Updated: May 12, 2022
Hello! ¡Hola! Welcome to my blog! ¡Bienvenidos/as a mi blog! There is a fab video on how to make torrijas at the end of the blog. Don't miss it!
Easter holidays are very quickly approaching, the shops in the UK are full of chocolate eggs in all shapes and sizes and colourful Easter bunny and Easter chick activities. There's a hint of spring in the air with an occasional appearance of the sun and a splatter of daffodils, crocuses and snow drops covering verges, fields and gardens. These are the memories I have made of Easter in the UK.
My memories from the Easter holidays in Spain are a mishmash of very serious religious processions, the beginning of the nice weather, holidaying at the seaside and delicious Easter foods.
Easter is celebrated very differently in different Spanish regions. They all have religious processions, however some are solemn and silent, like in Castilla y Leon (which is where I lived) and others are lively with singing, shouting and cheering, like in Andalucía.
I remember watching the processions with "penitentes" (people who wear a pointed hat with a cloth down to their shoulders which covers their face and has two slits for their eyes. This protects the person's identity) walking very slowly in unison following the rhythm of the hypnotic drums.
Women dressed in black wearing no shoes and chains on their ankles walking on their knees were also part of the procession. I remember looking at their dirty feet in fascination, a chill shooting down my back, wondering what on earth was going on and why these people were doing these shocking things. The "penitentes" were terrifying for me as a child but I could not keep my eyes off them. The atmosphere was mesmerising and thrilling.
On this video you can hear the drumming I was describing earlier
However there was a completely different side to my Easter holidays, they were just that, holidays. We would sometimes go to the seaside in the Valencian region and I would spend my days playing and of course eating nice things. In Valencia they have something called "monas de Pascua", which is a sweet bun with an entire boiled egg with the shell on in the centre. I think it's delicious, especially the bun, I must admit that when I was little I was never too impressed about the boiled egg. I certainly would have preferred it being a chocolate one.
However the pudding that is in the title of this blog and is the star of the show on this occasion are the "torrijas". They are made and consumed widely in Spain and it is a typical Easter food. Torrijas are easy to make, they are delicious, really delicious and very filling.
In the process of writing this blog I thought; I have done plenty of research over the years making and eating torrijas. But I don't know their history, where they come from and why we eat them. So I delved into the internet and found a very interesting article, really well written and with a great sense of humour that I recommend you read if you would like to find out more about the history of this delicious treat. Here is the link.
According to this article, torrijas are one of the oldest sweets to appear reflected in a cook book. The first recipe of torrijas appears in a book from the IV-V centuries compiled by a rich Roman know as a glutton called Marco Gavio Apicio. The ingredients were very simple, bread soaked in milk, baked and then smeared with honey. It sounds good to me!
The ingredients and when they were eaten have evolved throughout the centuries. The ingredients today are: bread (normally a French loaf from the day before, sliced), milk, sugar, eggs and lots of cinnamon. Initially there were no eggs or sugar, honey was used instead, I am not sure when cinnamon came into the picture, but it is one of the essential ingredients today. Sometimes they were soaked in wine instead of milk. I remember my dad telling me that when he was little he would occasionally have bread soaked in wine sprinkled with sugar, nowadays it sounds like a strange thing to feed a child, but there it is. He really enjoyed it! And if my kids are reading this, no you can't have any.
It was only in the last 100 years or so that torrijas have been consumed during Easter and lent and the reason why this food is perfect for this time of the year is because it fits into the rules of abstinence and penitence, as no meat is allowed. Before then it was a food that was offered to women after they had given birth, as it was considered a nutritious and wholesome food full of calories that was so much needed after such an event. This is just a short summary about the history of this ancient dish but I hope it paints a picture of where the tradition comes from.
I have put a video together with footage that some of my friends have very kindly sent me. They talk about the Easter tradition of eating "torrijas" and drinking "Limonada" and they show us how to make the "torrijas". It has subtitles in English and Spanish to help you understand what is being said. These are Spanish people in their homes so that you can get a real feel of what Spain and Spanish people are like. I do hope you enjoy it
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Ana Varela for the photos and video of the "penitentes", to David Rodriguez and Carmen for the step to step photos of how to make torrijas, to Luisi Acebron, Gema Soria, Ines and Alba for filming and talking about Easter traditions in Spain. I wouldn't have been able to write the blog without your help. Muchas gracias!