Christmas markets have begun and decorations light up villages;
from doves bearing olive branches, to lively ants climbing the
plane trees lining the ‘rambla’ of Figueras.
Of course, the retail calendar starts much earlier, but now
it feels like time to embrace the festive spirit and to start
to create, as the first Christmas card has arrived.
Spiced hot wine and churros mark the season, as traditions
here in the south mingle…
Churros, tasting a bit like donuts and made from a type of choux
pastry, are piped through a star-shaped nozzle ‘churrera’. Deep fried
until golden they are served hot, often in a paper cone, dusted with
sugar. In Puigcerda (the best taste-tested so far) they are cooked in
a large spiral then snipped into sections to take away – the dough is
amazingly light and crispy. They traditionally accompany hot chocolate,
but are also a fine match with ‘vin chaud’.
Recipe for Churros
Serving, 2-3 people
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup (300g) flour, sifted
1 cup water
Few drops of orange blossom essence
A deep fryer filled with canola oil
Sugar for dusting (white or fine raw sugar, alternatively icing sugar)
Heat canola oil while preparing dough. In a saucepan, heat olive
oil, water and a little salt to boiling. Add essence. Sift in the
flour and beat together quickly to make a dough. Remove from heat.
Using a star nozzle (tubes of dough should be around 1.5-2cm
diameter) and a piping bag filled with the slightly cooled dough
(careful as it’s hot) pipe in sections about 10cm long, taking
care not to let oil splash (I added them directly into the oil,
as is usual here, which should be very hot but not smoking as
the churros need to cook quickly, in around five minutes, and
should be just golden). Drain on absorbant paper and serve
immediately, generously sprinkled with sugar.
Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller ‘Spanish Inspired’.
Using their recipe as a starting point, I added orange blossom
essense, as the flavour is traditional for pastries from this
region, and took away the cinnamon. I also cut the quantity in
half, and cooked them in a few batches. Using a standard deep
fryer they curl, as if they were cut from a larger spiral. I imagine
a wok might work well for a larger quantity, they can be kept warm
in the oven as batches cook. Having never attempted them, it was
an experiment. They were surprisingly as good, if not better, than
those from a street vendor.
Hot spiced wine (vin chaud)≈
Red wine (a few glasses)
Juice of a large fresh orange
A cinnamon stick
A few cloves
Vanilla sugar (about a teaspoon)
A dash of brandy
Warm ingredients and infuse for around 20 minutes, without boiling.
A quick recipe for a few glasses (I used ceramic chalices). There are
many versions, and usually I would make the wine in advance to let
flavours infuse and add zest etc… but this is a variation for ‘coming
in from the cold’ and warming up in front of the fire, as it simmered
on top of the woodfire.