16 February: Shrove Tuesday

I thought Shrove Tuesday was just about pancakes – a way of eating up leftovers before the start of the Lenten fast. However Miss Courtney in ‘Cornish Feasts and Folk Lore’ published nearly 100 years ago, tells us that there were lots of other goings on today. This what she says about Penzance;

’ …large quantities of limpets and periwinkles are gathered in the afternoon by the poor people to be cooked for their supper. This is called ‘going a-trigging.’

In East Yorkshire the church warden rang the pancake bell at 11.00 am to signify the start of the holiday for workers and school children and the time to start making the pancakes – pancake makers obviously didn’t get holidays. My friend Alex told me recently of the tradition of feeding the last pancake to the family cockerel. This had to be done by the daughter of the house. The number of hens who ran over to get a piece of the action – or pancake, signified the number of years before she would get married! This would seem to be particularly rough if you have a large flock of chickens…twenty five years, thirty years?? Don’t do it.

I’ve never been very keen on savoury pancakes; I’ve always found the combination of pancake and thick sauce too rich and starchy. However I’m going to combine the two traditions and make light seafood pancakes. This recipe has a number of stages, but it’s easy to do over the course of the day and the sauce freezes well.

We’ll start with a green pancake mix. Make this as thin as you dare.

Penzance Seafood Pancakes

For the pancakes:
4oz flour
pinch salt
2 eggs
2 oz melted butter Milk to mix.
Handful of wild garlic leaves or chives, parsley, French tarragon, dill, fennel – whatever soft green herbs are available. I used wild garlic to maintain the ‘gathered’ food theme and parsley.
Butter for frying – clarified butter is best. (Melt some butter and skin off the milky solids)

Make the batter in the usual way, (I put all the basic ingredients into my liquidiser and zapped them) pour the batter into a jug and add a generous handful of very finely chopped fresh herbs. Let stand for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
A 2” long piece of orange rind
2 bay leaves
I tsp dried thyme
1small glass white wine
1 tin crushed tomatoes – usual size
½ pint fish stock (I used a fish stock cube)
handful of button mushrooms - chunked (optional)
For the fish I used 8oz of mixed cooked seafood – scallops, prawns, mussels and squid and I didn’t go down to the beach for them. You can use chunks of raw fish and just cook it a little longer.

Finely chop the garlic and sauté in the oil with the orange peel and herbs. Add the wine and boil to reduce for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and the stock and the mushrooms. Simmer in an open pan until the sauce is thick and chunky. You can leave it at this stage. When you’re ready, add the cooked seafood.

Make the pancakes and layer between baking paper whilst you use all the batter up. When the pancakes are cool, put a couple of tablespoons of the seafood and sauce on each one and roll up. Place side by side in a buttered gratin dish. Cover with foil and bake at 180c for about half an hour. You could grate cheese over – I didn’t.

This cries out for a big glass of fruity white wine with it.

NB:I actually used a dessertspoon of dried orange peel. I make a batch of this every Christmas by using up the peel of the oranges with which I make caramel oranges. Put the peel in a very low oven on the open shelves. When it’s really dry (it takes hours) I blitz it in my food processor until it’s a fine powder, then store it in a jar with my other herbs and spices. It’s brilliant for putting in cakes and stews.

We often have this as a seafood stew without the pancakes and with a bowl of white rice – it’s very comforting. I make it with whatever fish seems good on the day.

Don’t forget the hens.


kate said...

dear liz you are very good at keeping up with this blog - I am so impressed. Today I will do sweet pancakes - like you I prefer them with sugar and a little lemon! And inspired by you I will try and do my next post! Kate x

sprhoyle said...

You outdo yourself, my dear. But alas, my hand is still embuggered, and I am not cooking. I will have to declare some later date Pancake Day, and try your delicious looking recipe then.