They may not be as extravagant as the mones de Pasqua cakes eaten at Easter, and they might not have the novelty value of the tortell de Reis consumed on January 6, and they even lack the consistency of the summer dessert the coca de Sant Joan, but their discreet appearance is precisely one of the reasons why these donut-like cakes are so popular at a time of year when excesses are traditionally frowned upon. In the past, even the most pious of Catalan catholics could fall back on bunyols to get them through the seven weeks of Lent.
Of course, bunyols can also be eaten during the year, but now is the time when these little fried delights are found everywhere, filling the shop windows and shelves of bakeries all over the country. Easy to prepare, and even easier to eat, bunyols are made with flour, water or milk, salt, eggs, sugar, lemon, olive oil or butter, yeast, lard and, of course, those most necessary ingredient, giving them their unique flavour: caraway or anise, and Grenache (typical in Empordà bunyols).
The bunyols known as caragirats or bunyul de vent are a traditional variety characterised by a very soft dough and as they fry they swell and fill with air. Traditionally sold in bakeries on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent, their rounded shape and hollow inside makes them ideal for fillings.
As is common in traditional Catalan cuisine, bunyuls go by different names depending on the locality. In Segrià they are known as Coques a la cassola and in Priorat they are called Orellons or Orelletes. But, the most important thing to know is that they can help us make it, sweetly, through to the end of Lent.