The Christmas period is a time for family, gifts and seasonal foods. These traditions make up the foundations of Catalan Christmas dishes in Barcelona. The feeling of having your loved ones around the table together, laughing and making memories, would not be the same without some great food to accompany the good times.
Barcelona is such a wonderful city, known for its gastronomic delights, due to having inspiration from Catalonia and Spain. This cultural mix has led to some of the most unique dining experiences that you can enjoy year round, for example with their world renowned Paella, or more locally known treats such as Crema Catalan, a sweet delight inspired by crème brûlée.
However, over the years, foods that can only be sourced at certain times of the year becoming linked with the festivities that coincide; the biggest one being Christmas. Follow us on a journey through Barcelona at Christmas and the food that the locals have made their staple for this reflective and good-spirited time of year.
Rostit de Nadal
The first on the list is the “Rostit de Nadal”, translating simply as “The Christmas Roast”. Building on the idea mentioned beforehand, that seasonal foods are based on what has been available to access; these foods also reflect the seasonality and weather that exists. That is why so many Christmas meals in Europe focus on being hearty meals that warm you up and give you energy through the crisp winter days.
Since around the 18th Century, Catalans have been making this chicken dish as the main course of any Christmas meal. Seasoned with onions, garlic and a splash of alcohol (usually rum or brandy) the meat is then slowly roasted with pine nuts, plums and other spices to give a mouth-watering meal worthy of any Christmas dinner.
Escudella i Carn d’Olla
This dish is as traditionally Catalan as it gets. This meat and vegetable soup first became popular in and around Barcelona in the 14th century. It is especially popular in winter and around Christmas for being such a warming dish, that truly is comfort food. The idea behind this dish is to slowly cook a mix of meat and vegetables in a large broth. The meat used is a mix of chicken, pork and other meat stock.
They add a very big meatball that has been spiced with garlic and parsley, known as a “pilota”, which translates as a ball. In addition to this, it is common to use the Catalan sausage- Botifarra, a pork sausage that is local to this area of Spain. It is common to use a mix of white and black Botifarras, which can be found in every butchers and some supermarkets in and around Barcelona.
The most unique part of this dish is the fact that once the meat is ready, it is drained and then plated, with the broth being used to then cook pasta style noodles in a soup. The soup is then served as a starter dish, with the meat and vegetables served afterwards. For the Christmas twist on “Escudella i Carn d’Olla” is “Sopa de Galets”, a noodle soup that uses larger shells that look like snails or ´Galets´ in Catalan. This is eaten on Christmas Day by families and is a dish that you should try if you want to get a taste of history this Christmas in Barcelona.
Catalan-styled Cannelloni has only recently become a part of Christmas food tradition in Barcelona, around the end of the 19th century to be exact. This was around the time that Italian chefs moved over to cater for the Barcelona Bourgeoisie.
The main difference between this and the Italian Cannelloni is the fact that the pasta sheets are filled with roasted meat that is left over from… you guessed it, the “Escudella i Carn d´Olla”! This wonderful take on an Italian classic is enjoyed on Boxing Day and relates to the common Christmas situation of cooking too much and looking for inventive ways to use up any leftovers.
Torró, or Turrón, is one of the most well known Spanish Christmas foods to find in Barcelona. This sweet treat is very common for desserts and is also eaten in most of Southern Europe and Latin America. Yet, with it being a tradition that started in Spain, we will focus on this variation that is enjoyed widely at Christmas. Turrón is made up of ingredients of honey, sugar, egg white; and with toasted almonds or other nuts. The final product is shaped and left to set in a block layout and is then cut into pieces for everyone around the table to enjoy.
The texture of this treat varies, depending on the measurements and technique used. With a higher almond and nut proportion used to be reduced into a paste during the cooking process, resulting in a more chewy and soft “turrón”. Whereas, the inclusion of more whole almonds results in a more brittle block.
It is considered that the first time “Turrón” was commonly made in Spain dates back to the 16th Century, when a similar recipe was recorded in a cooking manual at the time. It is interesting to see how much Catalan tradition flourishes in the cuisine you see at Christmas time in Spain and especially in Barcelona.
Lastly, and usually enjoyed alongside “Turrón” are “Neules”. These are waver thin biscuits that are rolled into a cone and enjoyed with a glass of cava, the ´Catalan Champagne´, and usually have lemon flavouring. In modern day Spain, they are dipped in chocolate like “Churros”! The ingredients of the initially thin sheet of a mixture of egg whites, butter, sugar and flour; before being rolled and seasoned.
These addictive snaps date as far back as the middle ages! They were documented as being on the menu for Juame I´s daughter´s wedding in the middle of the 13th Century. Once you try one, you will understand why they have stuck around for so long!
This range of delightful food can be found in Barcelona over the festive period and in January as well. As the Winter is in full swing, enjoy these warming and tasty dishes from Catalonia!
Sandra Roig is Marketing Director at AB Apartment Barcelona. AB Apartment Barcelona is an apartment rental agency offering over one thousand short and long term apartments across Barcelona.