Shrove Tuesday: pancakes and prayers

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pancakes flickerAndy Jackson, Head of Communications for the United Reformed Church (URC), shares some memories from past pancake days along with recipes from around the world (for those who want to try something other than lemon and sugar!) and a prayer for Shrove Tuesday. 


Shrove Tuesday (16 February), the day before the start of Lent, is a day that many forget about until someone mentions their favourite pancake topping or a film from the historic annual pancake race in Olney (which dates back to 1445) is shown on the news.

As Christians prepare for Easter, the last day of ‘fat-eating’, or gorging before the penitential season of Lent, brings its own series of traditions. Such as:

  • the first pancake that’s gloopy and horrid because the frying pan isn’t hot enough, or you’ve attempted to make a pancake in a microwave
  • the pancake that’s drowned in oil and essentially deep fried (use Fry Light spray instead – it works a treat)
  • the successful pancakes that get flipped and land back in the pan, not on the floor
  • the annual reminder to buy a new non-stick frying pan when flipping is no longer possible
  • the annual purchase of Jif lemon juice along with the emptying and recycling of the lemon-shaped bottle bought on that day several years earlier
  • a desire to make pancake batter from scratch, but the realisation that you’ve run out of eggs/milk/ flour, it’s eight in the evening, and the kids are waiting
  • the last bit of chocolate spread at the bottom of the jar that can only be retrieved with smallest teaspoon in the drawer and the inevitability that your hand will also get coated.

But, regardless of whether you make the batter from scratch or use the ‘just add milk’ bottles that have been on the supermarket shelves for weeks, a pancake can be much more than a Shrove Tuesday treat.

Basic pancake recipes

If you’ve never made pancakes before, or it’s been a while since you last made some or you’ve mislaid your copy of Mrs Beeton or The Dairy Book of Home Cookery, the basic recipe can be easily made. Try this basic recipe. A good balloon whisk will help.

If you prefer American-style pancakes, which are usually smaller and thicker and can be cooked with chocolate chips or blueberries, and topped with yoghurt, maple syrup, fresh fruit, bacon, poached eggs, or any number of sweet and savoury combinations, try this recipe using buttermilk.

There’s even an egg-white pancake recipe for the health-conscious.

The classic topping of lemon juice and sugar is an annual must for many, but if you’re not a fan of the sweet and sour combination, squeeze the juice from an orange or clementine onto your pancake. You might not need sugar either, depending on the sweetness of the orange.

Pancake recipes from around the world

Crepe suzette, the classic French dessert from the 1970s, where you add liqueur, sugar and orange juice to pancakes folded into quarters and, if brave enough, flambé them before serving. But, be warned:

Crispy pancakes from central Vietnam include turmeric in the batter and can be served with belly pork, prawns, bean sprouts, mint, carrots and coriander. A sort of pad thai that uses pancakes.

Japanese-style pancakes are very tall, fluffy and delicate.

Pancakes with spring onions are popular Chinese treats. Similar to Indian parathas.

Blinis hail from Russia and can be topped with sour cream and smoked salmon, and even made with beetroot:

Salmon as gravadlax can be served with these Swedish grated potato pancakes called Raggmunk, a cross between a pancake and a rosti.

Potatoes are also used in these Indian pancakes which can be served with green lentils, chilli and ginger.

Kaiserschmarrn pancakes hail from Austria but are also associated with German cuisine and are traditionally served with blueberry jam. There’s no need for perfect circles either – they are meant to look like scrambled eggs.

Farinata is an Italian/French chick pea flatbread which is vegan and gluten free. It also works as a pizza base.

Ebelskivers are small, Danish pancakes which can be filled with jam or Nutella. Serve hot with a dusting of icing sugar.

A feasting prayer for Shrove Tuesday 

This day is for feasting:
for eating, not wasting,
for chewing and tasting
all that God makes!

This day is for singing:
our ears will be ringing,
with songs we are bringing
to God – full of praise!

Sing a song of praise!
Bring eggs for the baking
add flour to the making
and stir up the cake in
a bowl nice and big!

Add milk to the bowl
then stir with your soul,
and cook ‘til it’s whole -
and eat all you can!


Tomorrow’s for praying,
for silently saying
to God that you’re laying
your life down in love.

To wait on God’s giving
God’s food for your living,
God’s grace, all forgiving,
as Easter comes near ...

(Pause for silent prayer)

God’s blessing for sharing,
for hoping, for caring.
God’s life we are bearing
for us and the world!

Inspired by an article on the Surefish website by Dawn Marchpane.

Walking together towards Easter - Lent resources from the United Reformed Church

Picture: British style pancakes. Learning Lark/Flickr

Published 12 February 2021
This is an update to an article that was first published in 2019

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