Christmas Day and time to apply our own little traditions in Spain. I had managed to create some time during my hasty return trip to England for some Christmas shopping. Carol and I had already exchanged a main present each, well before Christmas, but at least now we would be able to have our Christmas stockings in bed with our early morning tea.
Once we surfaced, I saw that Christmas Day had treated us to utterly stunning wall to wall clear blue skies. Normally, next on the Christmas agenda would be coffee laced with rum. However, I had failed to find a suitably small bottle of rum to buy so I decided to try it with some Spanish brandy, in this case, 103. The Nestlé ground coffee over here rejoices in the name of “Bonka”. Where they got that from, I really can’t imagine but I can certainly see advertising slogan potential: “enjoy a Bonka first thing in the morning” – and why not, indeed? As it turned out the brandy didn’t seem to help any – quite the opposite, in fact – so our second Bonka really was “pure Colombian”.
Invigorated by two Christmas morning Bonkas, a wander through the sun-drenched vineyards into Lliber beckoned. Who knows, maybe there’d be an equally sun-drenched bar open for a tipple or two. Sure enough, the bar in the square of Lliber was open and doing a reasonable trade. The outside contingent all seemed to be Brits so we dragged a table and chairs into the sun and sat under their pink peppercorn tree chatting with another couple (residents) while sipping a vino tinto. A café con leche each accompanied by a goodly slug of Soberano, another Spanish brandy with which they seemed to be very generous, set us up for the walk back and lunch. The bill for two red wines, two coffees and two brandies came to under €7 so I tipped generously for Christmas.
Lunch on the terrace overlooking the fabulous view of the Jalon valley consisted of langostinos y pulpo (prawns and octopus) with some lemony garlic mayonnaise and crusty bread. You may see from the photograph that Bailey, the black cat, was very restrained and ignored our fishy feast completely. Weird!
I was reticent to start cooking our main event too early simply because I didn’t want to leave the sunny terrace. Eventually, though, the temperature began to drop and the time was right to tackle Christmas dinner. Suckling pig seems to be very popular as Christmas fare in Spain. The supermarkets all seem to carry them at this time and the English couple we had been talking to in Lliber were going on to a restaurant serving suckling pig later. Carol knew I had always wanted to try one and had very thoughtfully invested €25 in a half suckling pig that looked just right for a two-person feast.
We’d been told suckling pigs could be very greasy and, not wishing to make too much of a mess of Geoff’s gas BBQ, I elected to cook it in the oven. Having no previous experience of cooking Piglet and friends, I gave him nearly two hours at moderate heat and then banged the heat up for a final 30 minutes to crisp his skin while I made a vegetable pilaf of onions, carrot, flat beans and our favourite artichokes, to accompany him. Piglet looked very good with his all-over suntan. Clearly, the olive oil had not been factor 30.
Piglet made a delicious Christmas dinner and his bronzed crackling was a revelation, very thin and very light. This is crackling that does not break one’s teeth. I may need some Branston pickle to go with the left-overs.