Dining With the Saints

The Feast of San Isidro

One of the most important holidays in Madrid is held on May 15, the Feast Day of San Isidro, the city’s patron Saint and also the patron Saint of farmers. The festival is celebrated in the Pradera del Santo, a large, open square in the heart of the city.

San Isidro had a long life, born in Madrid in 1082 and living ninety years. Legend has it that San Isidro miraculously made a spring gush by banging the ground while he was ploughing. A hermitage dedicated to him was built on this spot in 1528. Drinking fresh spring water is still a tradition observed by the people of Madrid on his Saint’s Day.

Another tradition is baking rosquilles, a ring shaped doughnut flavored with anise. There are two types; one is called listas, which means smart and it’s coated in sugar, the other, a plainer version, is referred to as tontas, meaning stupid. Make of that what you will. Both are delicious.

Here’s a recipe for smart rosquilles


3 large eggs

1 ½ cups whole milk

¾ cup melted butter

3/4 cup Anisette

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

In a large bowl, add the eggs, the milk, the melted butter, the anisette, and ½ cup of the sugar. Mix well and then add the flour and the baking powder, little by little until you have a thick dough. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until it’s smooth. Flatten out the dough and cut in into strips. Shape the strips into little rings about 2 inches in diameter.

Set up a large pot and fill it with olive oil about 5 inches deep. Heat over medium flame until hot. Drop in the dough rings a few at a time and fry until golden. Lay them out on paper towels for a minute to soak up excess oil and then roll them in the remaining sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 Dining With the Saints is written by writer and chef Erica DeMane. Visit her at EricaDeMane.com.

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