As always, the day before lent is Mardi Gras, and this year it falls on March 4th. As mentioned in a previous blog (found here, go read it!), Fat Tuesday is also known in many parts as Pancake Day. This year I wanted to revisit the holiday, so I made American pancakes with a little update, using jam as a decorative and delicious accent.

Mardi Gras Pancakes with Berry Syrup

Never having been to The Big Easy, I was surprised to learn that Mardi Gras has ‘official colors.’ (Who knew?!) They are Purple, Green and Gold.

According to the site MardiGrasNewOrleans.com:

The official Mardi Gras colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, whose house colors were purple, green and gold. The 1892 Rex Parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” affirmed the colors’ meaning.

Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. Gold Represents Power.

To honor this, I made my pancakes using berry jam (purple), lemon zest (gold), and a little mint (green).

Mardi Gras Pancakes

Here’s my mother-in-law’s recipe:

  • 1-1/3 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbps. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together the dry ingredients with a whisk. Add egg, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir together and cook on hot griddle until done.

To make the fancy fleur-de-lis design, I used seedless boysenberry jelly, and put it in a plastic bag with the corner cut off.

Pipe the jelly onto the pancake on the griddle.

Now. Here’s the tricky part. When I flipped the first few pancakes, the jelly smeared. To prevent this, I took out my handy kitchen torch, and applied heat to the uncooked side of the pancake, until the surface was cooked just a little. When the ‘gloss’ of the batter was cooked away, it was ready to flip, and no longer smeared.

Use torch on top of pancake

*Note: The fleur-de-lis is not directly connected to Mardi Gras, but does have connections to New Orleans. As a francophile, I just like the symbol. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to draw, and just looks fancy. You could also make swirls or hearts. Go crazy!

For more information and another recipe, take a look at my original blog on Mardi Gras and Pancake Tuesday here. Enjoy!

Mardi Gras Pancakes with Mint

Update: I just learned that the National Cathedral in Washington DC has an annual Pancake Race. Check out the pics for the 2012 Pancake race here. And the 2013 race pics are here. Fun!

A couple years ago, I spent the last few weeks of winter traveling through Europe.  It was a particularly bitter-cold month – even the local antiques dealers I met said so.  My trip ended with a quick stay visiting my good pal, Tammie, an Australian ex-pat who was living outside of London at the time.

dscf0304

Tammie lived in the quintessential English cottage nestled beside the Thames.  The night I arrived, we tromped over to the local pub for a bite to eat.  We had a spectacular meal (goat cheese and caramelized onion tart – yum!), and then Tammie remembered that it was Pancake Tuesday!

Pancake Tuesday?  I had never heard of such a thing.  I love learning about the origins of words as well as cultural traditions, so to satisfy that curiosity, I did a little research.

In the UK, as well as parts of Canada, the day before Ash Wednesday is called Pancake Tuesday.  As this is the last day before Lent (the 40 days preceding Easter), all of the rich, decadent foods in the household need to be used up in preparation of the lenten fast.  A simple, quick and tasty way to use up eggs, butter and sugar… pancakes.

Pancake Day races are another tradition still holding strong in many villages in the UK.  The most famous of these races dates back to 1445 in Olney, in Buckinghamshire.  Contestants (usually women wearing aprons) run through town while flipping a pancake in a frying pan.  The usually short race is, of course, presided over by local clergy.

Pancake Race

Photo courtesy The Woodford County High School

In France and the US, the day before Lent is called Mardi Gras, from the French, literally meaning Fat Tuesday.  In Ireland, Australia and parts of Canada and the US, the day is called Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove, past tense of the word shrive, means to confess and receive absolution for one’s sins.

Many scholars agree that Carnival – the traditional pre-lenten celebration in catholic countries – derives from the Latin words carne and vale, which translates to “farewell to meat,” and acknowledges the prohibition of consuming meat during lent.

Pancake 2

Photo The Sun

Whatever the reason and no matter what it’s called, I say any excuse to eat a little something sweet is a good one.  Enjoy this recipe for European style pancakes (known in the US as crepes).  Serve them this year on February 24th, and enjoy a happy Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day.  Me?  I’ll hold a happy memory of pancakes in a cozy little pub in Whitchurch-on-Thames… with Tammie.

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes (adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe)

4 large eggs

1 cup whole milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat.  It is, after all, FAT Tuesday!)

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all purpose flour

Additional melted butter

Powdered sugar/Granulated sugar

Fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Blend first 6 ingredients in blender. Gradually add flour; blend until smooth. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Heat medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with butter. Add 2 generous tablespoons pancake batter, tilting pan to coat bottom. Cook until golden on bottom, about 45 seconds. Turn pancake over. Cook until bottom is speckled with brown, about 30 seconds. Turn out onto paper towel. Cover with another paper towel. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with butter as needed.

Butter ovenproof dish. Sift powdered or granulated sugar over speckled side of each pancake, then sprinkle lightly with lemon juice; fold pancakes into quarters. Overlap pancakes in prepared dish. Cover; bake until heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve with more sugar and lemon juice.

Note:  I prefer the crunch of granulated sugar over powdered sugar for the dusting.  Use what you like.

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