Updated on: Thursday, October 21, 2021, 06:01 AM IST

Les verges: The story behind Spain’s legendary sweet treat

How a brutal massacre and an error in translations led to Buñuelos

Palma: I live in Mallorca, a small island located in the Mediterranean Sea. Apart from its clear turquoise waters, green mountains, and sandy beaches, which are big tourist attractions, the island, yet relatively small, with a total population of below 900,000 inhabitants, holds a wide variety of local festivities. The festivity of “Les verges”, which means the Virgins, and is celebrated annually on October 21.

The legend holds that around 384 AD, Saint Ursula set sail on a pilgrimage from England to Rome to meet the pope before her marriage. On her journey, she was accompanied by 10 virgins. During their way back to England, they were stopped in Cologne (in Germany) by the army of Huns, whose king Atila fell in love with Ursula. However, after she and her maidens refused the sexual advances of the king and his men, protecting their virginity, they were beheaded in a massacre.

Due to errors in translation of mediaeval scriptures, the 11 virgins became 11,000 virgins! Saint Ursula is now one of the patrons of the city of Cologne. The Virgin Islands, located in the Caribbean Sea, were named after them by Christopher Columbus. In Mallorca, tradition holds that on this day, young men, carrying carnations, serenade their beloved ones underneath their windows. If they succeed, they will be invited up and given “buñuelos”, a fried dough fritter, and muscatel wine, a sweet wine with a rather high graduation for a wine.

This tradition is still celebrated in various towns of the island, though it’s mainly reduced to the consumption of the buñuelos. My son will have a school party where they prepare the sweet treat for a snack, you can also usually buy them in town squares, and most families will prepare them in their homes.


Buñuelos are a sweet of Spanish origin and very popular in regions with a historical connection to Spain, like Latin America and Israel, with varying recipes. The “bunyols de les verges” (buñuelos of the virgins) are prepared in Mallorca for this festivity and all Saints Day on November 1 and contain potato, as well as sweet potato. I will surely be preparing this sweet treat, and I invite everyone to try it.

Buñuelos recipe


50 ml of water

30 grams of pressed yeast

250 grams of potatoes

250 grams sweet potatoes

250 grams flour

3 eggs

1 litre of oil

Sugar to coat


Boil the potatoes and sweet potatoes until soft. Mash them, and when cooled off, mix with the flour, the eggs, and the yeast (previously diluted in a glass of water). Heat a pan with the oil and make little circles with slightly wet hands (so the dough won’t stick to your hands). Put them to fry in the hot oil. Remove them once they turn golden brown and coat with sugar. Enjoy with either a sweet wine or a cup of hot chocolate. Bon profit as the Majorcans would say.


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Published on: Thursday, October 21, 2021, 07:00 AM IST