I posted no recipe last week as I spent Easter in the north of England. For those of you waiting patiently for something to arrive, I apologise, but as you can imagine I didn’t want to post on-line the fact that I was not at home for a week. I don’t believe in taking risks if they can be avoided, and sometimes the consequences of publishing information on-line can be far-reaching.
I left for England out of Madrid, travelling to and from the airport by car, one which was over-loaded by a couple of large, heavy suitcases. I am rather deft at over-packing suitcases, more than once they have slapped on a “heavy” sticker to warn the baggage handlers of their impending doom! The trip itself reminded me of the many times I had travelled the route when I worked and had an office in Madrid, and the fully loaded car reminded me of one particular trip back from Madrid airport one Christmas Eve……..
I had travelled down to Madrid to pick up my parents who were to spend Christmas in Spain with my wife and with our then young children. They arrived with cases full of Christmas presents that I somehow managed to fit into the small car. They had taken a relatively late flight and it was dusk by the time I drove out of the airport, it was also beginning to snow! As we headed up into the mountains on the long drive back, it began to snow heavily. We also started to see the occasional accident where drivers had gone off the road. Even I was getting nervous by this point, but we decided to plough on.
There is a large service area called “Area 103”, which is, not surprisingly, 103 km from Madrid. As we got there we saw that the police had effectively closed the motorway off. They were stopping each car, sending just about everybody off to the parking area of the service station or back down to Madrid. When it was our turn they asked if we had chains to put onto the wheels to provide additional traction over the snow covered road. I replied in the negative, given that we had none with us. As you can imagine I was more than surprised to be allowed through, able to continue my journey north.
I have never understood why we were let through. Did they think that being English I knew how to drive on snow even without chains? Did they think that Spain would be better off without one more family of mad Brits? I have no idea, but however it was we headed off into the cold, snowy night, with “just” 200km between us and home…..…
It was a lonely drive, basically just us and the occasional snowplough….and those guys really drive fast in very adverse conditions. I tried to follow the first couple that passed us, but it was impossible. They just flew by, amazing. By now it was pitch black and the snow blizzard we were driving in had reduced the visibility to just a few yards. I ended up driving relatively slowly in the mountainous terrain that seemed never-ending. The petrol was disappearing fast and my Mother was holding onto the door handle so tight that the following day she would wake to a badly strained arm. In a valley before yet another climb I saw a sign for a motel, we pulled off the road and spent the night there in a place called Lodares.
At the time of the trip I didn’t know the road that well, so I didn’t know that it was in fact the last climb before the long descent into the low-lands. We could perhaps have completed the journey if I had gone up one more hill, but better safe than sorry I guess. As it turned out our biggest problem, apart from a sprained arm, was inventing a story for the children to explain why Santa was arriving late that year! As Santa lives in the North Pole and likes snow, a bad weather excuse was a non-flyer from the start……..
Now of course, with travelling often to Madrid, I know the road very well. I also know all the best places to take a break or to stop for a meal. One of those places in fact is just before Lodares, in a place called Saúca. It is a small village with a not that inviting, visually at least, café that a colleague tipped me off about many years ago. They serve good, homemade food at a very reasonable price and often have dishes on offer that make use of the locally hunted game. I decided to stop there on my way back from Madrid and my trip to England.
Nothing had changed in the several years since I was last there. The food was still the same, the staff were still the same. I had a small meal to break the journey and fill my stomach. I was in two minds whether to have a pudding or not, but then I saw the torrijas and decided that I had to give them a try.
Torrijas are one of the way Spaniards use up stale bread. Most cultures whose staple is bread, have something to use up leftover bread as once upon a time people were less inclined to throw it away. They would no doubt think it scandalous the amount of edible food that goes into our bins! Torrijas are very similar to French Toast and not so distant a cousin of a British Bread and Butter pudding.
Torrijas in Spain can take on many different forms. The ones I had in Saúca were floating in a cinnamon and lemon flavoured milk, and delicious. More typically they are served like a “dry” toast but even then they can be made using milk, flavoured milk or even a thin custard. Today I will be making the traditional ones where milk is used to soften the stale bread and they are served with a good sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar!
Makes: Not applicable
Prepare two small bowls, one with beaten egg and one with milk to which sugar has been added. This is a question of taste, but we use around 1 tablespoon per 250ml of milk.
Cut the bread into slices about 1 cm thick.
Heat a good quantity of olive oil in a frying pan. The sliced bread must be dipped in the milk, allowing it to soak up some milk but without allowing it to become soggy.
After the milk, dip the bread in the beaten egg. Try turning the bread over repeatedly to get the egg to stick better.
Fry the bread on a medium-high heat until golden brown, turning over once.
Serve whilst still warm, placed on a serving dish and dusted with sugar and cinnamon.
This recipe is designed to make use of old bread, something that can accumulate quite easily in Spain due to the custom of buying fresh bread every day and also due to the way Spanish weather tends to dry out the bread very quickly.
Fresh bread can be used instead of stale, ensuring that it is not left too long in the milk making it too soggy to use.
Many Spanish savoury dishes include bread. Here is one of my favourites, it might sound a strange recipe but I recommend you give it a try!
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
1 inch – 25mm
Common Flour Types:
Gluten: 8% to 10%
Type: ES 70W
All-Purpose Flour / Plain Flour
Gluten: 8% to 11%
Type: DE 550 / FR 55 / IT 0 / ES 200W
Bread Flour / Strong Flour / Hard Flour
Gluten: 12% to 14% protein (gluten)
Type: DE 812 / FR 80 / IT 1 / ES 400W
2017 Lincoln W. Betteridge