A Spanish Noche Buena Christmas Dinner

I was lucky enough to experience Christmas in Spain one year while we were stationed in Europe.

Christmas dinner in Spain is held on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and doesn’t begin until 10 or so in the evening, when the celebrants return from Christmas Eve Mass. The Spanish Christmas meal is typically comprised of several courses and will often last for 2 or 3 hours with talking, eating special foods that have been prepared ahead of time and sharing with family and friends the joy of Noche Buena (The Good Night).

Feast plans and traditional foods have been prepared ahead of time, allowing the “cook” of the house to participate in Mass and all the trappings of this Holy Eve.

Typical foods might include the following courses:

  • A tapas course of appetizers and cheeses
  • A soup course, typically a fish chowder
  • The main entree, perhaps lobster or a lamb roast
  • And of course numerous traditional sweets made several days in advance.
  • All accompanied by wonderful Spanish wines
  • A Spanish Tapa Meatball for Noche Buena Feast

Spicy Moroccan Meatballs

Spicy Meatballs with a North African or Middle East spice combination are often a popular tapa that can be made ahead and heated up right before serving.

Spicy Moroccan Meatballs | Foodal.com

 

Spicy Moroccan Meatballs | Foodal.com
Spicy Moroccan Meatballs
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This recipe combines the local pork, beef and lamb or veal.
Spicy Moroccan Meatballs | Foodal.com
Spicy Moroccan Meatballs
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This recipe combines the local pork, beef and lamb or veal.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb ground pork Pork is more of spanish style - it's obviously not included in most authentic N. African styles.
  • 1/2 lb ground veal or lamb
  • 1 lb ground beef/chuck
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 6 to 7 garlic cloves minced fine
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder or red pepper flakes
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium Spanish sweet onion minced fine
  • 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups crushed Italian plum tomatoes (can be canned or fresh but drain if canned)
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Combine the meats, bread crumbs, 4 garlic cloves, spices in bowl. Mix in thoroughly 2 eggs, beaten ahead. Form into 1 inch meatballs and place on a cookie or baking sheet. Bake in oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove from oven and put in slow cooker. Heat olive oil in skillet. Add the chopped diced onion and 2-3 minced garlic cloves, sauté till tender and golden.
  3. Add the wine and the tomatoes, stir and pour over the meatballs in slower cooker. Cook for 15 minutes on high setting and then lower to low and hold meatballs until serving time, (no longer than 4 hours)
  4. Meatballs can be made 2 or 3 days ahead and then sauce made the same day as serving. Sauce can be made on top of stove and meatballs added to skillet and served without using slow cooker.
Recipe Notes

Spicy Moroccan Meatballs | Foodal.com

 

A Spanish Fish Chowder

You must make fish broth to have an authentic Fish Chowder. The taste of a good fish stock is absolutely stunning and good cooks know this to be a base ingredient for wonderful soups.

Spanish Fish Chowder | Foodal.com

 

Spanish Fish Chowder | Foodal.com
Spanish Fish Chowder
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A hearty fish stew made with awesome stock and a thick heavy cream base.
Spanish Fish Chowder | Foodal.com
Spanish Fish Chowder
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A hearty fish stew made with awesome stock and a thick heavy cream base.
Ingredients
  • 1-2 lbs fish heads and bones
  • 1/2 lemon or equivalent lemon juice
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • fresh thyme sprigs or 1 t. dried thyme
  • medium bunch of fresh parsley
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 4 slices of thick bacon
  • 4 lbs firm fish such as haddock, pollack, or cod
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • dash paparika optional
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Soak the of fish heads and bones in cold water for about 30 minutes. Squeeze the juice of half of a fresh lemon into the water as they soak. Then drain off the water and rinse and drain again.
  2. Put the fishheads and bones into a pot with the onion , a bouquet garni (made of the fresh thyme sprigs/dried thyme, the bunch of parsley and the large bay leaf). Put in cheesecloth bag and tie shut.
  3. Bring this broth to a slower simmer and cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Skim the top of the stock as it cooks, Then strain through a medium-mesh stainer. Reserve the stock, throw the bones away!
  4. Cook the bacon in a 6 quart kettle or soup pot till the fat is rendered and the bacon begins to get crispy. Remove the bacon, reserve it, and cook 3 medium onions, diced small and 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into med. Diced cubes over med. Low heat. Add the fish broth when the potatoes begin to be tender and the reserved bacon. Simmer for about 10 minutes to finish cooking the potatoes.
  5. While the potatoes are cooking in the fish stock, chop up the fish into about 20 equal size pieces. When the potatoes are finished, Add the heavy cream to the soup pot, bring it to a simmer and drop in the fish. Let is cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of fish chunks. Season with salt and pepper to taste as it cooks.
  6. Top bowls of hot fish creamy fish chowder with chopped chives or fresh parsley and a touch of paprika to add a little contrasting color.

 

Roast Lamb with Oven Roasted Potatoes and Onions

Roasted Rosemary Lamb with Potatoes | Foodal.com
It’s the simple Christmas roast of many international cuisines and very typical of Spain. You can’t go wrong with a good roast lamb, flavored with rosemary and garlic.

Leg of Lamb served in a traditional Spanish Christmas dinner | Foodal
Roast Lamb with Oven Roasted Potatoes and Onions
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Leg of Lamb served in a traditional Spanish Christmas dinner | Foodal
Roast Lamb with Oven Roasted Potatoes and Onions
Votes: 0
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Ingredients
  • 5 lb leg lamb
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons peppercorns optional
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • medium bunch of rosemary
  • 15 -20 small golden Yukon potatoes other varieties will work also
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Purchase a 5 lb leg of lamb (optional: you can have the butcher debone it). Rub the lamb with olive oil, then rub with a spice mixture of cumin, coarse black pepper and 1 t. sea salt. Throw on some peppercorns if desired.
  2. Stab the lamb in even spots all around the surface. Insert a piece of garlic clove and a rosemary sprig tip in each hole. Chill for an hour or so to let the flavors meld and then roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 and roast for about 2 more hours, basting with the pan juices as needed to prevent dryness. On a meat themometer, roast until it says 170 degrees.
    Leg of lamb seasoned with rosemary and garlic - Foodal.com
  3. While the lamb is roasting, peal the golden yukon potatoes and slice a sweet onion into thin slices. If the potatoes are too large then you "chunk" them up. Smaller varieties are better as they can be served whole. Layer the onion and the potatoes in casserole dish, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a spice blend mix of Spanish paprika, sea salt and coarse black pepper.
  4. Roast uncovered in the oven while the lamb is roasting for about the last 45 minutes of the roasting time.
  5. Remove the lamb, let sit for about 20 minutes. Carve in thick ½ slices, plate up potatoes and garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary or parsley.
    Leg of Lamb served in a traditional Spanish Christmas dinner | Foodal

 

The roast lamb can be prepped and placed into the refrigerator until returning from Mass. Put it in the oven as soon as arriving home. Put out tapas, some wine, and begin the first course. While the party begins, the lamb is roasting. Add the potatoes about an hour before time to serve the lamb and the main entree will be ready before midnight!

And there you have it: a Christmas Eve Feast made with easy recipes that the cook can prep ahead of time, and enjoy with the family (or, enjoy making with the family, even the kids!)

Feliz Navidad!

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About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

10 thoughts on “A Spanish Noche Buena Christmas Dinner”

  1. Just reading all that has got me all revved up for the holidays, i ‘m just hoping as i cook this christmas with special delight of a wonderful hands on blog {foodal}…i won’t end up over-eating in the spirit of the season…gosh i got all these dishes that i ought to try out…better start now ;).

  2. It’s always lovely to hear about how other cultures celebrate the holidays, and borrow the best bits of different traditions to build your own personal holiday traditions. There’s no shifting a real British Christmas dinner, of course, but I do like the idea of having a special Christmas Eve meal that becomes part of the family tradition – that fish chowder looks like it would fit the bill – delicious, traditional, light enough to leave everyone ready for the indulgence of the big day but still special.

  3. I always love hearing about the Christmas traditions of other cultures. These dishes are really interesting! Although I guess our tradition or turkey, yule logs, and other Christmas dinner affair would be strange to them as well. It seems the spanish have their noche bueno dinners much more spicier than ours. Lamb is an interesting idea as well. I can’t wait to try it out!

  4. all of these recipes look fantastic. i have saved them for the holidays! i don’t really cook food from this region often so it’ll be a nice change of pace. really looking forward to trying them out.

  5. I love hearing how different cultures celebrate their holidays. Spain has one of the most interesting cultures so far. They are the only country I heard of that have their Christmas dinner on Christmas eve.

  6. This is such a great post, it’s really interesting to learn what people eat for the holidays in other countries. I’ve also been in Spain for Christmas and the Roast Lamb is truly amazing. This recipe looks pretty much like the original. I live in Mexico right now and in here they also eat fish and pork and “romeritos” and other things that in my country we would have never thought of having for Christmas.

    I’m not very good with recipes, so I can’t share with you any, but I would love to see more posts on holidays food from around the world!

  7. The dish that called my attention the most, were the Spicy Moroccan Meatballs. Coming from a Latino background those delicious looking meatballs will fit right into our upcoming celebrations this year! This dish will definitely be going down on the Christmas menu list today. Oh I just can’t wait! Wish me luck, the recipe looks easy enough. Fingers crossed!

  8. Looks delicious, I need to try more latin/spanish food! I might be adding it to my holiday menu this year because it sounds simple enough yet tasty and the I love the ingredients.

  9. Christmas Eve is one of my favorite meals. In the Italian tradition we don’t eat meat the the 24th. Instead we cook 7 different types of fish. It’s interesting to see what kinds of food and meals are prepared in other cultures. I’d love to spend the holidays in Spain and have a traditional Spanish meal.

  10. After reading this post, my mouth is salivating and I am extremely excited to try a few of these recipes. Although, I may not wait until Christmas Eve to try these out. While reading the story of Spain’s traditions during the holidays, I couldn’t stop thinking of how I grew up and my family traditions.

    Raised in a Portuguese household, we always celebrated on the eve of Christmas. Attending mass, and then coming home to a beautiful array of food, quite similar to Spain’s tradition.

    I love the fish chowder and roasted lamb with onions and potatoes, this recipe reminds me of the delicious meals my parents prepare around the holidays. However, I think this year I may bring one of these dishes as a surprise addition to our feast.

    Thanks for this post 🙂

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