Harrogate-based Spaniard Javier De La Hormaza on his childhood memories of Easter

PUBLISHED: 19:40 25 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:20 05 April 2013

Harrogate-based Spaniard Javier De La Hormaza on his childhood memories of Easter

Harrogate-based Spaniard Javier De La Hormaza on his childhood memories of Easter

Annie Stirk grabs her sombrero and sun cream and basks in the warmth of a Spanish Easter feast, courtesy of Yorkshire foodie Javier De La Hormaza.

Annie Stirk grabs her sombrero and sun cream and basks in the warmth of a Spanish Easter feast, courtesy of Yorkshire foodie Javier De La Hormaza.

For Harrogate-based Spaniard Javier De La Hormaza childhood memories of Easter Sunday in Bilbao are not dissimilar to the sweet ones we all enjoyed here as children. My father was Spanish but my mother was Irish, so I was able to enjoy Easter eggs from a young age before many of my friends did, says Javier. She used to hide them around the house too so there was always an exciting hunt for them on Easter Sunday.

For the chef turned businessman who now runs Yorkshires Greys Fine Foods, an online Spanish deli offering rare delicacies such as milk-fed lamb, acorn-fed Iberian ham, candied chestnuts and 100-year-old brandy the hunt for good food has grown into a real passion.

My grandmother was a great cook and she passed on all her knowledge to me. Easter was always a big celebration of food in our house, with friends and family coming over: fish on Good Friday, sweet milky desserts and patisseries on Easter Sunday, says Javier. I guess Ive always been passionate about passing this love of comfood on to other people and seeking out delicacies from home to bring here. I live and breathe food.

It was 15 years ago that Javier first came to Yorkshire. I had an amazing childhood. The part of Spain where I was brought up is beautiful and I had a very close, loving family. My father, a doctor, came from quite a wealthy family but my mother didnt, so she always taught me the virtues of hard work; that you need to make your own way in life, which is why I left home at 18 to go travelling.

My first job was in Australia as a labourer on a building site but I made friends with a guy from Yorkshire and he offered to help me get a job here, so I followed him back. I spent six months here thinking Id travel again but I never left.

But Javier certainly hasnt rested on his laurels since he made the leap from Northern Spain to Northern England. Working on both sides of the hospitality trade as chef and manager at several high-profile venues here, orchestrating the opening of The Clocktower Restaurant at Rudding Park Hotel, Harrogate, the award wining Martha & Vincent Restaurant, Floridita Restaurant & Bar and the Leeds Mint Hotel, he is now bringing Spanish sunshine to peoples own homes.

While French and Italian foods are very established here, its been much harder for people to get hold of top quality Spanish foods, says Javier. Ive always wanted to build those bridges and offer a range of fine foods and wines that have been almost impossible to source.

Javier admits that the dining culture is a little different here. Back home, mothers and fathers dress up and the whole family goes out to dine. You see the streets and squares of Spanish towns and cities lined with people eating and drinking old people, young people, kids playing between their legs but you dont really get that so much in Britain, which is a shame, he says.

Easter is no exception either. As a Catholic country, religious festivals take precedence but its still about spending time with family and friends. The seven days leading up to Easter Sunday is Holy Week, or La Semana Santa, and all Spain there are spectacular street processions, says Javier. Its a sight to behold.

Food, of course, is central to these celebrations with the traditional fish supper on Good Friday served alongside a garlic soup sopa de ajo or potaje de vigilia, a stew of cod, chickpeas and spinach.

Traditionally, every Friday was designated a meat-free day in Spain, says Javier. But over the years, its become just Good Friday. The vigilia part of the potaje de vigilia dish means vigil, that is to say being vigilant not to eat meat.

While salt cod is widely used in Basque cookery, fresh cod or other, more sustainable fish are great replacements, says Javier. The beauty of salted cod or bacalao is that once its rehydrated over 48 hours by soaking in water with the water changed every three hours it becomes phenomenally fresh, fluffy and beautiful to taste, says Javier. As its hard to get hold of here, I think fresh sea bass, scallops, bream or red mullet is almost as good.

The main event at a Spanish Easter Sunday feast is usually lamb (though its unlikely to come with mint sauce), and theres also hornazos pies filled with pork, eggs and ham. As it is Easter, sweet treats abound and during the bank holiday weekend many families tuck into special cakes, la mona de Pascua, decorated with coloured feathers and chocolate figurines, with many cake shops competing to see who can make the most impressive for their window display.

The classic dessert is torrijas thick slices of bread, soaked in milk and beaten egg, fried in olive oil and served with sugar or honey a bit like a Pompadour Pudding. It dates back to the last century and was a great way to use up old bread, says Javier. My recipe is my grandmas, which she made every Easter and I have fond memories of her setting the custard mix in the fridge and cutting it into squares to dust in flour and fry. It was my favourite part of the meal as a child.

So does Javier miss the food and family traditions of home in spring? From a very early age I was bilingual, and even though I consider myself Spanish, I actually feel very at home in the UK, he says. Im very conscious of the fact that part of me has always been linked to the British Isles and part of me is connected to Spain.

Above all, Javier is passionate about sharing the flavour of his homeland with his adopted country.

Javier De La Hormaza
01423 358159

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