Recipes

Spanish All saints day porridge: exactly like my grandmother does

Hola amigos!

All saints day is round the corner. I remark this because despite the younger generations celebrate Halloween I am still attached to this celebration. I am not a devoted Catholic nor a Halloween hater, but I was raised and educated by my family with All saints associated traditions being important to us. Of course, what I remember the most is the food that was put on the table, with Catalan and Andalusian meals together in the same space. What a feast, isn’t it?

I haven’t posted a dessert recipe in a long time-actually, in a very long time. However, since we will be on a special occasion which involves sweet flavours, the time has arrived once again-otherwise, I won’t celebrate All saints accordingly. Today’s recipe is the real deal at home and I am very proud to feature it here. This Spanish porridge originates from the Eastern regions of Andalucia such Jaen (where my family comes from) and it is known over there as Gachas con tostones-named after the fried bread that tops it up, the tostones. In other places it is called Polea (said pole-ah!), but I have never referred to this dish as such.

I love this recipe for many reasons. Firstly, because I eat it occasionally. Secondly, because this connects me with my grandparents and particularly with my grandmother Dolores. In fact, she is the biggest influence of this dish as we have always followed her method to prepare it. The secret lies on flavouring the milk and the olive oil to achieve the most powerful, intense taste. Grandma Dolores would tell me that, after the Spanish Civil War, the food was very scarce so everybody became very imaginative in order to feed themselves. This porridge reflects exactly the struggle of those years because the ingredients are very humble: flour, milk and bread (usually stale). Therefore, they used to add some spices (such anise seeds or cinnamon) to make it more interesting to the palate.

Finally, I must say this recipe would not be possible without the contribution of Ana Cortes, president of Eat Spanish. She advised me where to find the anise seeds here in Oxford after a long time with no success. Thanks to this I have been able to cook the recipe exactly like my grandmother does.

When it comes, may you all have a happy All Saints day. I will be remembering and honouring my late grandfather Juan who passed away now almost two years ago.


INGREDIENTS (FOR A PORTION AS SHOWN IN THE PICTURE)

  • Milk (500 ml)
  • Plain flour (2 tbsp)
  • Bread (one small roll)
  • Sugar (2 tbsp)
  • Anise seeds (2 tbsp)
  • Lemon peels (2)
  • Cinnamon stick (1)
  • Olive oil (1 tbsp)
  • Cinnamon ground

DIRECTIONS FOR COOKING

  1. We will start by flavouring the milk. Pour it in a sauce pan with the cinnamon stick and one of the lemon peels. Start heating up at medium-low heat until it starts to boil. Also, stir occasionally to avoid it sticks on the base. After that, remove the cinnamon stick and the lemon peel, separate it in a bowl and set aside for cooling.

2. In the same sauce pan, add the olive oil, the other lemon peel and the anise seeds. Simmer until the peel is slightly golden brown. Then, separate the oil from the rest of the ingredients in order to re-use it in the next step. You can use a strainer for this.

3. Dice your bread roll and fry it using the previous infused oil. After five minutes at medium heat, remove and set aside for later.

4. You should still have a little bit of oil left in the pan which should be enough to fry the flour. Tip it in the pan and stir it frequently until it changes to a lightly yellow colour.

5. Pour the milk in the sauce pot in small amounts at a time. Stir intensely at medium so all the flour merges with the milk-and no lumps appear in it. The mixture will thicken after a couple of minutes of stirring. Once it achieves a custard-like texture, pour it in a bowl like in the picture.

6. Decorate with the fried bread croutons and a generous pinch of cinnamon. You can eat them hot or cold.

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