Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Day
A Quire of Paper
– A Stack of Pancakes with Lemon & Sugar –
Yes, it’s that time of year again, Shrove Tuesday is today, that can only mean one thing………….PANCAKES. I have shared a few pancake recipes over the last few days, but the pancakes I want to share today are from a very old recipe and are called a Quire of Paper; during the 18th century wafer thin pancakes were extremely popular and were served in a stack with each pancake being dredged with caster sugar as they were built up. Sack (sherry) and melted butter were often served with them and the thinner the pancakes the better. Sometimes stacks reached the giddy heights of fifty pancakes tall, although I could only manage fifteen with my recipe. A quire is a measurement of paper, hence the name for these airy pancakes, as they appear to be paper thin and stacked as paper…….the official measurement is defined as: A set of 24 or sometimes 25 sheets of paper of the same size and stock; one twentieth of a ream.
As you can see from my photos, I chose to serve my quire of pancakes with lemon and sugar – it’s not that I don’t like sherry, it’s just that I was wary of imbibing so early in the morning! I used my basic pancake recipe, but some of the older recipes have an enriched pancake batter with extra eggs and egg yolks, as well as cream. I am sure if I had made my quire of pancakes with extra eggs, cream and then served the with sherry, I would have had difficulty in participating in the pancake race……as it is, I am bowing out this year anyway, so maybe I could have had a glass of sherry with my cream enriched pancakes!
The history of the pancake race is fascinating however, and most famous is the Olney pancake race; The Olney Pancake Race dates back to more than five hundred years and is held on Shrove Tuesday. The course is 415 yards long and is run from the Market Place to the Church at 11.55 a.m. Participants, who are usually housewives or young ladies of the town, must have lived in Olney for at least 3 months and be at least 18 years old. Competitors must wear the traditional costume to include a skirt, apron and head scarf. They must of course carry a frying pan containing a pancake and the winner on crossing the line must toss her pancake before she is greeted by the verger with the traditional kiss of peace. The race is immediately followed by a Shriving service in the Parish Church when the official Olney and Liberal prizes are presented. The word “shrove” is derived from the word “shrive” which means to confess your sins and receive absolution in return, a necessary act before entering the period of Lent.
Pancakes around the world – Just about every country has its own version of the pancake. Some of the best-known are: buckwheat flour galettes from Brittany as well as the chickpea-flour socca of Nice, and many other crepes that are found all over France; then there are the chickpea/flour farinata of Liguria, and chestnut flour necci from Lucca and Pistoia in Italy; sweet Cretan tiganetes of Greece; then there are the exotic fragrant rosewater-spiked ataif of the Middle East; comforting potato latkes and Ashkenazi cheese blintzes of Israel; Moroccan semolina baghrir; numerous spicy chickpea and black-eye bean pancakes of Africa; huge crisp wheat-flour and potato pancakes of the Netherlands; and finally Russian buckwheat-flour blinis…..the variety is exciting and the list appears endless.
In England we also used to have our regional variations, Gloucester pancakes were made with suet, which gave them a rich, grainy texture and they were the size of a large scone, fried in lard, and served with golden syrup – good heavens! Elsewhere, there were “harvest pancakes for the poor” and “cream pancakes for the rich”. The former were quick-cooking portable pancakes that were eaten by farm labourers; the batter was made with pale ale, powdered ginger and chopped apple; small ladlefuls of the batter were then cooked in lard. The pancakes for the rich on the other hand, were large and very thin. They were made with cream, nutmeg, dark sherry, rosewater or orange flower water, and cooked in butter, a version of my quire of paper pancakes.
The recipe below is my basic pancake batter and it will yield about fifteen VERY thin pancakes, you must make sure that the batter is poured on as thinly as possible; you can of course increase the quantities and also enrich the batter if you wish. I hope you enjoy your pancakes today and you all have a flipping good Pancake Day, sorry! I will see you all later, Karen