Lent starts this week - and I love all the customs surrounding this time of year. I love it when I get to teach the children at school that Carnival comes from 'carne vale' and means 'goodbye meat' - hence all the feasting. All our primary schools do French now, so they know Mardi means Tuesday [but in Leicester, mardy means stroppy!] so then I can explain Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday. Not sure today's children could manage to eat up all the fats and rich food and just live simply on vegetables from now till Easter!
In this country we don't have Carnival as they do in Venice, or Mardi Gras as in New Orleans and Rio - but we do have the tradition of Pancake Day. I have recently discovered an old Norwich tradition relating to Shrove Tuesday [I have to say I don't recall it ever being mentioned whilst I was growing up in Norfolk] Apparently people used to eat 'coquille buns'. Nobody is quite sure where the name came from - it may be they were originally made in the shape of a cockle [scallop] shell, or it may be that they were the buns sold by street vendors after the Shrove Tuesday game of 'throwing at the cock [cockerel]' That was an unpleasant and violent pastime - you do not need to know the details!
In 1861, a man named Obadiah Short [1803-1886] wrote his 'Recollections of a Norwich Childhood' in which he spoke of these buns.
"My Master was very Strict with us yet he was a good
master we thought, so on Shrove Tuesday morning we all had a penny coquille for which we used to sing the following verse
"Shrove Tuesday morning
The very first meal
I hope my master will
Give me a Coquille
I go to work without any noise
and when I go home I shall have a great prize"
[those Norfolk chaps certainly knew how to write a poem!!]
16oz self raising flour
2tsp mixed spice
2tbsp mixed dried fruit
1 egg and a little milk.
1. Rub the lard and butter into the flour.
2. Stir in the sugar, spice and fruit.
3. Beat the egg and mix in with enough milk to make a soft dough.
4. Roll out on a floured surface to 2"/5 cm thick and cut into squares.
5. Bake on greased baking trays in oven at 190°C for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Serve split and buttered, either warm or cold.
Here are some I made earlier, to celebrate our flying visit to Cornerstones. I patted them into shape because I thought it was better not to handle the dough to much. Bob declared them to be nothing other than spicy scones and I am inclined to agree with him. So I am not surprised this tradition appears to have died out, along with the vicious 'throwing at the cock' game.
But they did taste good [I do not normally put any spices in my scones]