It is traditional in almost every country to serve special dishes at the most important festivals. Easter is arguably the most important religious festival in the Christian calendar, and Spain gives it more importance in terms of the associated rituals than almost any other European nation.
Many foreigners are familiar with the parades during Holy Week, but they know less about the dishes that Spaniards traditionally eat at this time of year; a fact that we hope to put right here.
Easter follows Lent, a period of fasting, or at least giving up something. For a lot of people this includes sweet things, so it is natural that Easter celebrations include a number of sugar-laden desserts and pastries.
Torrijas are a great favourite. Dating from the 1600s, they are essentially a Spanish version of ‘French Toast’, and are very easy to make at home. As this recipe shows, all you need is bread, milk, lemon, eggs, honey, cinnamon and cardamom seeds. There are of course variations of this recipe, including one where you dip the bread in wine instead of milk!
For something savoury, Sopa de Ajo is another Spanish Semana Santa staple. This filling soup is primarily made of garlic, black pepper and chicken broth, with the addition of a hard-boiled or fried egg on top. Potaje de Vigilia is a stew consisting of cod, chickpeas, spinach, garlic, onion, pepper and a hard-boiled egg is traditionally served on Good Friday, and it is very easy to prepare.
And for the truly sweet-toothed, Buñuelos are a must. These are fried dough balls covered in sugar and cinnamon. Made with simple ingredients such as water, milk, egg or yeast, bueñelos are a popolar quick treat enjoyed by locals during Semana Santa.
Other pastries typically found in southern Spain are Pestiños. They are made by deep frying dough flavoured with sesame in olive oil and coating them in sugar or honey. The Spanish also have an Easter cake, similar in some ways to the British Simnel cake, called La Mona de Pascua. It is often given to children and is topped with chocolate eggs and other goodies, just one of the many delicacies you can explore at this time of the year in Spain.