THE long Easter weekend is the busiest time of the year for most of us in the catering trade, and in Majorca, it hails the unofficial start of the long season ahead. Easter is a traditional time of feasting and celebration in Spain. While most food served at these feasts are regional specialties there are a few special Easter foods unique to Spain. Sweet dishes such as Rosquillas de Semana Santa and one of my favourites, Torrijas. This simple version of what is known in French as Pain Perdu, and in English as Eggy Bread, or French toast is delicious. Cut a day old, good quality baguette into slices about a finger thick. Lay them down in a dish that will take 6-8 slices. Heat 300ml of milk in a pan with 75g of sugar and a little grated lemon zest, until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the bread and leave to infuse for half an hour until completely soft. Beat 2 eggs in a bowl and heat 25g of butter in a non-stick frying pan. Dip each slice quickly in the egg and then place in the pan. Fry all the slices until golden on both sides. Drain and sprinkle with sugar. In Majorca, savoury empanadas, a type of pasty or pie is more typically served, although the kids do get to have their chocolate eggs as well, along with other sweet pastries like rubiols and a cream cheese tart called grexonera de brosat. Grexonera or cazuela de barro is the name given to the round deepsided clay or earthenware cooking pot that the tart is cooked in. They hold the heat for a long time and, although they can be used over a direct flame, are excellent for oven cookery. Among the popular Easter symbols, the lamb is by far the most significant of this great feast. The recipe that follows is adapted from a well-known classical Spanish dish called Cordero al chilindron, from the Rioja and Aragon regions of the north. It is flavoured with a dried red pepper called Choricero that needs to be, first, soaked in water for a few hours so that the pulp can be scraped away from the skin. These days Choricero pepper puree can be bought in jars in all Spanish supermarkets making it easy to use.
Best-end of lamb a la chilindron with saffron potatoes (serves 4)
2 short best-ends
2tspn. choricero pepper puree
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Season the best-ends and fry them in a heavybottomed frying pan to a golden brown colour. Remove and roast in a hot oven (190/375/gas 6) for 8-10 minutes. Remove and let them rest.
While the lamb is cooking, sweat onions and garlic in olive oil. Add the choricero pepper puree, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and cook out over a gentle heat for about 6-10 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and season to taste.
Saffron potato puree
1 kilo potatoes (peeled and chopped )
2 pinches of fresh saffron
200ml olive oil
100ml dry white wine
100ml sea salt/ground white pepper
Bring the white wine to the boil. Add the saffron and remove from the heat.
Leave to infuse. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.
Bring to the boil then add the saffron, boil until tender and just cooked.
Drain the potatoes and dry well. Pass through a fine sieve, add olive oil and season to taste.
Slice the best-ends into cutlets, pour over the chilandron sauce and serve with saffron potatoes.
Rosquillas de Semana Santa
100ml olive oil
Grated zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
300 gr. flour
Sugar and cinnamon for dusting
Separate the eggs and beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the lemon zest. Beat the egg whites until thick and add to the eggs and sugar. Mix carefully and add the baking powder. Blend until the mixture is soft. Cover and leave to rest for one hour. Heat oil in a pan and shape the mixture into small doughnuts (6 cm more or less) and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove from oil and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Empanadas de Pascua (serves 6)
For the pastry:
600g strong flour
5 egg yolks
For the filling:
1kl diced lamb
150g diced streaky bacon
2tbsn. chopped parsley
In a large bowl, mix the lard, egg yolks, water and sugar and work together to form a paste.
Add the flour and mix gradually together to form a dough.
The mixture will be a little soft, so wrap it tightly in cling-film and place in the fridge for 30-35 minutes before rolling out.
For the filling, mix all the ingredients together and season well.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface (2mm in thickness).
Grease the moulds and line them with the pastry. Fill them with the stuffing and push down with a spoon to ensure that the filling is compact.
Cut out pastry circles for the top and pinch together to seal them.
Brush with beaten egg yolks and place in a hot oven (185c/380f/gas6) for 35-40 minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before removing them from the moulds.
The tops should be nicely glazed. The empanadas can be served warm or cold.