San Esteban/Sant Esteve My Catalan mother-in-law could never relax on Christmas Day. Plates with remains of chicken or turkey were whipped from under our noses, earthenware dishes hauled away for scrubbing. While we were still gut-busting our way through turrón, cava, coffee and brandy, or already flaked out, bloated and snoring, in armchairs, terrifying crashes, screeches and yells issued from the kitchen. In those days my Catalan was rudimentary, but there was one word I understood: canelons!!! The 26th of December, St Steven’s day, el dia de Sant Esteve, is a public holiday in Catalunya (and also in Balears where it known as the second Christmas) and the making of the cannelonis that are traditionally eaten that day for lunch (well, only the first course, you understand) was a very, very big deal.
Nowadays there’s a roaring trade in frozen canneloni and pre-cooked canneloni, and of course you can order them from the catering, and even from some enterprising bakeries, where you pick them up freshly made and piping hot on the day. Teresina and Lluis, my parents-in-law, made them by hand, from scratch. They painstakingly prepared the finely minced filling from the remains of the Christmas bird and the meat from the traditional broth and stew, they boiled and drained the individual canneloni squares one by one (pre-cooked? What’s that?), rolled them up and stuck them together, made gallons of real bechamel sauce, all punctuated by slanging matches and threats of divorce. They were the best canelons I have ever tasted. Ever.