Even though the days during “Semana Santa”, or Spain’s Holy Week, are religious days filled with processions and devotion, this time is also for celebration and family gatherings, and where gastronomy undoubtedly plays a main role.
After Carnival, the next Catholic Holiday is Holy Week, days in which the Passion and Death of Christ are commemorated. The beatitude and spirituality combined with the people’s fervor of those who participate in the processions, church masses, and devotional songs. But the holidays also bring with them vacation and family visits, and so, a good kitchen table is necessary these days.
Fish and typical pastries are the main typical gastronomical protagonists of this week. Catholic Lent does not allow you to eat meat on Fridays starting from the end of Carnival (Ash Wednesday), a Christian duty known as “vigil”, a culinary tradition that continues up until Good Friday.
Codfish, garbanzo beans and spinach are the main ingredients in the traditional “vigilia” stew.
Codfish, fundamental fish in “vigilia” stew
Fritters, croquettes and omelet’s, all made with codfish, are three of the most typical dishes during this time. For each of them, the flour dough is mixed with the unmistakable flavor of codfish, which is the most common fish eaten during Holy Week. There are also those who opt to try the “pil pil”, one of the most traditional Spanish stews, covered in breadcrumbs and fried in the skillet.
Catholic Holy Week has a lot of similarities with Jewish Passover, mainly in that, by means of penance, you must fast or abstain from eating meat during Lent and especially on Good Friday. Though many families no longer strictly follow these religious traditions, the customs are a very good excuse to offer to your family or friends typical recipes, ancient and elaborate flavors, which are increasingly less common in homes due to the fast-paced lifestyle we live.
Sweets and Pastries
Baking is another strong point during Holy Week. All of the homemade pastries made with milk cover the tablecloths in everyone’s home during this time. The Spanish rice pudding and fried milk (a type of custard) are two of the most typical dishes.
In many pastry shops, mostly in Castile and Andalusia, the doughnuts of Holy Week fill the display windows, while in Levante, mainly in Catalonia, the most common are “Monas de Pascua”.
Las torrijas and los pestiños are the most popular pastries. Pestiños, from Castile, are made with a fried flour dough, sweetened with lots of honey. The torrijas, originally from Madrid and made with milk and wine, are essential for any Spanish palate during Easter. They’re easy to make, have a delicious flavor and don’t cost much, which is why they’ve become the perfect dish for these days of austerity.