Although Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is late this year, it has inevitably started early for me seeing as Fiona and I have just polished off two large crêpes each, having demolished the same amount yesterday, and will no doubt achieve the same tomorrow. Pancake ‘Day’ is very limited terminology.
Does anyone ever have a savoury crêpe on Pancake Day? There is too much choice these days; the internet sends me suggestions for my pancake toppings by email. Seriously.
Whatever happened to those bygone years of a sprinkling of sugar and lemon juice? Or a sticky swirl of syrup? Fiona’s crêpes of choice include hearty smears of Nutella and little else (although she did experiment with peanut butter first which gained an immediate thumbs down). We’re now expected to spend more time cooking the filling for our pancakes than the pancakes themselves – we overwhelm the lacy crêpe with sickly sweet sauces or stack them up into a towering pancake cake stuffed with chocolate, praline or cream. It’s almost a competition for the most outrageous toppings piled high – now the crêpe is a sad soggy vehicle and no longer the star of the show on its own name day.
The purpose of Pancake Day is to raid our cupboards and larders to empty them of butter, eggs and sweet toppings and enjoy this last day of ‘feasting’ before Lent starts on Wednesday. Healthy pancakes with cottage cheese, spinach and avocado are great for people who are sensibly considering their sugar intake but are not the point of Pancake Day. For so long we have seen Pancake Day as a treat – a day of silly races, dressing up, attempting then regretting a pancake flip – so by stuffing one with vegetables or even a classic combination of cheese and ham feels a bit understated and disappointing. Leave cheese and ham crêpes as a delicious hand warmer for a cold day wandering around Paris.
It’s an excuse for a simple sweet treat, one we shouldn’t deny ourselves as it is the last ‘feast’ day after all. I’m never one to deny myself a feast.
My current obsession is roasting fruit. I see Pancake Day as an excellent chance to abuse this obsession.
Slice up a ripe pear or banana, or even a nectarine as long as it doesn’t resemble a peachy-pink rock, sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar, or a squeeze of honey, and roast merrily until your knife slips through it like butter. They will emerge golden and sticky, coated in amber caramelised juices and ready to be plonked on half of your crêpe. With that, add a shower of grated chocolate, maple syrup or a handful of crushed nuts. Fold over the other half, then again into quarters and you’ll see the overflowing syrupy filling peeking through the opening.