Today is Shrove Tuesday, the final day of Shrovetide and the last opportunity to use up forbidden foods and to have some fun before the abstinence of Lent - well, for some people anyway!
At the Tudor court, Shrovtide was marked with entertainment such as jousting, pageants, music and masques, plus lots of feasting. Alison Sim, in her book Pleasures and Pastimes in Tudor England describes one Shrovetide entertainment, "threshing the cock", which consisted of tethering a cock and then people trying to kill it by throwing things at it. A prize was given to the person who killed it. Sim also writes of how "sometimes the cock was buried with just its head sticking out of the ground and then blindfolded people would try to kill it with a flail." I'm so glad that we don't do that today! Awful!
In the UK today, it is traditional to celebrate Shrove Tuesday by making pancakes. This was the ideal way to use up eggs before Lent. In my family, we sprinkle the pancakes with sugar and lemon juice before rolling them up and scoffing them, but you can top them with all sorts of things. And pancakes weren't just used for eating, there's the tradition of pancake racing too! Thee traditional pancake race of Olney in Buckinghamshire is said to date back to 1445, so before the Tudor period. According to legend, a housewife was busy making pancakes when the churchbells rang, calling the people to mass. This woman was in such a rush to get out of the door and get to the service that she ran to the church with her pan and pancake, tossing the pancake as she went - yeah, yeah!
If you fancy making pancakes today then why not learn from the 'pancake king', my husband Tim, as he makes some Tudor-inspired pancakes?
Tim's Tudor inspired pancakes
6oz/170g plain flour
1/2 pint/250ml milk
1/4 pint/125ml ale (whatever you fancy or you could use water)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a grating of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
A knob of butter
I mention fritters in the video and here is a recipe for those:
Lady Elinor Fettiplace's Apple Fritters
Take the whites of eggs and beat them very well, then put to them some creame, and a little flower, and some cloves and mace beaten smale, and some sugar, and the pap of two or three boiled apples and stir it well alltogether, then fry it in a frying pan with some sweet butter, and when it is half fried, break it in pieces like fritters and so fry it.
Here's my version based on Hilary Spurling's adaptation of Elinor's recipe:
2 small apples (or 1 cooking apple), peeled, cored and sliced
2 egg whites
2 rounded tablespoonfuls of sugar, mixed with 1 rounded tablespoonful of flour, 2 ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Knob of butter
Stew the apple slices gently in a little water until the apple is a soft pulp.
Beat 2 egg whites stiffly, then fold in (with a metal spoon) 2 rounded tablespoonfuls of sugar mixed with 1 rounded tablespoonful of flour, 2 ground cloves and half a teaspoonful of cinnamon.
Add 4 tablespoonfuls of cream and then add the apple.
Melt 1 ounce or 25g of butter in a saucepan until very hot and then pour in the apple mixture and cook over a moderate flame for 3-4 minutes on each side.
You can find more recipes and more information about Lent in my previous article on the topic - click here.