There is no truly traditional Christmas meal in Mallorca, either in the starter or the main course. Every family has its own traditions and they are strictly followed year after year — and passed down from mother to daughter.
The big celebration days are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day — the latter is called the ‘segunda fiesta’ (second holiday) and is celebrated here and in Catalonia. In the rest of Spain the 26th is not a holiday.
Most Mallorcan families have roast lechona (suckling pig) on Christmas Day and that little animal also features at other special occasions such as Easter and baptisms, first communions and weddings.
The turkey makes an appearance on the Christmas tables of some Mallorcan families but it is seldom roasted — they are more likely to serve it as a stew called escaldums.
The escaldums is a traditional stew mainly done with chicken on weekdays and sometimes with chicken innards and wings on those days when money is a bit short. It is also made with boiling hen and there is even one called ‘escaldums de matanzas’ that is made with bits of pork on the day when the family pig is killed.
Some Mallorcan families make a tradition of having turkey escaldums for the ‘segunda fiesta’ when it is known as ‘escaldums de pavo’. Other families make their festive escaldums with a capon chicken.
The small Majllrcan potatoes called patató are always served with a Christmas Day escaldums. Some families traditionally cook the patató with the stew so they can absorb the taste or the turkey and its flavourings.
Others prefer to sauté the patató until they are golden and crisp and serve them as a garnish. Great care is taken to keep the patató well clear of the escaldums sauce so that their crisp finish doesn’t become sodden.
For a starter, whether lechona or escaldums are on the menu, many families have a rather filling soup called sopa de Nadal, or Christmas soup. It is made with an intensely flavoured stock and pasta shells with a breast of chicken stuffing.
You can make an escaldums with chicken, hen (not an old one for boiling), turkey, capon and even lechona, using the same method, but the cooking times will be different depending on which main ingredient you are using and how large the pieces are.
At the Mercat d’Olivar and the Santa Catalina market you can buy halves of turkey, whole legs and other parts including drumsticks. You do not want turkey breast for an escaldums. El Corte Inglés also has individually wrapped turkey legs.
Recipe for Turkey Escaldums
For a turkey escaldums you will need: 4-6 turkey legs chopped into relatively large pieces, 2 medium sized onions, 1 large tomato, 6 tbsps olive oil, 400 grs of setas, 50 grs pinenuts, 1 whole head of garlic cut in two across the width, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 kilo of patató, a good pinch of allspice (pimienta de Jamaica), salt and pepper to taste. THE
PICADA: 1 turkey liver or two chicken livers, 50 grs peeled almonds, 4 garlic cloves (or to taste), 2 tbsps chopped parsley, 1 egg yolk, a small glass white wine or sherry) and 1 tbsp brandy.
Chop the onions finely, peel the tomato and chop finely and also chop the garlic. Heat the oil in a big frying pan and sauté the turkey pieces until golden. Transfer the turkey and the oil to large greixonera, add the chopped onion and the two halves of the garlic head, and sauté gently for 10 minutes on a lowish heat. Add the chopped tomato and the sprigs of thyme and continue to sauté for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add enough boiling water to barely cover, stir in pinenuts and the allspice and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the greixonera and let the turkey simmer gently.
Make the picada by pounding the chopped garlic and the almonds in a mortar and pound until the almonds are completely crushed. Add the chopped livers and gently pound until reduced to a paste. Add the egg yolk and the chopped parsley and stir in the white wine and the brandy.
Clean the setas and break them into bite size pieces. Add them to the greixonera 10 minutes before the turkey is cooked. At the same time stir in the contents of the mortar.
Serve with the patató which are cooked until soft, peeled and then sautéed until golden.
If setas aren’t available (or are too expensive) you can used sliced cultivated mushrooms or girgolas, which are always available at Mercadona and El Corte Inglés.