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Pancakes for Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, is celebrated in Britain with pancakes.

By Amy & Jonny Seponara SillsWe Are Never Full / February 21, 2012

Traditional breakfast pancakes.

Lane Brown


In the British calendar the final Tuesday before Lent is known as “Shrove Tuesday,” though it’s more often referred to as “pancake day” in modern times. The derivation of the word “shrove” is unclear but it is thought to be derived from “shriving” or asking forgiveness for sins, a typical Christian activity on this day.

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We Are Never Full

Amy and Jonny Seponara-Sills (Amy’s American, Jonny’s English) run the food blog We Are Never Full. Through recipes, anecdotes and podcasts, it chronicles their borderline obsession with food from meals made at home to travels studiously built around the search for authentic regional and national dishes from all over the world.

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As the final day before Lent, Shrove Tuesday is also traditionally a day of feasting before the Lentern abstinence or fasting that evokes Jesus’ 40 days and nights in the desert. The pancake bit comes from the fact that in order to find it easier to abstain, one should use up all ones flour, milk, sugar and eggs on Shrove Tuesday, and while a lot of things can be made from those basic ingredients, the Brits – long ago – decided pancakes were the thing to make. And, since the combination of these ingredients makes for a high calorie experience, Shrove Tuesday (it’s such a puritanical idea – shriving, isn’t it?) is known as Mardi Gras in French, or literally, fat Tuesday. Those Catholics have all the fun, don’t they?

British pancakes have more in common with the a French-style crepe than they do with the thicker, but smaller pancakes common in America, although the recipe is largely the same. On pancake day it’s quite common to have a mixture of both savory and sweet pancakes, though the sweet versions are the more popular. (We had both savory and sweet – see savory filling recipe below.) Typical fillings are very simple and are often limited to powdered sugar and jam or nutella, or just a squeeze of fresh fruit juice. My family’s favorite filling is granulated (plain, white) sugar and lemon juice. The less stuff you have in the middle, the more pancakes you can have, see…?

Of course, you don’t have to wait another year before making some pancakes, though. They make great desserts, first courses, or even main meals depending on the filling and the size of your pan, and they are dead easy to make. So, go ahead, treat yourselves tonight, unless you’ve given up pancakes for Lent, that is.

Here’s how they’re made.

Sweet and Savory British Pancakes

Pancake (or Crepe) Batter Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup plain flour
1 egg and 1 egg-yolk
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)

Savory British Pancake Filling
Creamy Tarragon Mushrooms Savory Filling Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 shallot, finely diced
1/2 leek, finely sliced
3 button mushrooms, slice thinly
2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped finely
4 tablespoons light cream
1/2 tablespoon butter
salt & black pepper

Other Savory Ingredients:

6 ounces smoked salmon
6 asparagus spears, cut into 2” pieces and either sauteed or steamed till cooked but still crunchy


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