We made it to Barcelona! There was no trace of snow on the runways or near the terminals at Heathrow when we left and when the plane made it off the ground (only one hour delayed), there was indeed a sigh of relief from me. This year, we were joined by my brother and it being Christmas, there was much family feasting together. I’m still trying to recover from all the wonderful overeating.
I just asked Blai’s mother about what is traditionally eaten here in Catalunya over the holiday season; this was only my second Christmas in Barcelona as I usually visit for New Year’s. Well, Christmas Day eating traditionally includes escudella i carn d’olla, a two part meal that comprises the first part of the meal. Part A is the escudella, a rich meaty broth in which galets, the traditional pasta shape, are cooked; Part B is the boiled meat and vegetables that were cooked to make the broth. The second course is usually a roast bird of some sort. The next day (that’s Boxing Day to most of us but it’s also the feast day of Sant Esteve – aka St Stephen), the meal would include canalons, a dish of Italian origin that the Catalans have taken to their hearts, and the filling would be made of the leftovers from the day before. I was looking forward to it all!
On Christmas day, the big lunch was with Blai’s extended family in their village outside Barcelona; Blai’s aunt had gone all out for the delicious meal. We started with homemade wild boar fuet (a type of dry cured sausage particular to Catalunya) and home cured olives (I think they were arbequina, judging from their size).
For the first course, there were the most delicious canalons (yes, on Christmas Day. This family switches things up!). The Catalan canalons are always served in bechamel – there’s no tomato sauce here. The filling is of meat lightened a bit with bechamel. It is rolled within canalon wrappers and then drenched in plenty of bechamel; Blai’s aunt added fresh wild mushrooms to the topping. Gorgeous!
For the second course, a roasted bird; that day, it was a duck, served with delicious pan-fried pears, plump prunes and toasted pinenuts.
Finally, for dessert, among all the other sweets was a large platter of torrons. I always overdo it with torró (the very sweet and rich confections made mainly with almonds) in Barcelona and so never bring any back to London!
The next day, St Stephen’s Day, or Boxing Day, was celebrated back in Barcelona. As we had canalons the day before, this was the day we would have escudella i carn d’olla. The delicious broth with galets was made all the more exciting by its being served out of a tureen that was at least 150 years old.
That was swiftly followed by the carn d’olla (the literal translation is meat of the pot). The huge platter of boiled meats included chicken, pork, lamb, botifarra negre (black/blood sausage) and a huge pilota (a big meatball of pork that’s divided up between the diners). The equally huge platter of boiled vegetables held leek, carrot, turnip, parsnip, potato, cabbage and chickpeas. Boiled meat may sound boring but it’s all quite delicious and I love the variety involved.
That’s my serving there.
The second course (though it already feels like the third by now!) was a most delicious vedella amb suc, a kind of beef stew. Here, Blai’s mother stewed roast beef slices with the most meaty mushrooms I’ve ever encountered, all in a gorgeous thick sauce. I must learn to make Catalan stews!
A fruit I always seem to associate with Catalan winter feasts is pineapple; slices of the most perfectly ripe pineapple always seem to end most Christmas meals. That and torrons, of course. One is never far from torrons during the festive season.
I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas celebration too, wherever you were. Now, what are your plans for New Year’s?