One of the great things about having children is sharing and passing on the food rituals and traditions that you grew up with. Favourite recipes are handed down through the generations and provide a link with the past each time you make them, even if the recipe might have been modernised in some way.
Christmas and Easter are obvious occasions for food rituals. The mass influx of migrants to Australia has exposed us to Russian pashka, Greek dyed eggs and tsoureki, Italian panforte and panettone, and German lebkuchen, among others. All of these new dishes find a place alongside plum pudding, mince tarts and hot-cross buns.
Shrove Tuesday is the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting before Easter. According to Christian traditions, it was a day of both celebration and penitence, as people celebrated before entering the austere Lenten period. Observant Christians did not eat many foods during Lent, including butter, eggs, fats, milky food, fish and meat. So no food was wasted, families would hold a feast on Shrove Tuesday to use up these foods. Shrove Tuesday is usually known now as Pancake Tuesday and feasts of pancakes are a great way to use up these traditionally forbidden foods, even if you don't believe in, or follow, the tradition.
My mother always made pancakes for us on Shrove Tuesday. Some years it was pikelets dolloped with jam and cream or sprinkled with lemon and sugar for breakfast or dessert after dinner. Other years we would have crepes filled with fish cooked in a creamy, white sauce.
The tradition Adam and I have developed is Canadian pancakes. I make buttermilk pancakes from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion, which are the lightiest, fluffiest and most delicious pancake recipe I've found. We serve crisp bacon on the side and douse the lot in maple syrup (make sure you buy proper maple syrup and not the disgusting maple-flavoured syrup, which does not remotely compare).
The best thing about this recipe is that the batter can be mixed up the night before. The egg whites are whipped and mixed in the next morning, meaning that the pancakes can be made even on a work morning (but you might want to get up 10 minutes earlier just in case!)
As the smallest carton of buttermilk available is 600ml, there's always one cup left over, so I make up a buttermilk cake from Bill Granger. It's a moist cake that is finished off with a delicious raspberry syrup poured over the top.
From "The Cook's Companion" by Stephanie Alexander
3 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
60g (2 ounces) butter, melted
300g (10 ounces) plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
extra butter or oil spray
Beat egg yolks well, and whisk in buttermilk and melted butter. Sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold in. You can store the batter in the fridge overnight at this stage.
When ready to cook the pancakes, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the batter. Lightly grease a heavy-based frying pan and ladle in about 1/4 cup of batter. Cook until bubbles form on the uncooked side. Flip with a spatula and cook the other side. If you like, transfer pancakes to a plate and keep warm in the oven until you've finished cooking, then serve without delay.
We love these with bacon and maple syrup but, for sweet variations, add fresh blueberries or raspberries on the uncooked side before flipping, or replace 50g (2 ounces) of the flour with 50g (2 ounces) of cocoa.
BUTTERMILK CAKE WITH RASPBERRY SYRUP
125g (4 ounces) butter, softened
250g (8 ounces) caster sugar
250ml (8 ounces) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g (8 ounces) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powser
1 pinch salt
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Using electric beaters, cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well on low speed. Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla extract until just combined. Sift in the dry ingredients in two batches, mixing well. Spoon into a greased and lined 20cm (8 inch) cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate and pour syrup over the top.
Stir 60g (2 ounces) sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 60ml (1/4 cup) water in a saucepan over medium to high heat until the sugar dissolves. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add 220g (8 ounces) raspberries and lightly crush with the back of a spoon. Cook for another three minutes, remove from the heat and puree in a blender.
Serve cake with whipped cream on the side.
From "Bill's Food" by Bill Granger