Making Pancakes With the Kids
You might call it Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras in French), plain old Tuesday, or - just down the road from us - Race Day, but for my family it can be called only one thing... Pancake Day! For us, Pancake Day is a bright spot of festivity during that dull, grey period between Christmas and Easter, and the kids absolutely LOVE making (and eating) the pancakes. If you've never made them before, don't be put off by the idea of having to toss those babies - pancake making is a cinch, and the toss isn't as hard as it may look. Read on to get the recipe and our top tips for the perfect flip!
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday - which marks the start of the 40 days of Lent (the period of fasting and prayer) that lead up to Easter. As Easter is on a different day every year, so too is Pancake Day - it can take place any time between 3rd February and 9th March. The pancakes came about as they were a great way of using up those last bits of fat that were forbidden over the fasting period, and people have been eating pancakes on this day since at least the fifteenth century - as shown by the tradition dating from 1445 in the town of Olney, just around the corner from us, where local women in aprons and headscarves race each other to the church flipping pancakes in frying pans as they go.
As they are so simple to cook, pancakes also make great campfire food - we've enjoyed many a warm, crispy, pancake dripping with syrup, while sitting round our Forest School fire. And outside the extra room to move makes it the perfect place for the kids (with a bit of help) to practice their flips.
It's wonderful to feel that we are helping to preserve a centuries-old tradition by making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The kids and I also like to carry on a little family tradition of our own by reading together my childhood copy of the Ladybird book 'The Big Pancake'. I get all nostalgic over the old Ladybird illustrations and the kids find the story of the pancake that ran away rather than be eaten by 'seven hungry little boys' absolutely hilarious - quite often our own pancakes try to talk their way out of being eaten after they've heard the story again, but two hungry little children aren't put off for long.
Pancakes are really, really quick and easy to make, and it is not that hard to toss them either - you may need a practice run (or two!) to get a perfect flip but once you get the hang of it, flipping is easier than turning with a spatula (which it is perfectly acceptable to do instead if you absolutely don't want to try the toss).
Instructions: Making Pancake Batter
(Yes, you've noticed she's changed clothes and is all alone... this was pre-pancake day test and photography while the big boy was at school. But he wanted to make some too, so we did a second lot the next day!)
Instructions: Cooking the Pancake
Pancakes are best eaten hot and straight from the pan, so have a stack of plates ready to go and hand out the pancakes as each one cooks. A squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of sugar or a drizzle of syrup are our favourite ways to eat them - then it's just a matter of deciding whether to squeeze on some lemon juice or syrup, or both...
You don't need much to make pancakes, but if you're looking to get the full kit, here are some suggestions. A good, non-stick frying pan is essential for making pancakes, and you can pick up crepe-specific pans very cheaply. If you want to splash out, a cast iron pan like the Lodge one below would be great - but it will need seasoning (oiling regularly) before it's fully non-stick. The wooden spatula/pancake turner is a must if you're serious about your pancakes, and the pancake spreader will make smoothing out those pancakes a cinch.
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We love our Big Pancake vintage Ladybird book, and you can pick up your own copy on Amazon - I love the original illustrations but there is an 'updated' edition too. Other favourite pancake books are the classic Eric Carle's 'Pancakes, Pancakes!' and 'Mr Wolf's Pancakes by Jan Fearnley (a twist on traditional fairy tales). And finally the Interactive Cookbook is a fabulous bit of paper engineering that lets you 'cook' a pancake within the pages of the book with all sorts of clever bits to pull, twist and open.
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