Art at the table


"…e mescolate bene facciasi frittellette rivoltandole con un mestolino …si friggono nella padella con buon olio e cotte servonsi con zucchero e polvere mustiata"

Cosimo III was so fond of the painting of the Pancake Seller – a memento of a trip to the Netherlands – that he had it hung at length in the Tribuna of the Uffizi. The painting shows a scene of ordinary life: the fried pancakes allude to the feast of Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day), symbol of indulgence, when it was permitted to prepare reserves of sweetmeats before the Lenten fasting began.

With studied casualness, in this painting the artist illustrates everything that was needed to prepare the pancakes: the pot holding the batter, complete with ladle, the plate set upon the wooden tripod, the steaming hotplate and the dish holding the sweetmeats ready for sale. The painting also shows two little girls appreciating the goodies with earnest appetite: one is shown savouring the pancake and the older one in the act of paying, just before popping the delicious morsel into her mouth.

Ancient recipe

Exquisite pancakes
Take extra fine bread and boil it in a clean pot in pure water over a slow heat, and do this the night before in readiness for the morning, so that overnight it has time to dry out, by placing it in a hanging pot so that the moisture can drip out of it. Then knead this together with rice flour and mix it well, forming it into little pancakes. Roll the pancakes in the rice flour and then fry them in a pan in good oil and serve them sprinkled with sugar and grated nutmeg.

Modern recipe

Fine white flour, sultanas, sugar, eggs, milk, brewer’s yeast, vanilla-flavoured icing sugar, salt, vegetable oil (or suet) for frying, flavourings (lemon or orange peel)

In a bowl, mix the flour with the milk, eggs and sugar until you have a fairly soft dough. Add a pinch of salt, a little brewers’ yeast and the sultanas washed and dipped in flour, then blend all the ingredients together thoroughly. Place a clean cloth over the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for several hours. Beat down the dough again, adding a little water if necessary to obtain a more liquid paste. Ladle spoonfuls of the batter into a frying pan with plenty of boiling oil, and as soon as they begin to cook, turn them over with a slotted spoon and fry until they are a dark golden colour. Place on absorbent paper, then serve piled on a dish covered with a dusting of the vanilla-flavoured icing sugar.

Art at the table