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Why we have Pancake Day

We all know and love the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – but what’s the reason behind pancake day festivities?

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Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday every year, which marks the start of Lent. This countdown to Easter Sunday is a religious observance by some to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. Some people choose to give up various extravagances in their lives for this period, which is often indulgent foods. Pancakes became synonymous with the day before Lent as it was the perfect food to make in order to use up all the rich foods people were preparing to give up for Lent – namely eggs, milk and sugar. And so Pancake Day was born and has become a social tradition as well as a day linked with religious observance.

One bizarre tradition that the day has become known for is street races where people run while tossing pancakes in a frying pan. This is thought to have begun all the way back in 1445, when a Buckinghamshire woman was busy making pancakes in her home when the church bells rang. Not wanting to miss the local service, she ran out the door and along the street still holding her frying pan, tossing a pancake to stop it from burning! Villages, towns and cities host Pancake Day races to this very day.

This year, Shrove Tuesday falls on Tuesday 5th March. To celebrate, we’ll be having a Pancake Week, 4th – 10th March, at The Runnymede on Thames. Come and join us!

And if you want to try making your own pancakes at home, here are our go-to recipes for regular and vegan pancake-making.

The Runnymede’s regular pancake recipe

Ingredients
100g plain flour
300ml semi-skimmed milk
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Soft butter for frying
Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs into it.
  3. Whisk the mixture using an electric or hand-held whisk, add the oil and gradually add the milk as you continue whisking. Stop whisking when you have a smooth batter.
  4. Cover a square of kitchen towel with the butter and wipe a thin layer of it into a frying pan. Heat the pan until very hot, then add a ladle of the pancake batter.
  5. Pancakes cook quickly, so check the underside is a golden brown after around 30 seconds, then flip the pancake to cook the other side for 20 seconds or so.
  6. Repeat the process until you have all the pancakes your heart – and your family – desires!

Makes approximately 12 pancakes.

Tip: Serve in the traditional way with fresh lemon and sugar, or try something different, such as stewed fruits, home-made jams or American-style with peanut butter and banana.

Vegan pancake recipe

Ingredients
220g plain flour
700ml almond milk
5 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour and gradually add in the almond milk and oil, whisking as you pour. Stop whisking when you have a smooth batter.
  3. Dip a square of kitchen towel into some vegetable oil and wipe a thin layer of it into a frying pan. Heat the pan until very hot, then add a ladle of the pancake batter.
  4. Vegan pancakes cook a little slower than regular pancakes, so cook for a minute then check if the underside is a golden brown. Flip the pancake when it’s firm and starting to brown underneath to cook the other side, which should take about another minute.

Makes approximately 12 pancakes.

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