Shrove Tuesday, known is some countries as Pancake Day or Mardi Gras is a Tuesday in February or March, preceding the first day of Lent; Ash Wednesday. Lent is a 40 day period of abstinence, traditionally people abstained from rich and fatty foods, which is how Shrove Tuesday came into existence. The date for Shrove Tuesday is determined by Easter and is calculated backwards 47 days from Easter Sunday.
Pancakes became the food of choice on Shrove Tuesday in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada because fattening ingredients such as milk, eggs, sugar and milk could be used up to make pancakes before the fasting started. In Britain many towns and villages carry on the tradition of pancake races, which is thought to have originated in 1445, when a housewife busy making pancakes, had not realised the time until the church bells were ringing for service. She raced out of the house on her way to church, still carrying her frying pan and pancake.
Shrove Tuesday is celebrated throughout the world; each country has slightly adapted the tradition. The Carnival of Madeira is a festival held the week before lent, ending on Shrove Tuesday, the carnival is known as one of the best in Europe and one of Madeira’s major festivals.
Traditionally on Shrove Tuesday the people of Madeira eat Malasadas, a Portuguese confection, made of egg-sized balls of yeast dough that are deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar. During the 19th century people from Madeira emigrated to Hawaii and took the tradition of eating Malasadas on Shrove Tuesday with them, meaning it is now called Malasadas Day in Hawaii. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is home to the one of the largest celebrations of Carnaval in Spain, although there are lesser celebrations across the region. Whereas the rest of the world focus on food on the Tuesday before Lent, the Spanish choose a different day of the week.
The Thursday that starts Carnaval week is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and is known as dia de la tortilla (day of the omelette) or dia de choricer (chorizo day). The celebrations vary from village to village, but the common theme is the sharing of bread, eggs and chorizo before lent.
Whether you are celebrating Shrove Tuesday with pancakes, malasadas or a chorizo omelette, we have some great recipes for you to try.
100g plain flour
300ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
Pinch of salt
Put the flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the middle, then pour in about 50ml milk and 1 tbsp oil. Start whisking from the centre, gradually drawing the flour into the eggs, milk and oil. Once all the flour is incorporated, beat until you have a smooth, thick paste. Add a little more milk if it is too stiff to beat.
Add a good splash of milk and whisk to loosen the thick batter. While still whisking, pour in a steady stream of the remaining milk. Continue pouring and whisking until you have a batter that is the consistency of slightly thick single cream. Traditionally, people would say to now leave the batter for 30 minutess, to allow the starch in the flour to swell, but there’s no need.
Heat the pan over a moderate heat, then wipe it with oiled kitchen paper. Ladle some batter into the pan, tilting the pan to move the mixture around for a thin and even layer. Quickly pour any excess batter into a jug, return the pan to the heat, then leave to cook, undisturbed, for about 30 secs. Pour the excess batter from the jug back into the mixing bowl. If the pan is the right temperature, the pancake should turn golden underneath after about 30 secs and will be ready to turn.
Hold the pan handle, ease a fish slice under the pancake, then quickly lift and flip it over. Make sure the pancake is lying flat against base of the pan with no folds, then cook for another 30 secs before turning out onto a warm plate. Continue with the rest of the batter, serving them as you cook or stack onto a plate. You can freeze the pancakes for 1 month, wrapped in cling film or make them up to a day ahead.
Mouth watering malasadas
2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
Vegetable oil, for frying
Cinnamon-sugar for coating (about 1/4 cup sugar mixed with cinnamon to taste)
In a medium bowl, combine the yeast with 1/4 cup lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Mix until the yeast dissolves then set aside for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk, vanilla, eggs, and butter and reserve.
In a large bowl, mix the flour with 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour the yeast and milk mixture into the well. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, forming a soft, smooth dough. Cover the dough with a clean towel and set aside to rise in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Punch the dough down, then with oiled fingers, pinch off pieces about the size golf balls. Place the dough balls on greased baking sheets. Cover the malasadas with a clean towel and set aside to rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes.
In a heavy, high-sided pot, heat about 2 inches of oil over medium-high until the oil reaches 325 degrees F. Working in small batches, fry the malasadas until they are uniformly golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes per batch. Drain the malasadas on a plate lined with paper towels just until they are cool enough to handle then roll them in cinnamon sugar and serve.
Chorizo, potato & cheese omelette
1 small potato, cut into 2cm dice
1 tsp olive oil
50g chorizo, chopped
25g grated cheddar
Cook the potato in boiling water for 8-10 mins or until tender. Drain and allow to steam-dry. Heat oil in an omelette pan, add chorizo and cook for 2 mins. Add the potato and cook for a further 5 mins until the potato starts to crisp. Spoon pan contents out, wipe pan and cook a 2 or 3-egg omelette in the same pan. When almost cooked, scatter with the chorizo and potato, parsley and cheese. Fold the omelette in the pan and cook for 1 min more to melt the cheese. This also works well with a variety of fillings if you fancy trying a new combination.