A belated note on Christmas Day in Spain

In the summer I wrote from Ireland of the Biblical rain we had one day that engorged the streams coming down from the hills and coloured the water a dirty brown. That was nothing compared to the rain we had on Christmas Day last week.

We heard it during the night hammering down on the roof of the house. The rain had quietened in the morning but now we could hear the sound of the stream that ran down the side of the house which had been transformed from a gentle trickle into a thick deep ugly torrent that spilled angrily over its banks and flattened the grass and weeds that ran alongside.

It was Christmas Day and so the rain didn’t matter too much as we were going to be spending the day inside eating and drinking and opening some presents. I had squeezed into one of our bags some packs of Gubbeen bacon from the stash I keep in the freezer at home. We had that for breakfast and it was good to have that reminder of summer and Ireland.

As we moved on from breakfast I started on lunch. The rain abated slightly over the morning and the stream calmed down and it looked as if we were over the worse.

Suckling pig had still been an option until some of the younger members of the group were in the supermarket and saw them on the counter and it dawned on them that suckling pig was baby pig. There was a chorus of complaint and so I went back to my original plan which was to make a vast dish of lamb with honey sauce. The recipe is from Claudia Roden’s book of Spanish cooking and seemed particularly apt given where we were.

It is simple enough to make.

Fry some finely chopped onions in olive oil a heavy dish that will be large enough to take the lamb.

Once the onions are done remove them with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Then brown the lamb in the pan – adding more oil if needed.

I used up two shoulders of lamb which I cut up into large chunks. I kept the bones to throw in as well.

Once the lamb was browned I added the best part of a bottle of wine wine, three tablespoons of runny orange honey, a couple of teaspoons of paprika and salt and pepper. The onions were then tipped back in and the pan was topped with water. All that was left for a couple of hours to simmer quietly whilst we opened some presents.

In the meantime the rain had started up again hammering down in grey droves seemingly boiled up from the hills and mountains that surrounded the house. The stream was rising again and soon is was higher than it had been in the morning. There was a flash of light and a rumble of thunder still some distance away.

There was another flash of light and this time the thunder came straight after and was directly over the house and the noise of it shocked us out of the festival spirit. The lights in the house flickered briefly and then all went off. The electricity had gone.

The male members took charge and there was a frantic scrambling around for candles and fuse boxes. There was nothing to be done with the fuse boxes and it soon became apparent that it was not just us who was without electricity – the power cut was general over the area. Instructions were shouted not to use up the candles until it really got dark.

The rain was coming down more fiercely now and was mixed up with slushy hail. The house was built on a slope with a steep drive that ran down to the front door where there was a step up of about eight inches. Brown water streamed down the drive and gathered down by the front door where is quickly rose so that it was lapping at the top of step to get into the house.

We measured the rising stream and in the meantime I continued to cook. Fortunately the oven was gas fired and the only thing I lacked was light as the kitchen area was in a dark part of the house. There was a door I could open to let it some of the grey light from outside but every time someone passed it and saw it open they closed it again. So my cooking became a small battle between me and the need for light and the door closers.

We started with Padron Peppers which I flash fried in olive oil with a seasoning of salt. They were some of the best Padron Peppers I have had, firm and sweet.

We then had two different types of prawn. First the Galares, the ones that looked as if they had been hit with a frying pan and then normal looking prawns about an inch long, all fried in oil with garlic, salt and plenty of pepper.

Alongside all  that we had plates of Iberico ham, lomo pork and chorizo sausage.

The only things that were not a success were the boquorones which I tried to fry with too little oil so they ended up being boiled.

The electricity came back on after two hours and we ate the lamb at about 4.30. Thirty minutes later than the time I said it would be ready by.

We ate the lamb with patatas bravas and plates of salad. There was a roast chicken as well for those who didn’t eat lamb and a chestnut loaf for those who didn’t eat lamb and chicken.

Then there was dancing.

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