As any self-respecting epicure knows, Saturday is Treat Day. But what of up this harsh, unforgiving week? Well, as the Bible tells us, Jesus came down to Earth and saw that the people were depressed following the inevitable disappointment of Monday, and so he invented … Shrove Tuesday.
Shrove Tuesday – or Pancake Day, as it’s know by those of us who have no idea what a shrove is – is a day consecrated to the enjoyment of that most versatile and variable of treats, the pancake. This journee of jaw-gnashing – one of the only days of institutionalised brinner (breakfast for dinner) – will be making its way to a frying pan near you this very Tuesday, the 12th of February.
Pancakes have been around since the dawn of time; as sea scorpions and armour-plated fish roamed the terrifying oceans of the Ordovician period, raptors were cheekily stealing diplodocus eggs, milking unsuspecting triceratops, and buying flour from Dinosaur Tesco, then cooking the mixture on a sun-baked stone. The result was the pancake, perhaps a little more sandy and a little less syrupy, but undoubtedly the forebear of what we enjoy today. Since then, it has evolved immensely, branching out into the refinement of the French crepe, the colossal portions of the American flapjack and the simple versatility of the plain old English pancake; but whatever your taste, just follow this handy guide to making your Mardi as Gras as possible.
Of the things to consider when making pancakes, one of the most important – and certainly the most divisive – aspects is that of texture. The thin French crepe can have an impressive diameter of up to 50cm, but the higher concentration of milk and egg in the batter, as well as the liberal amounts of butter in which it is fried, ensures its smooth, rich character.
American pancakes, however, tend to go for sheer volume, which is deemed an achievement in itself; as such, they lean towards a higher flour concentration for something thicker, fluffier, and less buttery, but with a sponge-like texture perfect for soaking up all variety of hilarious-sounding sauces (boysenberry, anyone?). We Brits don’t like to rock the boat, so the typical English pancake hedges its bets by using the texture of the French with the average size of the Americans. The decision, of course, is yours: choose your creations based on your (doubtless formidable) appetite and get cracking! But before you do, one more thing…
Flavours! Think of the humble pancake as your culinary canvas: plain, but with oh so much potential. Some pursuits insist upon traditional toppings such as lemon and sugar, golden or maple syrup, or Nutella: the pancake’s best friend since 1892. Others, taking a more continental stance, like theirs with such savoury offerings as smoked salmon and asparagus, spinach and gruyere, or something of the animal variety.
Needless to say, the Gourmand doesn’t subscribe to this delicate bullshit; pancakes are an event and should be treated as such, so this Pancake Day, why not try the Elvis: a stack of fluffy American cakes with alternating layers of peanut butter and jam, topped with sliced banana and as much bacon as you can pile on. Alternatively, use pancakes as a substitute for – nay, improvement on! – bread, with such gourmandises as pancake sausage rolls, pancakes with embedded bacon, or, if you’re feeling healthy, blueberry cream cheese pancake sandwiches, bewitched to a lustrous violet by the plump, juicy berries. This Pancake Day, let your imagination run wild with any combination of ingredients you desire! Throw caution to the wind and moderation out the window – remember, Jesus wants you to.