Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the last day before Lent, when people traditionally a) used up all the butter and eggs in making pancakes and b) went to be shriven (forgiven their sins) before the fasting period began. In France the same festival is called Mardi Gras, literally "Fat Tuesday". There's lots of interesting and entertaining information about Pancake Day here.
Pancake Day this year falls in Fairtrade Fortnight, so why not buy your ingredients from one of Oxford's amazing Fairtrade providers? There's Fairtrade at St Michaels, Headington Fairtrade, and a good range of Fairtrade ingredients stocked in Oxfam shops dotted across the city (check out our charity shop guide to find them).
Pancake Day events to get involved with
There are a few Pancake Day events to get involved with across the county, such as the Pancake Party in Littlemore Village Hall, which will include arts, crafts, tea, and, of course, pancakes. For those looking to get more active before they stuff themselves with dairy goodness, there's the annual Great Wallingford Pancake Race, with races for both adults and children.
Offering some creativity in their pancakes, Dirty Bones is allowing patrons to 'pimp their pancakes' with toppings including clotted creme, caramelised bananas and crispy fried chicken. Meanwhile The Bicycle Shed is pitting two cuisines against each other, with pancakes going up against polish donuts (paczki). Which ones will get your vote? And finally, the George Street Social are offering bottomless pancakes for their lucky patrons.
A pair of pancake recipes for you to try out
4 oz (125g) plain white flour
a pinch of salt
½ pint (300ml) milk (you can use half milk, half water if you’re that way inclined)
2oz (60g) melted butter OR a couple of tablespoons of oil (optional but nice)
1 tablespoon of rum, brandy, beer or gin (ditto)
Everything should be as close to room temperature as possible.
1. Put the flour and salt in a bowl and crack in the eggs. Mix together till smooth. If you're not using fat, go straight to step 3.
2. Mix in the butter (if you like, you can heat it in your pancake pan first until it foams and goes light brown – this will make the pancakes taste pleasantly nutty). Or add the oil, if you’re using that, but in that case don’t do the foaming thing.
3. Mix in the milk (gradually at first) and finally the optional alcohol.
You can leave it to stand for an hour at this point, but if it’s not convenient, don’t bother.
4. Butter or oil a frying pan (preferably non-stick) and heat it. It needs to be at about 4 or 5 on a 6-setting hob dial. When hot, add about 2 tablespoons of batter per pancake. Cook for just under a minute on one side and very briefly on the other.
Keep your cooked pancakes warm while you make the rest (they can be kept overnight wrapped in foil if you like and reheated the next day).
Fill them with cheese, ham, spring onions, pasta sauce, feta and tomatoes, jam, baked beans, chocolate sauce, houmous, cream, blueberries, bananas, yoghurt, honey and lemon juice, cinnamon and brown sugar, maple syrup, ice cream or whatever else is around.
Mix together equal quantities (by volume) of buckwheat flour and oat milk to get a really thick glutinous grey batter.
Fry them in a non-stick pan with plenty of oil to make surprisingly tasty blini-style cakes. They are particularly good with houmous, chopped spring onion and/or roast veg... or honey and lemon or chocolate spread or pecan-caramel sauce and strawberries.
Daily Info's Pancake recommendations
The list of places offering pancakes in Oxford is ever-changing, but last year the Daily Info team took upon themselves the grave responsibility of reviewing some local purveyors of this traditional treat.
Russ thinks the crêpes at Bean and Brew in Wallingford are so good they'll turn you into a philosopher...
Nestled off of the main square in Wallingford, Bean & Brew offers customers a range of affordable, mouth-watering dishes perfect for breakfast and lunch. It has a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, and it was noticeable on our visit just how many families had chosen this establishment to grab a quick bite for lunch.
But what sets the café apart from others, and makes it worth a visit on Pancake Day (or any day of the year) is that they serve both savoury and sweet crêpes. On my visit to the café I tried the ham and cheese crêpe, which was a perfect alternative to the usual meal of a panini or a sandwich. The crêpe came out piping hot, and was packed with filling. Once cooled it didn't take me long to consume and, with an empty plate in front of me and a broad smile on my face, I was left to ponder why more places don't serve savoury crêpes. They're brilliant, a satisfactory alternative to their sweeter brethren.
Anna investigated The Old Bookbinders Arms in Jericho: on their menu is a section titled 'What A Load of Crêpes!' which combined some of her interests: food and puns.
Purely for the purposes of science, you understand, I tried a savoury and a sweet crepe. The savoury crêpe, called L'Anti-Cannibal (!), was vegetarian heaven: juicy, garlicky mushrooms and flavourful chunks of fresh tomato, perfectly seasoned and covered in melted cheddar. The additions of a heap of fresh rocket and a fried egg turned this treat into something sublime, even if egg on an egg-based crêpe might sound eggcessive... The crêpe itself was a joy to eat, wrapping the dish in its pillowy goodness. If you have a particular need for more carbs, you can add a portion of fries alongside the crêpe for just £1 - while I do love a bargain, I couldn't quite justify such indulgence since I needed to leave some space for dessert...
The sweet crêpe menu was slightly less imaginative but still fairly well-executed: mine had huge slices of fresh banana swimming in molten, good-quality milk chocolate. It was something of an overload, especially after the substantial main, which I didn't quite manage to see off - I would recommend bringing along someone with a big appetite to share with!
Amelia visited The Handlebar 39, The Handle Bar's latest incarnation on Magdalen Road
Their breakfast/brunch pancakes are made with coconut flour so are both gluten free and low carb, though the pool of maple syrup they arrive in means they aren’t exactly a healthy option.
These American-style pancakes come in a stack of three and are topped with your pick of berries, bacon or banana. I fancied something sweet so went with the berries, which judging by the tables around me, seems to be a very popular choice. The pancakes themselves were delicately sweet, not at all too coconutty, and somehow managed to be light while still being filling – I definitely didn’t need anything else for lunch!
As well as being a popular new brunch location (there was a constant stream of punters visiting for brunch and lunch this weekend) The Handle Bar becomes a crêperie from 5.30 to 9pm Thursday – Monday, offering a range of sweet pancakes and savoury galettes. If their brunch pancakes are anything to go by, I’ll have to go back to try what else they have to offer.
Alice took a city break to Little Amsterdam in Banbury
Little Amsterdam has a range of tasty-sounding dishes on their menu - beef croquettes, sauerkraut mash with smoked sausage, bami bites ('triangular pockets of noodles, vegetables and spices'), and other meals that draw on Dutch and Indonesian cuisine. However, I felt that I had to go for one of the restaurant's signature pancakes. Smoked sausage, leek and almond crumb looked interesting, so I gave the friendly waiter my order, then sat back and watched the many happy diners who were already enjoying their meals.
The plate-sized pancake arrived quickly, accompanied by a bottle of syrup (stroop), which is traditionally served with pancakes - any pancakes, including the savoury ones.
The different flavours worked really well together - the sausage was salty and smoky, the leeks added a pleasant freshness and crunch, and the almond crumb was incredible, with a savoury, moreish edge. The pancake itself was perfectly cooked; light and fluffy. I tried a little splash of syrup on one bite, and decided that it wasn't for me, although I'm sure I'd enjoy it on a sweet pancake.
Russ had an anachronistic dinner at The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club, as one of Oxford's foremost providers of American diner cuisine, offers pancakes as part of a number of its dishes. You can have them as a savoury or sweet dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These fluffy discs can be accompanied with the likes of mixed berries, vanilla ice cream, bacon, or fried chicken.
On my pre-Pancake Day visit it seemed only right that I give them a try in the form of the perfectly-named 'The All American', where the pancakes come with eggs, sausage bacon, fried potatoes and maple syrup. I'm not sure if the accompanying elements of the dish work with the maple syrup provided. Yet this is a suitably hearty meal, perfectly recreating what makes pancakes such a popular dish in America. Plus the potatoes were scrumptious.
The reason pancakes work at The Breakfast Club is because they feel part of the surrounding pageantry of the restaurant. They feel as integral as the classic '60s music over the speakers or the arcade machine by the entrance. For the particularly brave there is a pancake challenge, which consists of 12 pancakes in 12 minutes...