All Saints, and autumn in general, would be very different without the season’s three top dishes: chestnuts, panellet cakes and sweet potatoes. Both chestnuts and panellet cakes are seasonal products, and so they’ve been eaten at this time of year for centuries. They are made from long-lasting ingredients, such as nuts, so they are associated with eternity and remembering the dead, as we do during these days.
Today chestnuts have taken a back seat in the Feast of All Saints but, in the old days, especially before the discovery of America, they took the place potatoes occupy now. They were often found in creams, stews and as an accompaniment for meat dishes. In fact, they still survive in some traditional Catalan recipes, such as pig’s trotters, with duck and turnips or the platillo de Sant Climent de Llobregat.
Sugar, egg yoke and almond flour are the basic ingredients for making panellets, the traditional, All Saints, marzipan cakes. The most typical flavours are pine nut and almond, although coffee, grated coconut and quince marmalade, another autumn product, are common too. But, as with other sweet things, there is always innovation in the making of panellets, and pastry chefs create new flavours and daring combinations every year.
Sweetened with sugar and cinnamon, or as an accompaniment for savoury dishes, sweet potatoes are one of the most versatile ingredients in traditional autumn cooking. Usually they are eaten fried or baked, but recently people have started to use them instead of ordinary potatoes. As they are tubers, both products have a very similar texture, even though sweet potatoes are slightly sweeter, and that means you can contrast them with savoury foods, such as cheese or meat.