buckinghamshire, where it’s believed the first Pancake Day race took place in 1445. There’s also the Parliamentary Pancake Race in London, where members of Parliament and the House of Lords race against each other for charity.
I’m getting hungry now. So what is the best way to eat pancakes, UK style?
It depends on what you like. You can make pancakes gluten-free, egg-free, with or without butter, or with wholemeal flour. Some people add sugar, spices, fruit (such as blueberries), cream or buttermilk.
But the classic pancake recipe simply uses 300ml milk, 100g plain flour and 1 egg.
Sift the flour into a bowl, make a small well in the centre, crack in the egg and pour in half the milk.
Whisk them together so there are no lumps, then stir in the rest of the milk. This is your batter.
Melt a little butter or heat a little oil in a frying pan, and coat the base of the pan with it.
Pour some of the batter into the pan – about 2-3 tablespoons, depending on the size of the pan – and quickly tilt the pan to spread the batter before it cooks.
Allow the pancake to cook until it starts to lift away from the sides of the pan and you can easily lift it up from the base without it sticking. Then…
FLIP your pancake over to cook the other side!
BE WARNED – it takes some practice to flip a pancake in one easy movement! You could try using a spatula or palette knife (or just be prepared for the fact that a few of the first ones will end up on the floor… or the ceiling...).
The ‘UK classic’ is lemon juice and a sprinkle of white sugar, before rolling your pancake into a sausage shape and devouring it.
But there are lots of variations, both sweet and savoury. Here are some ideas… but feel free to be creative!
- Ham, cheese and mushroom
- Smoked salmon, cream cheese and spinach
- Chili con carne
- Bacon and blue cheese
- Chicken and avocado
- Chocolate spread and sliced banana
- Ice cream
- Apple sauce and cinnamon
- Poached pears and ginger
- Berry compote, Greek yoghurt and honey
For more about life in the UK, including festivals and celebrations, visit Living and studying in the UK.
Photo © VisitEngland Images / Andy Handley 2012