Skip to content

Traditional English pancakes for Shrove Tuesday or Pancake day

February 17, 2015

Pancake day - mycustardpie.comHappy Shrove Tuesday. This day always makes me smile as it brings back happy memories. My Mum standing at the stove making pancake after pancake – the thin, crepe-type not the fluffy American-style ones we’ve come to know of late (gluttonous stacks littering Instagram). My sister and I would sit there expectantly eating each one in turn, rolling up the lacy circles, dousing with lemon juice and a sprinkle of crunchy granulated sugar. “Surely you don’t want more?” she’d say in amazement as we got to the end of the first batch of batter, heroically whipping up another jugful and entertaining us with her tossing-the-pancake skills. It was even better when the day coincided with my birthday. A double dose of pleasure in the midst of dark February winter days…

I have to remind myself of this as I sit here at my desk, looking out of the window, the sunlight streaming in, tiny sun birds eating seeds, a hoopoe on the lawn and the palm tree fronds waving gently. Do I make normal pancakes tonight just for KP and me, or test a vegan version for when I next see my daughters? Perhaps I’ll just stick with nostalgia today make a batch for myself today.

Pancake traditions in the UK

Pancakes were eaten on Shrove Tuesday to use up a lot of the things that would be given up during the four weeks of fasting during Lent. It was a day of confession when priests absolved or shrove Christians from their sins. Lent started the following day, Ash Wednesday, and finished on Easter Sunday. My sister and I were brought up to observe this and we always gave up sweets. It was really hard but made chocolate Easter eggs such a treat.

Traditional pancakes in the UK and Ireland are thin and delicate, a little like French crepes but with much simpler ingredients. There is no cream or sugar in the batter, just flour, eggs and milk plus a little butter to fry them in. French crepes are cooked on one side only, whereas we flip them by tossing the pancake.

The first written recipes for pancakes date from 1439 and the first pancake race from 1445. Legend has it that a woman who lived in Olney, Buckinghamshire, heard the shriving bell while she was making pancakes and ran to the church in her apron, still clutching her frying pan. Pancake races, where people run through the streets while tossing a pancake, are still held throughout the UK but in Olney only female residents, wearing an apron and scarf, are eligible.

I’m not sure when Shrove Tuesday also became known as Pancake Day but there’s a reference to tossing the pancake in 1619 (attributed to ‘Pasquil’s Palin’ although I haven’t discovered who or what it is):

“And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne.”

Making pancakes is very simple – this is pretty much how my Mum made them:


Pancake day -


  • Servings: 4-6 pancakes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 125g plain flour
  • a pinch of salt*
  • 1 egg, free range
  • 300ml milk
  • vegetable oil or clarified butter for frying
  • fresh lemon juice and sugar to serve

*salt is traditional but I never use it because my Mum didn’t


  1. Put the flour (and salt if using) into a medium-sized bowl and make a well in the centre.
  2. Crack the egg into the well and whisk it, slowly drawing in flour from the sides to make a thick paste.
  3. Start to add the milk, little by little, drawing in more flour until you have a thick batter. Whisk all the lumps out (this is easier to do with a thick batter than a thin one).
  4. Whisk in the remaining milk until your batter is the consistency of single cream. If possible leave the batter to rest for an hour.
  5. Heat a very small amount of vegetable oil in a frying pan until so hot that a haze appears. Tip the pan so that it is just coated with droplets of oil. Pour in a ladleful of batter and immediately swirl the pan in a circular movement so there is a thin layer all over.
  6. When the edges are set, gently loosen them from the sides with a knife. Bubbles will start to appear, give the pan a shake, forwards and backwards. If the pancake does not move in the pan loosen it underneath with a knife or spatula. Flip the pancake over with a spatula or by tossing it. To toss it, take the pan off the heat, angle it slightly downwards and shake it gently so the the pancake slides to the bottom edge (but remains flat). Toss the pancake up in the air with a sharp movement of the pan upwards and away from you then immediately back down and inwards (a circular motion) to catch it.
  7. Cook for a minute or less (small light brown freckles is what you are after). Slide onto a plate and serve with lemon juice and sugar*. The first pancake is always a bit oddly shaped – they get better.

*It has to be fresh lemon juice and sugar. Keep your maple syrup, chocolate spread and other aberrations sweet toppings for the thick, fluffy kind of pancakes. The only exception is if you are making Crêpes Suzette, but that’s another thing altogether (ahem – Grand Marnier).

Are you getting out your pancake pan today?

pancakes and lemon

Pin for later

  1. February 17, 2015 5:13 pm

    I like my sweet pancakes with lemon and sugar too. That’s how we always had them as kids. Though I’m planning some savoury ones tonight.

    • February 18, 2015 9:51 am

      I really like savoury pancakes too – I don’t think I’ve EVER made them.

  2. February 17, 2015 5:26 pm

    I have to agree with you, it has to be lemon juice and sugar, nothing else will suffice. Happy Shrove Tuesday to you all 🙂

    • February 18, 2015 9:51 am

      As a lemon addict the juice to sugar ratio is lip burningly strong for me 🙂

  3. February 17, 2015 5:35 pm

    Love the thin kind, and yours look gorgeous! I like mine with cinnamon sugar and a little fresh cream. What I grew up on! 🙂

    • February 18, 2015 9:52 am

      That’s so interesting – I would never have even thought of that combination.

  4. February 17, 2015 7:02 pm

    I am afraid I grew up with those fluffy American pancakes (or just plain old ‘pancakes’ as I would call them!) doused in maple syrup. Now I Iike them with a home-made compote, but just a little. Weird fact: Americans almost always add slab of butter too (and on their porridge/oatmeal – ugh). Enjoy your taste of nostalgia. Maybe a whole batch to yourself this time??

    • February 18, 2015 9:55 am

      I do like some real maple syrup on pancakes, tempered with lime or lemon juice… but on Shrove Tuesday it has to be the classic combo for me. The homemade compote sounds lovely… The fluffy kind are nice but I guess it’s just what you are used to. A knob of butter sounds all wrong…. however I can’t imagine crumpets without it so it’s not a huge leap!!

  5. February 17, 2015 7:05 pm

    I love pancakes, especially when served with light brown sugar and lemon juice, plus a little ground cinnamon (my favorite way of eating them)…

    Happy Shrove Tuesday!



    • February 18, 2015 9:56 am

      This cinnamon twist is new to me… and my veggie daughter would love it (when she’s off her vegan phase!)

  6. February 17, 2015 8:06 pm

    I guess I am a traditionalist American. Give me some great real maple syrup. None of the so-called pancake syrup. The lemon and sugar is intriguing however.

    • February 18, 2015 9:56 am

      That pancake syrup is horrid but real maple syrup so lovely.

  7. Heidi Kurth permalink
    February 17, 2015 8:37 pm

    I love my thin crepe pancakes with apricot jam rolled up inside. It reminds me of my time living in Austria with homemade chunky apricot jam sitting in jars on the shelves in the cellar, one brought up for filling pancakes or piling on freshly made bread. But with an American husband we often go for fluffy pancakes with maple syrup. Both are good 🙂

    • February 18, 2015 9:58 am

      Woah – into a whole new territory here Heidi. Jam on pancakes…. However, apricot, especially homemade, has enough tanginess so I can see how it would work. Might have to add a spritz of citrus for my tastes though!

  8. February 17, 2015 10:36 pm

    Happy Shrove Tuesday! I will come back and read the recipe later on (pancakes vs bread… pancakes win for me… it’s the other way round for Big Z!)… but for the time being I am touched beyond words at your rendition of Food e Mag dxb. It is what it is because of you all – such a huge treasure trove of talented bloggers. Proud to belong to such a fraternity.

    • February 18, 2015 9:58 am

      How about pancakes and bread. I couldn’t choose. 🙂

  9. February 17, 2015 11:18 pm

    I loved Shrove Tuesday as a child too – and it also occasionally coincided with my birthday. We always had the big fluffy style, made by dad (he was our family’s official pancake maker), and always served with butter and maple syrup (the real stuff). It was always a novelty to have pancakes on a Tuesday, however we ate them often for breakfast on Sundays.

    • February 18, 2015 9:59 am

      I can’t remember having pancakes on any other day of the year. I suppose that’s why they were so special 🙂

  10. February 18, 2015 1:31 am

    Lacy thin crepes with fresh lemon juice and crunchy white sugar, ahh the food of my childhood dreams, in fact as far as I’m concerned there is no better way to enjoy pancakes. Off to look at the emag, thanks

    • February 18, 2015 9:59 am

      We are in total agreement 🙂

  11. February 18, 2015 10:18 am

    Hi Sal,
    My mother used to make the same thin pancakes for Shrove Tuesday we had them with sugar and lemon. Now that I am living a carb free diet sadly I can only share in others enjoyment from afar. Shame on me for forgetting to make Bry some pancakes. Hopefully when he returns from Sydney 🙂
    Love to all,

  12. February 18, 2015 10:26 am

    What a lovely memory from your childhood. The pancakes sound amazingly good. And this magazine looks beautiful and inspiring. We will be raising our own bee swarms soon and I’m really looking forward to honey I know is pure and healthy. 🙂

  13. gourmet.gourmand permalink
    February 18, 2015 10:29 am

    I love either lemon and sugar or butter, cinnamon, and sugar

  14. February 18, 2015 4:11 pm

    I’ll have to check out the magazine..sounds good. I’d forgotten it was pancake day…cheers:)

  15. February 18, 2015 4:52 pm

    Have you tried yeasted pancakes or sourdough? I made my first sourdough batch recently, but need to try again to get more familiar with them.

  16. February 18, 2015 7:04 pm

    Going to try out this recipe! Love the memories

  17. February 18, 2015 10:15 pm

    I have the same childhood memories of my mum churning out pancakes for my brother and I! The magazine looks great 🙂

  18. February 19, 2015 11:18 pm

    You have awakened a few memories from my school days too. I remember the Doha College and my only English friend who invited me to her place for the first time. I was then treated to exactly the same kind of pancakes. It was simple and so sublime.

  19. February 25, 2015 10:56 pm

    Just catching up on my blog roll, love crepes with lemon & sugar. I also adore a pinch of cinnamon in there.

    ….And thanks so much for the shout out xx

  20. February 26, 2015 6:55 pm

    You’ve stunned me. I’ve never had lemon juice on the pancakes, but it’s quite interesting to be tried.

  21. March 4, 2015 2:08 pm

    Lovely simple pancakes! Yum yum yum! A cool post too! 🙂

  22. March 10, 2015 5:02 pm

    I can’t ever get enough of pancakes, I just adore how the house is full of pancake smell after wards. That combo of coffee and pancake smell … We have pancake day on candlemass here in Belgium. And the saying goes that on Candlemass no woman is too poor to make pancakes in her hot pan. I like plain ones, but sneek some buttermilk or yoghurt and wholemeal flour in. Not too much cos my husband can’t notice otherwise he’ll moan, oh it’s special pancakes again 😀

  23. March 19, 2015 2:46 pm

    I made your easy pancakes & over them! easy peasy too! 🙂 MMMMM!

  24. sylvieamesee permalink
    March 31, 2015 8:35 am

    I have pancakes with chocolate (ganache or nutella) or with chestnut puree combined with whipped cream, I’m just awfully greedy!


  1. Food e Mag dxb | The New U | IshitaUnblogged

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: