Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, Užgavènès, Fettisdagen – whatever you call it – is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. As the period of Lent is a time to become more frugal in ones eating habits the idea was to use up all of the tempting food in your larder. Mardi Gras and Fettisdagen mean Fat Tuesday which says it all, really.
In the UK we mark the day by eating pancakes covered with whatever needs to be used up in the cupboard. The word Shrove derives from Shrive which means to obtain absolution for sins by doing penance and so the following forty days were when you beat yourself up for the wrongs you had done by giving something up which you liked.
The religious meaning seems to have all but disappeared now, in fact I bet that most people will go out and buy something especially to put on their pancakes rather than use up what they have already got. Not only that, the pancakes are now as likely to be American style rather than the traditional flour, eggs, water and milk. Not to be outdone I thought that I would try something different this year and dine out on pancakes with a novel twist. There are two reasons for this, the first is that my fridge is empty anyway, except for a few cans of beer which doesn’t go well poured on pancakes, and the other is that, even though I have been trying like mad, I have sadly done nothing which needs repentance.
The place I chose was Bundobust who have the most amazing twist on pancakes in dosa. I have only ever had these thin, crispy delights in savoury form to accompany curry but here they have used them to create a dessert comprising of two of these rice pancakes, one flavoured with mango and one with rose. They are served with shrikand, a traditionally hung yoghurt sweetened and flavoured with cardamom and topped with mango ras (pulp), pistachio and pomegranate. The whole lot comes in at a fiver and is available from now until Sunday, 1st March.
I had been told about the sweet dosas and sent photographs to show how good they looked so that is what I ordered. When they arrived they were as good as they looked, the light pancakes were crispy at the ends but a tad more, well, pancake-like in the middle. The flavoured dough was superb on both examples and the shrikhand was to die for. Although they looked light they were quite filling which I put down to the thick, sweet yogurt. I didn’t realise that Bundobust don’t do coffee, possibly because I usually have one of their many beers, so, as I don’t mix sweet stuff with ale I had a mango lassi at £3.45. Far more healthy than a milkshake and far tastier as well.
My only quibble about the experience is nothing to do with Bundobust, but with the so called mate who advised me of the treat. When I had ordered and sat down I perused the menu to find that there is also a savoury version of the dosa filled with spiced potato and onion which comes with a portion of lentil soup to dip them in and an accompaniment of coconut chutney. These are priced at £6 but you can get both the sweet and savoury for £10.
I won’t say that I was upset about missing out, I wasn’t, I was furious as I suspect that the savoury version will be every bit as good as the sweet variety. All I will say is that when I next see you – and you know who you are – I might just do something which warrants my shriving and serving penance next year for wedging one of your cymbals where the sun doesn’t shine. You have been warned!
Anyway, as someone who doesn’t do things by halves, this year I have decided to make the supreme sacrifice and, as from tomorrow, I have chosen to give up Lent!
All photographs by Stan Graham