Today is Shrove Tuesday – Pancake day as its commonly known. Traditionally the day when the larder was emptied in anticipation of the Lenten fast. To be honest we’ve rarely managed to cook pancakes on the day itself since working in the City renders family mealtimes a rarity during the week. Yet as I approach pancakes this year I do so with a sense of infidelity and betrayal. I have been unfaithful to the humble pancake, seduced and forever corrupted by the spice of southern India.
I never saw it coming. I was on a business trip to Kerala, southern India, and one morning I arrived in the hotel restaurant for what I thought would be a normal breakfast. But, I was unprepared, my guard was down, and before I had time to think I had succumbed to temptation.
My seductress was a Dosa (pronounced doh-sa) – a wafer thin pancake made with rice and lentil flour and filled with massala, a lightly spiced potato mix that complemented the crispy pancake perfectly.
I was smitten. There was no turning back as my faithfulness to the traditional pancake lay in ruins. I ordered another, knowing that I would never be able to look at a traditional pancake the same way again.
Having confessed to my unfaithfulness I feel obligated to share the source of my pleasure as well as my guilt. You see, it’s no longer necessary to visit India to enjoy Dosa. Just as the dishes of northern India have permeated our food culture, the south is having it’s turn and Dosa restaurants are springing up everywhere.
Saravana Bhavan in Ilford, Essex is such a place. For well under five pounds you too can discover the delight of a Dosa, and many other vegetarian dishes. There are others too. I’ve not sampled the award-winning Prashad restaurant in Bradford but judging by their recipe book (the subject of a future post) it’s going to be outstanding.
Making Dosa at home demands commitment – the rice and lentil batter needs to ferment overnight – so I’m not offering a recipe today. But Dosa provides such a fantastic opportunity to eat out without breaking the bank that I simply had to confess.