In Spain, Christmas is taken seriously, and is a little like groundhog day, with the festivities wrapping up on the 6th January, which is Three King’s Day or Reyes. The eve of Reyes is when Spanish kids keep their parole and good behaviour until they get their mitts on their gifts. Food, of course, is a big topic, and with extended families from far and wide descending on Granny, she will have the larder well stocked for the annual Spanish Christmas meal.
When is the main Spanish Christmas meal?
Fish is a hugely popular ingredient at Christmas time in Spain, and the courses appear to actually be endless. So, if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Spanish home this year, then come prepared and practically half-starved, as you will be expected to devour everything in sight. Whereas we are used to eating our traditional Christmas lunch on the 25th – in Spain, the main meal is tonight, on Christmas Eve, or La Noche Buena – the Good Night. Let’s eat!
A welcome invite
A couple of years back we were lucky enough to be invited to a neighbour’s house for the Noche Buena feast with her extended family, and we didn’t eat for days after, it certainly was filling, to say the least. Buying a property in Spain, especially a traditional or quieter area, allows you to get to know your neighbours, who quickly become friends, and before you know it you’re considered part of the familia. A typical Noche Buena meal starts and ends late, usually just in time for midnight mass, and will normally consist of the following:
Starting with a table crammed with charcuterie, or cold meats, cheeses, pate, and other finger foods. Once this has been cleared by the diners, the real food makes an appearance.
Soup kicks things off, usually a light broth in preparation for things to come. Perhaps a creamy seasonal soup like squash. This is followed by platters of large grilled prawns, cooked simply on the plancha, or grill, a generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Bread accompanies all courses. Then comes the rest of the shellfish, usually something a bit special such as lobster, dressed crab, or the very expensive red prawns from Denia – which are totally worth the cost once tasted.
Room for more
Then it’s time for the meat course. If it’s a joint, then it will be stuffed and rolled with dried fruits – a kickback to the Moorish past of Spain. We had pig’s trotters too, cooked in broth. A whole duck or roasted suckling pig – cochinillo asado – is usual, although without the plethora of vegetables more normal for our northern European tastes.
Dessert is yet to appear, and that might be some variation on a milk pudding or a cold rice pudding. Then coffee, with Turrón (only try and eat it if you possess your own teeth) and the colourfully wrapped polverones – or, as I like to think of them, dust…Almond cookies and mantecados will be placed on large plates for everyone to help themselves.
Then it’s time to take out the decent whiskey, rum, and gin. Chocolates, and chocolate covered fruit, and enquiries from Granny as to whether you would like more of anything, are you still hungry? Groaning, try and make your way off your chair whilst politely refusing, and roll home with as much dignity as you can possibly muster.