Christmas in Spain is all about the amazing food, with every region having their own gourmet traditions. These three, however, are sure to make an appearance on most Spanish Christmas Eve dinners.
What the French would call hors d'oeuvres the Spanish call entremeses. Growing up, my grandmother would serve a large platter on Christmas Eve, when Spaniards tend to have their special meal, with a selection of the finest embutidos (charcuterie) that money could buy. This would include the usual suspects like chorizo or salchichón and plenty of lomo, a favourite of my family.
Many families will have a whole leg of ham, ranging from a delicious serrano leg of ham to the rather special Iberico de Bellota (ham from free range oak eating pigs), as it goes a long way when you have a lot of guests visiting. Throughout the holiday season, they will go back and forth to this leg and carve enough ham for each sitting.
This was my personal favourite part of Christmas dinners, the beautiful array of seafood that would be served. Turkey rarely features in Spanish festive meals, so seafood often takes centre stage. Whether it be large juicy langoustines or a plate of the sublime and very odd looking percebes, or goose barnacles, a delicacy that command a high price, especially around Christmas when demand is so high. Another very typical seafood dish that makes an appearance are angulas or baby eels. Usually cooked in some good olive oil and garlic, they are lick your lips good. With all this delicious seafood on offer, you can see why turkey hardly makes an appearance!
Turrón & Polverones.
For most Spaniards turron is a quintessential Christmas treat and appears in all shapes and textures, all flavours and most always in abundance. There are many variations, but some key ones are turron duro, a hard nougat, made from almonds and sometimes covered with a white paper-thin layer of egg white for a lovely texture and a great crunch. There is also turrón de chocolate, also with almonds, which the kids will tend to go for first. Of course, we cannot forget about the crumbly goodness of polvorones, cookies wrapped in traditional packaging and so utterly yummy, we could eat these all year long, never mind just at Christmas time!
For a country that is so understandably proud of its cuisine, Christmas is a time to show off the very best ingredients the country has to offer.