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Bannocks and Brose


Pancake Day

Feb 16

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

“And every man and maide doe take their turne,
And tosse their Pancakes up
for feare they burne.”

~ Pasquil’s Palin, 1619

Toss those pancakes, oatcakes, soda scones, drop scones, crumpets or bannocks, folks ... It's Pancake Day! Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday) is known in Scotland as Bannock Night, and is a moveable feast day preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), which is often celebrated by consuming pancakes and griddle cakes! Shrove Tuesday was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats before embarking on the Lenten fast, and pancakes or bannocks were the perfect way of using up these ingredients. The Scots version of Lenten bannocks, is made with oatmeal, eggs, milk or beef stock and cooked on a girdle (griddle). Milk-brose or gruel was often served to eat with the bannocks, leading to this evening also being referred to as Brose Day (Brosie), or Milk-Gruel Night! Some older customs on Bannock Night involve dritual pouring of batter - one person would pour the batter onto the griddle, another turned the pancake and a third removed them when they were ready, handing them round the assembled company. When the bowl of batter was almost empty, a small quantity of soot was aded to the mixture to make the large sooty bannock, also known as the dreaming bannock. The sooty bannock would fill the whole girdle and symbolic charms could be dropped into it: button (bachelor); a ring (married); thimble (old maid); farthing (widow); scrap of material (tailor); straw (farmer). Once the bannock was turned and cooked through, it was cut into bits and put into the baker's apron for everyone to draw a piece with their fortune. At the end of the evening, a piece of the sooty bannock would be put inside a sock and placed under pillows where the dreamer hoped to dream of their future partner! 🥞

Bannocks and Brose

Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day, Mardi Gras or Pancake Tuesday) and in Scotland as Bannock Night, is a moveable feast day in February or March preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), which is celebrated in some countries by consuming pancakes.


Being the last day before the penitential season of Lent, indulging in foods that one sacrifices for the upcoming forty days, have given rise to particular recipes associated with this day.

In some places, Pancake races form an important part of the Shrove Tuesday celebrations – an opportunity for large numbers of people, often in fancy dress, to race down streets tossing pancakes! The object of the race is to get to the finishing line first, carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake in it and flipping the pancake as you run.  The most famous of pancake races takes place at Olney in Buckinghamshire. According to tradition, in 1445 a woman of Olney heard the shriving bell while she was making pancakes and ran to the church in her apron, still clutching her frying pan. The Olney pancake race is now world famous. Competitors have to be local housewives and they must wear an apron and a hat or scarf. 🥞


Bannock varieties can be named or differentiated according to various characteristics: the flour or meal from which they are made, whether they are leavened or not, whether they have certain special ingredients, how they are baked or cooked, and the names of rituals or festivals in which they are used. Historically, specially made bannocks were used in rituals marking the changing of the Gaelic seasons: St Bride's bannock for spring (February 1), Bealtaine bannock for summer (May 1), Lughnasadh or Lammas bannock for autumn harvests (August 1), and Samhain bannock for winter (end of October). Other special bannocks include beremeal bannock, bride's bannock, cod liver bannock, cryin' bannock, fallaid bannock, fife bannock, Hogmanay bannock, Marymas bannock, mashlum bannock, Michaelmas bannock, pease bannock, Pitcaithly bannock, salt bannock, sautie bannock, Silverweed bannock, St Columba's bannock, teethin' bannock, Yetholm bannock, and Yule bannock.  Manx bonnag probably comes from the same root form as bannock and is made using similar ingredients.   In the north of England, bannocks are often made using pastry rather than a bread dough.

Selkirk bannock from Scotland is well-known and named after the town in the Scottish borders where it is traditionally made. It is a spongy, buttery variety, sometimes compared to a fruitcake, made from wheat flour and containing a very large quantity of raisins. The first known maker of this variety was a baker named Robbie Douglas, who opened his shop in Selkirk in 1859. When Queen Victoria visited Sir Walter Scott's granddaughter at Abbotsford she is reputed to have taken her tea with a slice of Selkirk bannock, thus ensuring that its reputation was enshrined forever.  Today, Selkirk bannocks are popular throughout Great Britain, and can be found at most large supermarkets.


And for a modern recipe for Border (Selkirk) Bannocks, click the picture of "The Pancake Cook," by Adriaan de Lelie dating from 1790 - 1810.



This particular recipe is said to be that of the first Selkirk bannock ever made by bakery owner Robbie Douglas in 1859, and that Queen Victoria would have nothing else with her tea.

Bannocks and Brose
Bannocks and Brose

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