Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes or simply Irish Pancakes

The Odlum's guide to homebaking was a cookbook my mom used when I was a kid growing up in Dublin. I don't think she needed to use it very often, but it was a familiar little book around the kitchen with it's old brown paper cover and the Odlum's Owl on the front, the price tag - 2 shillings and 6 pence.

On Shrove Tuesday every year our mom would make Irish Pancakes for dinner. They were only served on this one day every year, the day before Lent. My brother John and I would eat one hot pancake after another until we were stuffed. Several years ago I decide to introduce this Irish tradition to my own family in California. The first time I decided to make the pancakes I pulled the thin little Odlum's cook book off the shelf and there on page 30 was the magical little recipe I needed. I hadn't tried them myself in years, but I remembered well the smell of them cooking and the warm sugary, lemony, buttery juice dripping down my hands as a kid and I couldn't wait to experience it all over again.

What is Shrove Tuesday you might ask. For those of you who don't know, Shrove (confess) Tuesday falls on the day before Ash Wednesday in the Christian tradition. It's the day before Lent which is a time of abstinence or giving up. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were traditionally forbidden during Lent. Of course we don't eat them for that reason anymore...shhh. We eat them because they taste so good.

Irish Pancakes
You'll need:

8ozs. All purpose flour
2 eggs
1 pint milk
1/2 level teaspoon salt
3 - 4 ozs. butter for cooking and serving
3 - 4 ozs. sugar for serving
2 - 3 organic lemons cut into wedges for serving

Method: To make pancake batter easily, first sift the flour with the salt into a bowl. This will help to produce a batter that is smooth and free from lumps, lumps are no good in Irish pancakes, just like lumps in Irish mashed potatoes aren't good either, but that's another story. Beat the eggs and milk together in a separate bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and very gradually add the liquid to the flour a little at a time, this is very important, stirring and beating as you add the liquid until a smooth batter is made and all the flour and liquid are incorporated. The recipe suggests letting the batter stand for an hour (I usually don't have time for this, when we are ready for Irish pancakes we want them NOW). Pour the batter into a jug from which it can be poured easily on to the pan.

Cooking: Prepare a medium size pan by melting a little of the butter on the pan over medium to high heat (my mom would take a paper towel and wipe up excess melted butter, leaving a thin layer of butter, just enough so the pancake wouldn't stick to the pan). Pour a thin covering of the batter, just enough to run over the bottom of the pan. Cook quickly for less than half a minute over a good heat (long slow cooking will make pancakes very tough). Loosen the pancake and flip it over to cook the other side for another half minute.
Serve immediately.

Serving it up and dressing it to eat: Immediately serve the cooked pancake on a warmed plate. Add a little dab of butter, which will melt on the hot pancake, spread the butter with a knife. Immediately sprinkle sugar over the buttery pancake and squeeze the juice of a wedge of lemon. Roll the pancake into a long thin roll, cut in half and eat immediately preferably over your plate so that you can catch the lemony, sugary, buttery juices which can be absorbed with your next serving. ENJOY!

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