10 Most Popular Spanish Easter Foods
The so-called “Domingo de Ramos” (Palm Sunday), named after the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem amidst olive and palm branches, marks the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week), in Spain. This is a very significant date in the Catholic calendar that is of major importance in many Spanish regions and towns, particularly in Andalucía and Castilla.
Always coinciding with the last week of Lent, the atmosphere created by tradition, emotion and sentiment transcends the religious sphere and is followed by Catholics and atheists alike, merging history, religion, and culture. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, it is customary to organize processions to commemorate the passion of Christ and to celebrate the glory of his Resurrection.
Cities such as Seville, Cordoba, Granada, or Malaga in Andalusia stand out for the spectacular and colorful nature of their brotherhoods and processions. Flowers, saetas and the smell of incense and orange blossom embellish the processions of images, such as the Cristo del Gran Poder, el Cristo de los Gitanos, el Cautivo or the Esperanza de Triana, which pass through the streets.
Thousands of devotees come to pay homage to them, and curious visitors stop by to take in the atmosphere. The contrast with other cities such as Valladolid, Zamora or León, located in the north region of Castilla y León, is evident, since austerity, religious fervor and, above all, silence reign in these places.
In addition, given the Spanish Catholic tradition, the religious imprint of Holy Week has given rise to a multitude of specialties that are reflected in art, music and, of course, gastronomy. Spanish Easter recipes vary across the different parts of the territory, but it is certain that the ingredients used observe the Catholic tradition, which is why none of them incorporates meat.
Below is a short review of the traditional Spanish Easter foods enjoyed for Semana Santa throughout the country.
The most famous dish of the Spanish Holy Week is, surprisingly enough, a dessert. Very simple to make, torrijas only require stale bread, milk, olive oil, eggs, sugar, and lemon.
Although alternative gourmet versions can be made with chocolate or wine, the classic recipe has been enjoyed for hundreds of years.
Its creaminess and flavor that results from mixing and frying its humble ingredients is quite famous. It is also known as a restorative, since it originated as a snack to help make up for the fasting during Lent.
2. Flores de Semana Santa (Easter Flowers)
Another very distinguished dessert for the Spanish Holy Week is the Flores de Semana Santa (Easter flowers). Sweet, savory and, above all, very, very crunchy, this Easter dessert is popular throughout Lent, especially in Castile.
The origin of this dish is generally attributed to Sephardic cuisine and the medieval interaction between Jewish and Catholic cultures. In fact, it is mentioned by Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote.
It is more complex to prepare than torrijas but well worth the effort. A dough of flour, eggs, sugar, water, and aniseed is put into a flower-shaped mold and then fried in boiling oil.
3. Bacalao al Ajoarriero (Codfish in Ajoarriero Sauce)
An undisputed favorite food for Spain’s Holy Week is cod, which is a favorite Easter food in neighboring Portugal as well).
The Spanish cod recipes featuring this delicious fish are endless and regional and it is now so popular that almost every home has their own way of preparing it. Some of the most common are codfish in pil pil or ajoarriero sauce in the north, cod fritters in the rest of the peninsula, or al ajo mortero in Murcia.
Codfish al ajoarriero is quite a simple dish as you simply add a few cloves of garlic, tomato, onion, piquillo peppers, bay leaf, and olive oil to salted codfish. First, the vegetables are fried and, once the sauce is ready, the fish is added.
Everything is cooked very slowly so that the cod releases its gelatin, binding the mixture and combining all the flavors.
4. Sancocho Canario
Mainland Spain is really the focus of Easter celebrations, but the Canary Islands also pull out the stops for Easter, particularly Tenerife and Gran Canaria. The Canary Islands are world-famous for their beaches and natural beauty, and the waters around the islands produce the star of Easter cuisine.
Sancocho is the feature dish for Easter and the star of the dish is the cherne, a species of fish exclusive to the waters of the Canary Islands. It is simmered and served with potatoes, gofio and mojo rojo, a sauce also typical of the Canary Islands made from garlic, pepper, cumin, oil, vinegar and pimentón (paprika). Absolutely delicious!
5. Patatas a la Riojana, Patatas Viudas, o Patatas a lo Pobre
Patatas viudas, or patates a lo pobre, are an Easter adaptation of patates a la riojana without the meat.
It is simply prepared by frying garlic, onion, and bell pepper, adding that to the potatoes in a casserole, covering it all with water, and letting it cook. Pimentón (Spanish paprika) is then added to give it its characteristic orange color.
6. Potaje de Vigilia
Pottage is a common dish in the interior provinces of Spain and, although the recipes differ depending on the area, fish is often a key element. Pottage is the most common dish in Spanish kitchens for celebrating the Passion of Christ and it is ideal for the cold Spanish inland.
It is very simple to make, with key ingredients of beans, spinach, chickpeas, and salted cod, of course, as meat can’t be used during Lent and fresh fish is often too pricey.
7. Brandada de Bacalao (Cod Brandada)
Although the most usual use of cod during Easter is in a pottage, there are other popular ways of using this star fish. In the Levante regions, brandada de bacalao (cod brandade) is one of the most common, probably because it is tasty way of using the least popular parts of the cod.
The preparation is simple: once the fish is desalted, garlic and onion are pan-fried in olive oil, the cod pieces are then added, and it is all cooked until the fish easily shreds. Once done, it is whizzed up in a blender until a smooth emulsion. It is delicious served on toasted bread with a drizzle of olive oil.
8. Buñuelos de Viento (Wind Fritter)
Buñuelos are another typical Spanish dessert and a favorite snack in many regions of the country. Although Valencian buñuelos are famous all year long, during Holy Week these sweets are indulged in all over Spain.
The recipe is very simple: a paste of flour, water, oil, milk, eggs and yeast is prepared and fried in the form of small balls that inflate due to the heat, making them very, very fluffy.
Anyone who has visited Seville will have been captivated by its beauty. The Andalusian city, however, impresses even more with the celebration of Holy Week. Most of the dishes will be similar to those served in the rest of the country, but pavías stands out as the dish of the city.
More than a dish, this tapa is a thin and crunchy dough wrapped round a small piece of fish, usually cod or hake, accompanied by aioli sauce or mayonnaise. Often they are made from the fish leftover from making a pottage or other cod dish.
10. Mona de Pascua
The mona de pascua is one of the most famous Easter traditions in Spain. Originating in Barcelona and Catalonia, the custom has spread throughout the country.
The tradition is simple: on Easter Sunday, godparents give their godchildren chocolate figures that tend to incorporate more spectacular shapes each year. From animal or oval shapes to castles or television characters, the imagination of the pastry chefs brings big smiles to the faces of the little ones.
But it is not only the children who expect such a gift. No matter your age, ıf you have godparents, you can expect to receive a chocolate figure – such is the duty of godparents.
In certain areas of Spain, such as Galicia, the tradition of giving chocolate figures is combined with that of giving roscones, a cake made from a sweet pastry. This is usually filled with cream, egg yolk or cream, but at Easter, it is presented with no filling in accordance with the austerity of the moment.
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