It is common to go to church on Ash Wednesday and receive an ash mark on your forehead. Many people give something up for Lent (or have the intention, at least!) and join in with the tradition of eating fish instead of meat on Fridays during this period.
So mentioning Pancake Day in Mexico is generally met with puzzled looks and incomprehension.
Do pancakes even exist in Mexico, anyway?
Of course they do. They may be known as hotcakes which are like American pancakes, small and thick, more often than not made from a packet and typically served for breakfast with some kind of topping, not a filling.
Then there are crepas, like French crêpes, very large and wafer thin, usually made on a special hot plate with sweet or savoury fillings and bought from a stand, a cafe or a restaurant. I've not heard of anyone making them at home.
My idea of pancakes is what I grew up with in England; something like a crepe but not quite as perfectly thin and the size of the frying pan it's made in. Homemade batter, flour, egg and milk whisked together with no extra flavouring. They were always dessert on Pancake Day, our favourite filling being lemon juice and sugar.
For Pancake Day this year - although I'm the only member of the household who knows or cares about it - if I'm going to go to the effort of making pancakes I'm going to make them for main course and dessert! They WILL know it's Pancake Day!
Just in time, here are some of my pancake recipe/filling ideas that I may or may not make on the day:
This is a dish we had recently from a cocina económica, a kind of cheap restaurant that sells midday meals to eat in or take away. We really liked it and it looks so simple to make I vowed to try it myself, pleased to have a vegetarian meal to add to my repertoire. Then it occurred to me that it would also make a great pancake filling.
Slice onion and peppers (ideally two or three different coloured peppers) into strips and fry, then add sliced mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you want a bit more bite, you could add some chopped chilli or chilli powder, although it's not part of the original recipe. When the vegetables are cooked through, you can add the cheese. You need a cheese that melts, and plenty of it. In Mexico asadero cheese or manchego cheese are usually used, but probably Cheddar cheese would work just as well, or you could experiment and see which goes best. When we had this dish the other day, the cheese was gratinated on top, but as a pancake filling this isn't really necessary, just stir slices of cheese or grated cheese into the vegetables until it's melted and well mixed in, then serve on your pancakes. Easy!
Spicy Bean Pancakes
This is another vegetarian option, even easier than the previous one. (You may have noticed I like easy recipes, in fact I only attempt easy recipes!)
You need black beans, previously cooked, or use a tin of black beans.
Fry finely chopped onion and green chilli, the quantities depend on your taste, add finely diced fresh tomato, then the beans and salt to taste. When the beans are hot, you can serve them on your pancakes with grated cheese or sour cream.
Spinach, Mushroom and Ham Pancakes
You could leave out either the mushrooms or the ham in this recipe and just have two ingredients if you prefer.
Slice the mushrooms and fry them in butter or olive oil. You could add a finely chopped clove of garlic too, if you want.
When the mushrooms are cooked add the chopped ham and some baby spinach leaves and leave on a low heat until the leaves start to wilt, don't overcook them. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve on your pancake with sour cream.
Sweet PancakesLime juice and muscovado sugar would be a tasty version of the classic lemon and sugar.
I think mangoes are just coming into season, at least the price is coming down which is a sure sign. So how about a tropical fruit filling? Chopped mango and banana, or mango and pineapple, served with vanilla ice cream or cream cheese, sounds good to me!
I have to include a chocolate filling here, who would say no to a chocolate pancake? I have some cooking chocolate in the cupboard, plain chocolate which is my favourite. My idea is to break a square or two of chocolate into small pieces to melt on the surface of the pancake as it finishes cooking, then sprinkle with almond flakes or popped amaranth or chopped banana and roll or fold it up.
I'll update this post with photos of the pancakes I actually make and let you know how they turn out on the day!
Do you celebrate Pancake Day? What are your favourite fillings/toppings? Tell me about the pancakes you're planning to make or have made in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!