British-style pancakes  – Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Mardi Gras doesn’t always mean beads and parades. In Ireland, Australia and Canada it’s Pancake Tuesday, and in Britain it’s often simply called Pancake Day.

Why pancakes? They were originally eaten today because they were a good way to use up any milk or eggs. Meat, fish and dairy products used to be forbidden during Lent, which begins tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, and so on the day before fasting would begin all of the dairy that otherwise spoil during Lent was used up in pancakes.

Today few people fast during Lent, but the tradition of Pancake Day – a Fat Tuesday before the fast – continues to be a fun tradition.

My mother used to make stacks of pancakes for us, sprinkled with sugar and a dash of lemon juice, and then rolled up. The British pancakes are not equivalent to the US variety, which are much fluffier and sweeter, instead they are closer to the French crepe.

If you would like to try your hand at making some tonight – and the all important flipping – here’s the recipe my mother gave to me:


You can make the batter in advance (a couple of hours if you’ve time) and keep in the fridge but give it a good mix before you use it.


4oz plain flour (about 1/2 cup)

pinch salt

1 egg

1/2 pint milk


Mix flour & salt, and break in the egg

Add half the milk and beat with wooden spoon until smooth

Add rest of milk gradually and beat well

Note: You may want to throw everything into a liquidizer, which also works well.

To cook the pancakes put some oil (vegetable/sunflower but not butter or it will burn) in a frying pan & heat till hot. Swirl the oil round the pan then pour it out into a bowl and keep for the next pancake.

Add just enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan thinly and swirl it around.

Leave until bubbles form all over (have a peek underneath to see if browned) then toss it and cook the other side.

Stack in the oven or eat one at a time.

Good luck – and enjoy!