Shrove Tuesday Discovery: My Brit Ancestors Ate Pancakes Topped with Sugar and Lemon, Oh My

Photo Elliot Smith - the GUARDIAN

In perusing the UK’s Telegraph (no recipe just a discussion about the auld pancake of yore) and the Guardian this fine Shrove Tuesday, I made a shocking discovery for an American in love with fluffy pancakes topped with butter and syrup:  My Great Grandmother enjoyed thin pancakes (like the French) topped with lemon and sugar.  Brits wax very sentimental about these.

The Guardian provides an overview of the development of the British pancake going back to 1594.  That seems far enough when most humans can’t trace their lineage back more than a few generations.

…[M]odern pancakes are descended from those specifically designed to use up fat before the beginning of Lent, which means they tend to be heavier on the eggs and butter than, say, the fluffy American stack, or the squat Russian blini.

Forewarned is forearmed as they say.  Don’t look to these for any dietary benefit only taste.

Here is a website that will help you convert metric measurements.  Learn to do this because we are going global.

As for the pancakes, the key to remember is this.  The first pancake is always a mess.  That’s just how it is for all of us.  So let the cook eat the first one.  Looks bad; tastes good.  From the Guardian:

Makes about 8

125g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
225ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
Small knob of butter

1. Sift the flour in a large mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, and pour the egg and the yolk into it. Mix the milk with 2 tbsp water and then pour a little in with the egg and beat together.

2. Whisk the flour into the liquid ingredients, drawing it gradually into the middle until you have a smooth paste the consistency of double cream. Whisk the rest of the milk in until the batter is more like single cream. Cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

3. Heat the butter in a frying pan on a medium-high heat – you only need enough fat to just grease the bottom of the pan. It should be hot enough that the batter sizzles when it hits it.

4. Spread a small ladleful of batter across the bottom of the pan, quickly swirling to coat. Tip any excess away. When it begins to set, loosen the edges with a thin spatula or palette knife, and when it begins to colour on the bottom, flip it over with the same instrument and cook for another 30 seconds. (If you’re feeling cocky, you can also toss the pancake after loosening it: grasp the handle firmly with both hands, then jerk the pan up and slightly towards you.)

5. Pancakes are best eaten as soon as possible, before they go rubbery, but if you’re cooking for a crowd, keep them separate until you’re ready to serve by layering them up between pieces of kitchen roll [could be parchment paper – I wouldn’t use waxed].

Mo’s Plum Pudding

Like SamHenry, my maternal Grandmother was also from Britain. She was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1885 and moved to London where she resided until the end of World War 1.

At the end of  the “war to end all wars”, she married my Grandfather and moved to the United States, bringing along her recipe box filled with instructions for preparing traditional English fare.

Every Christmas my Grandmother would spend days & days in the kitchen, baking cookies, fruit cakes & plum pudding as gifts for her family and friends.

Plum pudding was traditionally made in a “bag” & hung for weeks prior to Christmas to enhance the flavor. By the time I came on the scene, my Grandmother had adopted the pudding can* since she liked to make several small puddings to give away as presents.

You can’t get much more traditional English fare at the Christmas holiday than than a good plum pudding.


Mo’s Plum Pudding

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • 1 TSP. baking powder
  • 1 TSP. salt
  • 1 TSP. cloves
  • 1 TSP. all spice
  • 1 TSP. nutmeg
  • 2 TSP. cinnamon
  • 1/2 TSP. ginger
  • 1 package brown sugar
  • 1 # chopped beef (suet)
  • 1 package currants
  • 2 # seedless grapes
  • 1 package seeded raisins
  • 1 # chopped, mixed peel
  • slivered almonds, blanched
  • 6 beaten eggs
  • 1 can apple sauce
  • 1 TSP. molasses
  • 1 TSP. almond extract, grated lemon rinds or essence of lemon
  • 1 cup of broth. Can be water, cider or fruit juice

PREPARATION:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Grease bottoms and sides of pudding cans*
  • Put wax paper in bottom of cans
  • Fill cans with mixture and cover top with wax paper
  • Steam for about 6 hours or more in roasting pan, with water halfway up side of cans
  • Add boiling water about every hour
  • Remove from water, place on rack and leave covers off cans overnight

*Don’t have any “pudding cans”? Wash & save a few empty soup cans from your kitchen. Recycle – that’s what your Grandma did!

posted by Mountain Republic                                 recipe by Amy Chenevert


Eccles Cakes also Known as Coventry Godcakes and etc.

Traditions at Christmas in England  –

My maternal Great Grandmother was from Coventry, England in the Midlands.  Like any other region, they had their specialties.  Eccles cakes are a speciality from this region.  This recipe has been taken from a remarkable cookbook described under the tab “Browse Books.”

Good Things in England
Florence White
Jonathan Cape, 1932 (current edition published by Persephone Books

From the cookbook:

Eccles cakes, Banbury cakes, Coventry Godcakes, Hawkshead cake and Chorley cakes all belong to the same class. They consist of pastry, short or puff as the case may be, round in the case of Eccles and Chorley, which are much about the same size, and in the case of the Hawkshead cake which is as large as a plate; but at Coventry taking the form of an isosceles triangle, and at Banbury made in the oval shape of a rather wide shuttle.

Each and all are filled with a special mixture partaking of the character of the mincemeat we put in pies at Christmas time.

Here is a recipe for Eccles cakes. These have been made for the Eccles “wakes” from time immemorial. A pretty story is told about these cakes. It is said Mrs Raffald gave her own recipe as a wedding present to a servant girl who had served her well and was going to live at Eccles, and that the girl made and sold the cake so successfully that she made a fortune.

Bradburn’s, Eccles, today is advertised as “The only Old Original Eccles Cake Shop. Never removed. On the site of these Premises Eccles Cakes were first made. Rebuilt 1835.” [They are at any rate about the best I have tasted, and those sold at the old cottage opposite Eccles Cross where William Deacon’s Bank now stands were made and baked at Bradburn’s. The cottage had no ovens].

Recipe: Lancashire, 1904

Some short pastry
For the filling:
¼lb currants
1oz finely chopped peel
½ teaspoonful allspice and nutmeg
2oz sugar
1oz butter

Time: to heat and cool mixture about 20 to 30 minutes; to bake cakes 10 to 15 minutes in a hot oven.

1. Put all the ingredients for the mixture into a pan and heat for a few minutes, then turn into a basin to cool.

2. Roll out short pastry (this is nicest if made of lard) to about ¼ inch thickness.

3. Cut into rounds.

4. Place a good tablespoon of the mixture on each round.

5. Gather up the edges, turn over and press with rolling-pin into flat cake; make a hole in the centre of the top crust.

6. Place on baking sheet 10 to 15 minutes in a hot oven.

7. Sprinkle with castor sugar when cakes are cooked.

• These extracts are taken from Good Things in England by Florence White (Persephone, £10)