Churros – also known as calentitos de patatas, papitas, porras, and ‘Spanish donuts’ by foreigners – are sold by vendors in the plaza outside the old Mercado Central de Abastos, the central market in Jerez. Locals line up to buy them – even in the cold and rain, as they did today – by the gram/kilo, made to order, and wrapped up in a bag shaped from folded butcher’s paper.
The sweet aromas and soft sizzle of the dough frying were enticing, but we were keen for a warming café con leche (Spain’s version of the café latté) so we headed for Cafeteria La Vega on the corner instead.
Snagging the last table in the lofty, retro room, crowded with locals, young and old, couples and families, we ordered coffees from the waiter. Here the locals weren’t having hot chocolate (to dip their churros into) as they do in the north, which suited us just fine.
Although located within the café, the churros counter operates separately – and it’s an operation the young man at the counter takes very seriously. We love it that the guy makes them to order too – no heat lamps on churros made earlier on in the day here! Ordering churros “para dos” (for two) because I had no idea how much the things weighed, and how many grams I should order, I watched the guy work his magic.
After piping the dough from an industrial-strength pastry bag into the deep fryer in a snake-like shape, he crafted it into a spiral. He then used two goads to continuously turn the coil, prodding it into shape and rhythmically dipping it beneath the oil to ensure even cooking and colour. Skilfully turning it over at the last minute to brown the other side, he then removed the colossal ridged coil, dropped it onto some butcher’s paper to soak up excess oil, and used scissors to cut it into manageable portions. He scooped the slightly curled pieces onto another piece of butcher’s paper, which he folded into a sack-like shape. This enormous bag of churros, way too much for two people, cost two euros.
Back at our table, I unfolded the paper as I watched the locals do – some families gathered around a table sharing what must have been a kilo of the stuff – and we tucked into our small mountain of hot treats.
Unlike in northern Spain, where they dust their churros with cinnamon sugar, so they taste like sweet donuts, here in Jerez churros is plain, and even tastes a tad salty. I actually liked them better. And nobody was dunking them into anything either, as they do in the north.
While it was fun to participate in what is obviously a popular weekend ritual in Jerez, I prefer eggs for breakfast. Where are those eggs, anyway? Terence?