In the UK, six and a half weeks before Easter, people are whisking, frying, tossing and tucking into pancakes. It is a long tradition with its roots in Christianity, with believers ridding the house of rich ingredients before the start of Lent. Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day as it is also known, is a well-loved event in the year.
A British pancake is different than its plumper, fluffier North American cousins and actually closer to the French crepe without being quite so delicate. Of course you can fill your pancakes with no end of delicious ingredients both sweet and savory. But the proper way, we think, is to eat them with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar.
2 eggs – beaten
2 cups of milk
2 cups of flour
Pinch of salt
Little oil or butter
Place the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the middle, gradually beat in the milk and then the eggs until you have a thin batter.
Heat a large frying pan to medium heat, add a little oil/butter and using a paper towel, wipe the surface of the pan.
Ladle the batter into the pan, using the back of the ladle to spread out the batter mix. You need to work quickly. Once the pancake is browned at the edges and looks like the surface is cooked (no longer wet) it is ready to toss. Check that it hasn’t stuck to the pan, move into a safe space (making sure all children are standing well back) and toss the pancake in the air. The purpose is to get it to land on the uncooked side. Cook the second side for 30 seconds to a minute, until golden. Turn onto a plate and prepare the next pancake.
Of course, actually tossing the pancake can lead to humorous consequences or disaster. At school we would have pancake tossing races — not with a hot pan of course. If you prefer to get the pancakes on the table in an edible state then you can use a spatula to turn them over. One final note, the first pancake never turns out right, so use it as the tester pancake to check that the batter is the right consistency and the heat perfect.
Once your children have seen your pancake tossing antics they are bound to want to try too. Here is a safer version that even the youngest family members can get involved with, and a little history.
In Olney, Buckinghamshire they hold an annual Pancake Race. Housewives from the town run the distance from The Old Bull Inn to the church, wearing their aprons and tossing their pancakes as they go. The tradition has taken place annually since 1445 and traditionally the winner is given a kiss from the verger.
A paper plate
A piece of stiff card
A thin piece of yellow card
Take the stiff card and cut it into the shape of a frying pan handle.
Staple the handle to the paper plate.
Cut out a pancake from the yellow card, making it a bit smaller than the plate.
Things to Try
:: Running a race whilst tossing the pancake
:: How many pancakes can you toss in a minute?
:: Pancake-tossing tennis
:: Pancake-tossing assault course
Jo Ebisujima is a Brit living in Japan. She loves creating for children and helping parents to organize themselves and their children so that they can spend more quality time together. She writes about her work at My Organized Chaos. She can also be found at her personal blog jojoebi designs where she shares about her everyday life, Montessori, crafting and raising a bilingual child in Japan.