When it comes to Spain, the festive season brings a spectacular fusion of tradition and flavour
As autumn steadily approaches, it won't be long before we find ourselves singing carols by a cosy fire, eagerly anticipating the most joyous day of the year: Christmas. With Christmas trees adorning homes and loved ones reuniting for the cosiest gatherings of the season, many will come together to enjoy their cherished food and beverage traditions.
Around the world, Christmas is a time when unique food and drink traditions take centre stage, each reflecting the cultural richness of their respective regions. In Italy, families savour a festive feast of seafood on Christmas Eve, known as the "Feast of the Seven Fishes," while in Japan, a KFC bucket is a holiday staple. In Mexico, tamales and ponche warm hearts during Las Posadas.
However, Spanish Christmas tables boast delicacies like succulent roast lamb, hearty cocido, seafood delights, and sweet turrón. The clinking of glasses filled with cava and the sharing of twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve create a lively atmosphere. Spain's holiday spirit, marked by family gatherings and a love for delectable cuisine, truly makes it a culinary paradise during the festive season.
With Christmas being such a busy time for customers and retailers alike, it can be difficult to know how to cut through and really make an impact. Customers will long for the convenience of walking into your shop and effortlessly finding their favourite Spanish products. They'll yearn for the comforting, authentic flavours that whisk them away to the heart of Spain. Whether it's to savour a taste of home as they celebrate in the UK or to embark on a new culinary adventure this Christmas, these delicious flavours are sure to bring some extra excitement to the festivities. By ensuring these beloved items are readily accessible, you not only meet their desires but also become their go-to source for all things Spanish. From the rich and robust olive oils to the mouthwatering array of cheeses, charcuterie, and exotic spices, your shop becomes a treasure trove of Spanish culinary delights. Fulfilling their cravings will not only keep your customers satisfied but also help to cultivate loyalty, ensuring they return time and again to relish the tastes of Spain you provide.
When it comes to Spanish wines and festive flavours, a world of exquisite choices awaits you. Whether you're celebrating Christmas or any special occasion, Spain offers a delightful array of wines and culinary delights to elevate your festivities. Take, for instance, a crisp and refreshing Cava from the north-east of Spain, which can either be the perfect tipple for a pre-dinner aperitif or a celebratory drink to toast with loved ones over the festive period. For something a little more warming, the rich notes of vanilla and cinnamon that grace the red wines of Ribera del Duero DO will go down a storm with your customers. For something a little fresher to go with the traditional seafood fare present at a Spanish Christmas, a delicious option would be an Albariño from the Rías Baixas region.
The final step is, of course, the food. Spain has a multitude of delicacies which are highlighted particularly around the festive period. A selection of cured meats, such as jamón ibérico and jamón serrano will always be popular, as well as fuet and chorizo. Popular cheese options will include options such as manchego or zamorano, which will go perfectly alongside a sweet dulce de membrillo (a sweet quince paste). For those who prefer the seafood side of the counter, tinned fish options such as ventresca (tuna belly), sardines and bonito (tuna) will be a perfect choice. It’s easy to overcomplicate the Christmas stock, however keeping it simple with some delicious regional olive oils will also be appreciated, either as gifts or as a treat for those festive meals. As we head towards the sweet section, Spain is no stranger to festive sweet treats. Popular choices often include turrón (a sweet almond nougat) and traditionally Spanish polvorones. Keeping these well stocked in your shops will be sure to result in very happy customers.
Let Spain's festive flavours be your guiding star this Christmas. From crisp Cavas to savoury cured meats and sweet turrón, Spain has everything you need to create a memorable festive feast. Savour the warmth and authenticity of Spanish cuisine and make this holiday season truly special. See below for a couple of mouthwatering Spanish Christmas recipes from renowned chef Owen Morgan of Bar 44 to kickstart your culinary adventure, and may your festivities be filled with joy and delicious flavours.
Cochinillo con sidra y patatas a lo pobre / Suckling pig shoulder with cider and poor man’s potatoes
For the suckling pig
1 suckling pig shoulder on the bone 1-1.2kg
1 large onion, peeled and thickly sliced
2 leeks, roughly chopped
2 carrots, scrubbed, roughly chopped
1 bulb garlic, halved horizontally
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme, whole
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
200ml dry cider
200ml chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat the oven to 130 ºC fan.
Add the onion, leek, carrot and garlic to a heavy based pan and add some olive oil. Heat on a medium hob for 5 minutes, stirring to soften.
Transfer to a casserole dish or roasting tray, then add the herbs and spices. Add the cider and chicken stock then bring to a simmer.
Place the pig shoulder on top, dressing the skin with olive oil and fine salt.
Place in the oven for 2.5 hours.
Remove from the oven, then lift the shoulder onto a resting tray or board and keep to one side. Strain the cooking juices into a saucepan and reduce to your desired consistency. You could keep a lighter thinner cooking liquor or reduce by 50% to more of a sauce.
For the poor man’s potatoes
2kg Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes, peeled and cut widthways into 1cm thick slices
2 red onions, cut into wedges
2 white onions, cut into wedges
3 peppers (any colour), seeded and cut into large pieces
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 sprig of thyme, leaves stripped
3 bay leaves
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180 ºC fan.
Put all the potato ingredients into a roasting tray, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Place in the oven for the last 45 minutes, stirring well once or twice during cooking.
Remove from the oven to cool and keep to one side.
To finish the dish
Increase the oven temperature to 190-200 ºC.
Place the roast suckling pig shoulder onto the tray of the poor mans potatoes, then place in the oven for 25 minutes or until the pork skin is like glass crackling and the potatoes browned and caramelised.
Serve with the cider roasting juices.
Pedro Ximénez, dark chocolate and sea salt truffles
Great as a tapas-sized dessert, these truffles are perfect when you’d like some pure indulgence but want only a bite or two. The figgy sherry is heaven with good-quality chocolate.
155g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
3.5g sea salt
160g double cream
25ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
Cocoa powder (100% cocoa solids), for dusting
Place the chocolate and salt in a bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Add immediately to the chocolate bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth and free of streaks. Now stir in the sherry and allow to cool a little.
Pour the cooled mixture into silicon ice cube trays and refrigerate until set. Alternatively, pour the mixture into a small bowl and leave in the fridge to set, before rolling into balls with your hands.
Dust the truffles with the cocoa powder and enjoy.