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Christmas Dinner in Barcelona

Over Christmas 2015, we flew two daughters and one boyfriend from America to Barcelona for 2 weeks in an AirBnB apartment in the center of the Gothic Quarter.  This is what we cooked for our Christmas Dinner.   (You can read more about the full details of our trip in the Destinations section of our website under the Barcelona tab.)

The Story

Diane and I had been American expats living in Manchester in the UK for the last two years.  While this has been a wonderful experience, we miss our college-age daughters and their boyfriends so when we do get together, it’s quite special.  For Christmas last year, we all met in Barcelona and stayed in a #AirBnB apartment in the Gothic Quarter.  

The square adjacent to where we stayed is where Isabella and Ferdinand christened Christopher Columbus on his journey to discover the Americas.  From Roman era baths to scars from the Spanish civil war, the history of Barcelona, Spain, and all of Europe and can be seen raw and unedited all around this small Gothic Quarter. 

When we travel, we like to stay off the beaten path in houses or apartments and part of our selection criteria is kitchen amenities and proximity to local fresh markets.  Our apartment in Barcelona was just a few blocks from the famous St. Josep La Boqueria Fresh Market.  We were able to buy all the ingredients for our Iberian Pot Roast at this market while talking directly with farmers and butchers who were patient with our poor Catalonian and high-school Spanish skills.  The market is alive with bright colors of hanging dried peppers and sounds of fish mongers selling their fresh catch as they barter with local Catalonians who are fortunate to shop there every day.  And the smells.  Wonderful smells of paella cooking in one stall and fresh baked bread in the next alongside the pungent smells of the same fish monger’s not-so-fresh catch and the Tupi (an aged goat cheese) that cheese mongers put out for samples.

The sites, sounds, smells, and of course the tastes of Barcelona will always bring memories of this special time together.  Our Iberian Pot Roast was cooked in our Barcelona apartment on Christmas Day with many hands surrounded by people we love in a city that has left its mark on our palates and our souls.  

Just before our Christmas trip to Barcelona, my business partners and I received an offer to sell our engineering company to a large French global enterprise.  This meant an opportunity for early retirement and financial security but it also meant turning the company over to others and no longer working every day.  During this Christmas trip with our family, we talked about pros and cons of accepting the offer.  Sometimes these were light-hearted group discussions and sometimes they were serious individual discussions.  Often they took place in the kitchen, around the dining table or walking to the market.

When our daughters were young, cooking simply meant getting food on the table before soccer practice or a school concert.  Now, cooking together is a pleasure in itself with great rewards of an enjoyable meal.  We now look forward to cooking a meal much more than eating it.  Cooking also provides a great medium for conversation about life events like weddings, funerals, new jobs, and even retirement.

Ultimately, my partners and I decided to take the deal.  I announced my retirement earlier this year and am now an International Man of Leisure and part-time Travel Blogger.  Our connection to Spain is through “La Cocina” and that connection is even stronger after my trip to Barcelona with my family.


You can learn more about our trip to Barcelona in our Destinations web page under the Barcelona Tab.


Phil & Diane



Iberian Pot Roast Recipe


  • 1 bottom round roast, about 4 pounds
  • Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, powdered paprika or cayenne pepper, parsley, and coriander to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 small onions, medium diced
  • 1 dozen mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 fist-full spinach
  • 1 head garlic (about 10 to 12 cloves), lightly smashed
  • 4 to 6 medium carrots, cut length-wise into 3 inch sticks
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  • 1 bottle Spanish Rioja Wine (½ for the roast, ½ for the cook)
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme 
  • 2 pounds baby potatoes, halved with skin on

A Pot Roast is a wonderful family style meal enjoyed all around the world.  Plan on 30 minutes prep, 2 hours cooking, and 15 minutes standing before cutting to serve – 2 hr, 45 min from starting to eating.  Serves 6 to 8 adults.

  • Open the bottle of Rioja and pour a glass for the cook.  One should always cook with wine.
  • If you are British, put a kettle on.  All other nationalities can skip this step because you won’t use it anyway.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C).
  • Cut potatoes and set to boil for 10 min to soften.
  • Season roast to taste by hand rubbing with sea salt, pepper, paprika or cayenne, parsley, and coriander.  A light coating of olive oil will help the spices to stick to the meat – it’s ok to get a little dirty here. 
  • Heat oil in large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven on stove top over high heat until hot.  Sear the roast on all sides until brown. Remove roast from pot and set aside. 
  • Drain potatoes and also set aside.
  • Pause to take a drink of wine.
  • Lower Dutch oven heat to medium and sauté onions, garlic, and carrots in the juice from searing the roast.  Don’t’ be afraid to add more olive oil if necessary.  Place the Roast back in the pot and add the potatoes and mushrooms.  Add the broth, ½ bottle of wine, and thyme, stir to combine.
  • Cover pot and transfer to oven.  A good cooking time guide is ½ hour per pound, so a typical 4 pound Roast should take about 2 hours for a medium rare roast – Although it’s tempting, don’t mess with it until it’s done, except to add the spinach in the next step.  Pro-tip 1: Use a meat thermometer to ensure an internal temp of 140°F before removing.  Pro-Tip 2: You can lower the temp and increase the time to make it even more tender.  
  • Finish the first glass of wine and pour a second one.  There is plenty of time to prepare whatever sides are planned.
  • Open the pot and add the spinach around the roast ½ hour before the roast should be done, taking care to spoon the broth over the leaves to coat them.
  • Remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid after the cooking time is done and allow the roast to stand for 15 min before cutting to serve.
  • Serve with close friends and family in celebration of the joy of being together.

Suggested Side Dishes; Grilled zucchini or asparagus; Fresh oysters on the half-shell; Jumbo shrimp sautéed in garlic and butter; Another bottle of Spanish Rioja wine; Fresh Baguette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar