Pancakes might be a weekly, or even daily, staple for some red-blooded Americans (or perhaps better yet, golden-brown-maple-syrup-blooded). In Ireland, the consumption of pancakes is more of a delicacy, a once-yearly tradition on Shrove Tuesday, colloquially, “Pancake Tuesday.”
Grocery stores begin to stock “pancake kits” weeks in advance: dry mix, lemons and sugar for topping, potentially a pancake mold or even a new frying pan to boot. Pancake Tuesday reminders flash by on the sides of city buses. “Pancake races” are organized where “athletes” donning aprons race down the streets–griddle in hand, pancakes flipping and flying–in small town Ireland. A poorly-constructed pancake blasted on Twitter can even put a political career in question (see former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s infamous transparent pancake).
While Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is a day for general gluttony in the United States, Ireland focuses on this one indulgence in preparation for Lent because eggs, milk, and butter, in addition to meat, were traditionally off limits for the 40-day fasting period. The birth of the Irish pancake came by means of necessity, a simple way to consume a household’s perishable foodstuffs before Ash Wednesday.
The pancake may be considered an iconically American breakfast food today, but no one country can lay claim to its origins. Pancakes are a prehistoric invention and considered one of the earliest and most widespread foods since the cultivation of wheat and flour. They have cropped up around the world in different shapes, sizes, and structures due to their simple ingredients and cooking method.
The traditional Irish pancake falls somewhere in between the thin French crêpe and the fluffy American pancake. Without the French style or the American addition of baking soda, an Irish pancake is like a thick crêpe. Some serious Pancake Tuesday aficionados might opt for a fluffy, syrupy American pancake for breakfast, a savory crêpe for lunch, and an Irish pancake topped with lemon and sugar for their dinner.
Each spring, Dublin Global Gateway staff and students come together to churn (and burn) over 150 pancakes in the O’Connell House kitchen. With our stomachs and hearts full, we come together as a community, led by our in-house Campus Minister, to prepare in reflection as the Lenten season commences.
Join us this year in celebrating Pancake Tuesday with a traditional Irish pancake alongside your Mardi Gras King Cake and other pre-Lent indulgences!
Traditional Irish Pancake Recipe
From our friends at Bord Bía, the Irish Food Board
- 100g plain flour (½ cup + 2 tbsp.)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 300 ml milk (1¼ cups)
- 1 tbsp. melted butter
- Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the center.
- Crack the egg into the well; add the melted butter or oil and half the milk. Gradually draw the flour into the liquid by stirring all the time with a wooden spoon until all the flour has been incorporated and then beat well to make a smooth batter.
- Stir in the remaining milk.
- Leave to stand for about 30 minutes, then stir again before using.
- To make the pancakes, heat a small frying pan until very hot and then turn the heat down to medium.
- Lightly grease with oil and then ladle in enough batter to coat the base of the pan thinly (about 2 tbsp.), tilting the pan so the mixture spreads evenly.
- Cook over a moderate heat for 1-2 minutes or until the batter looks dry on the top and begins to brown at the edges. Flip the pancake over with a spatula and cook the other side.
- Turn onto a plate, smear with a little butter, sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve.