Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Shrove Tuesday - Perfecting Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) stands as a marker in my calendar as the gateway between winter slowly ending and the advent of spring, with Easter being only a heartbeat away.
As a pre-cursor to Lent, its religious significance may have waned, but the reference to ‘Shrove’ is still in common use (the word ‘Shrove’ meaning to confess – historically one would confess ones sins before Lent).  Combined with tradition, rich foods such as dairy goods and eggs would have had to be used up before the solemn period of Lent commenced.  Hence pancakes were adopted as an all-encompassing method of using these items up on Shrove Tuesday.
In years gone by, pancakes followed a basic baptism of being drizzled in lemon then coated in sugar - perhaps served with a dollop of jam.
Now, as tastes and inspiration have evolved, the wealth of pancake fillings has expanded from the use of fancier cheeses such as Gruyere, Stilton and Mexicana with anti-pasti style accompaniments of  chargrilled peppers or sun-dried tomatoes championing the savoury preferences. 
Then on the flip-side of flavours for those with a sweet tooth, use of exotic fruits like mango or combinations such as winter berries & vanilla sugar and spiced apple & chocolate provide a means of dessert albeit stemming away from traditional fillings.
As for me, I recall a visit to Paris a few years ago where I bought a large crepe/pancake from a street vendor who filled it with grated cheese and fried mushrooms.  It was the most delicious crepe I’d ever tasted – 6 Euros well spent – I can still taste it now!  Year upon year, I’ve endeavoured to replicate it, trying to add a bit of Parisian magic to my Pancake Day here in the UK!
Hands up, I do use packet batter mix (apologies to any purists out there), but being a Tuesday night, time is of the essence! 
Separately from the pancake batter, I fry sliced chestnut mushrooms in lemon juice, salt and herbs and have grated cheese at the ready.    Then assembled together, with a little spinach, it creates a wrapped pancake that acts as a tribute to my Parisian memory.

Dessert style pancakes conclude this annual ritual flavoured with honey, blueberries, lemon juice, icing sugar and a slither of chocolate spread.  Calorific I know...... 

So get your pan heated up with oil, pour in your batter and whatever your taste dictates this Shrove Tuesday - flip it, fill it, flavour it and devour it!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Relax, Revitalise & Veg Out

New year and a new start with a new set of resolutions.  January (and even early February) always seems to be that line in the sand where it is stated from this point onwards,  it’s time for new beginnings.  One of the things that most of us promise is to make more time for ourselves (‘Me Time’) and to escape (albeit for a short while), from the daily chaos that inflicts our lives ordinarily.

There are many documented articles about why we need to relax and the benefits from it.  Even if at first you think it doesn’t apply to you, when you start evaluating your routine, you soon realise that the need for relaxation is essential.  Here’s a piece that encompasses many of the reasons why:

‘Me time’ can come in many forms – a walk in the park, reading a book or in some cases, the luxury of spending a week at a retreat.

A friend of mine, Andy, often takes time out for a week or so and enjoys the solitude of spending time relaxing and meditating.  One of the places he goes to is The Barn Retreat.  Set in the Devon countryside, The Barn Retreat allows you to switch off from modern life in its tranquil surroundings and uses vegetarian, organic and Buddhist influences to help achieve this.

To support the retreat and to promote their vegetarian mantra, The Barn Retreat have published their own recipe booklet which includes recipes they cook on-site.  A lovely recipe (that Andy can vouch for) is Creamy Horseradish & Watercress Crumble and with their kind permission, here is a copy of it to try.

So whether it’s a retreat week away or just an hour for yourself when you can, always ensure you have some ‘me-time’ and make it a resolution you intend on keeping – the benefits are endless.

For more information about The Barn Retreat and/or to purchase their recipe booklet, contact:  http://www.sharphamtrust.org/The-Barn-Retreat

NB:  References in this article about The Barn Retreat have been made purely based on a plaudit given by a third party and is not an advertorial produced by Word In Veg Ways.