Food for St. James the Great, Apostle

Update: I added a photo of our St. James Torte — I used both the stencils for the decoration. The torte was dense and tasty…definitely a recipe to repeat. The chicken was delicious, nice and juicy.

I’ve been looking forward to July 25, feast of St. James. See today’s entry in Family in Feast and Feria for more information on this feast day.

For food, I’m going to use some Spanish recipes. In spirit I want to be in the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. For ideas of famous foods from that region, see Gastronomy of Santiago. The empanadas sound wonderful, but I don’t have time to attempt wheat, egg and dairy free empanadas, but it might be something I try in the future.

So for the main meal I’m going to adapt a Tapas recipe. I love all of Penelope Casas’ books, and her Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain is what I’m using for inspiration. But I confess, I’m planning my meal by what I have in the house. Our garden is slowly ripening and I also have chicken. I’m going to make

Chicken in Beer (Pollo en Cerveza)

“This chicken has a subtle lemony flavor, and although I have chosen to use the wing portion for easy handling, you might also use small drumsticks or any other part of the chicken (skin on), cut in small pieces.”

Serves 6 as appetizer, but for main meal probably 2 or 3
Start preparation several hours in advance

12 chicken wings (or thighs or drumsticks with skin)
12 ounce bottle beer (minus 1 Tablespoon for sauce)
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp. thyme
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. beer
Freshly ground pepper

Chop the wings into three parts, discarding the tip portion. As I’m making this the main meal, I’m using whole thighs. In shallow bowl or zipper top bag, mix together the marinade: beer (except reserve 1 Tbsp.), pepper, salt, thyme and bay leaf. Arange the chicken in marinade and soak for several hours, turning occasionally.

When ready to cook, combine Sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with a paper towel. At this point you can either grill or broil the chicken. If broiling, arrange on a broiler pan, brush on the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Broil or grill for about 5 minutes (longer if other kinds of parts), flip and baste and salt and pepper. Continue cooking until golden but still juicy. Use a meat thermometer to make sure they are cooked thoroughly.

For dessert, I’m going to attempt to make the famous Tarta de Santiago. This will not be allergy free, but I’m up for the challenge, and to give a nice treat on this wonderful feast day for my dh. There are oodles of recipes on the internet for this cake. There are two different version — one has a crust and filling, the other is more like a flat cake.

Some examples: Food Network,
Reading Room (nice picture), Travel and Living and Spain Recipes (another good picture).

The recipe I’m using is from my favorite Spanish cookbook, My Kitchen in Spain by Janet Mendel . I’ve mentioned in another post, Memories of Little Grandma. I happen to have a bag of ground almond meal (thanks to Trader Joe’s), so the tart shoudn’t be too time-consuming. Almonds don’t grow in this area of Spain, so it is a puzzlement that this cake is made with them. Mendel speculates that it originally might have been made from chestnuts.

The torte is usually decorated with a pattern of the Cross of St. James or the cockle shell, both symbols of St. James. I prepared some patterns of the Cross of St. James and the cockle shell of St. James. Print and cut out the images. Place the image in the middle of the torte and sprinkle confectioner’s sugar over the rest of the cake. Remove the pattern carefully and you’ll have the cross or shell in the middle of the cake.

If you don’t have time to make this torte from scratch, any cake will do. Purchase a pound cake even, and put the design on the cake. If you need to resize the pattern, use image program, such as Paint Shop Pro. After opening the image in the program, go to print and choose the size you want it to be on the page. It’s that easy — and I just discovered that after all these years of frustration!

Almond Torte from Santiago de la Compostela
Torta de Almendras de Santiago

1 pound ground almonds
2/3 cup butter
2 3/4 cup granulated sugar
7 eggs
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch springform pan.

Spread the almonds in a baking pan and toast them in the oven, stirring often. Remove from oven when light colored, about 3 to 5 minutes. Give time to cool.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat, one at a time. Gradually stir in the flour, the almond meal and lemon zest.

Pour mixture into the greased pan and bake about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester in the center comes out clean and the center when lightly pressed bounces back.

Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Poke the surface of the torte with a skewer and drizzle with lemon juice over the top. Add the pattern of the cross and dust the surface with confectioner’s sugar.

Catholic Culture has a few more suggestions for recipes for St. James. I am going to go French a bit and serve some green beans, inspired by this recipe. The cookbooks Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf and A Continual Feast by Evelyn Vitz also have some unique recipes for the feast of St. James.


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