By: Sarah Jane EvansFOR many cooks and food lovers December is a month building to a crescendo of ever more time consuming cooking, often of dishes demanded by tradition not by the fact that you like them. Cooking or eating them once a year is once too often. Christmas pudding, brussels sprouts (however disguised), sausage rolls and ersatz logs made out of sweet chestnut purée all fall into this category for me. For most of the month what we need is fun, quick-to-cook, easy-to-enjoy dishes which have nothing to do with showing off or family rituals.
I'm sentimental about this one; it's a version of the first recipe I ever had printed. I discovered Torrijas in Seville in Holy Week, Semana Santa, and made sure I was able to work them into 'Seville', the history I wrote of the city. While you can find Torrijas all over Spain, they are a speciality of Easter - one of the first foods using eggs since the pancakes of Shrove Tuesday. In fact Torrijas are simply a variation of what is known in French as Pain Perdu, and in English as Eggy Bread. It's cheap comfort food, and the kind of recipe that encourages children to enjoy cooking for themselves.
Cut a day old, good quality baguette or French stick into slices about a finger thick. Lay them down in a dish that will take 6-8 slices. Heat 300ml of milk in a pan with 25g of sugar (vary, according to taste) and two strips of lemon peel, until the sugar has dissolved. Throw away the peel. Pour over the bread and leave to infuse for half an hour until completely soft (add more milk if necessary).
Beat 2 eggs in a bowl and heat 25g of butter and 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Dip each slice quickly in the egg and then place in the pan. Fry all the slices until golden on both sides. Drain and sprinkle with sugar. For a real indulgence prepare a sugar syrup flavoured with white wine. Lay the slices out on a large deep plate, pour over the syrup and leave to steep for half an hour. Serve warm or cold.
Great with a chilled Asti Spumante - light in alcohol, with fruit, sweetness and fizz.
© recipe copyright 1999 Sarah Jane Evan