Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A gastronomic tour of Spain

Original text by Thomasina Miers (chef and winner of BBc two’s masterchef 2005).. executive summary by darmansjah

THE SPANISH tourist board has an interactive map of regional food, with details of seasonality and producers as well as recipes. Fly to Barcelona from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur via Singapore Airlines. Take a connecting flight to Santiago de compostela, capital of Galicia.

One autumn, I spend two months driving all over Spain. I started way up in the north, in Galicia, an area with a lush, green landscape that reminded me of Cornwall or Wales. They grow the most delicious potatoes there; you just need to boil them and they taste sublime. It’s real seafaring part of the country too, and famous for gooseneck barnacles, which I helped hack off the rocks.

Next stop, Picos de Europa, a breathtaking mountain range in northern-central Spain, where they make wonderful blue cheese from three types of milk: cow, sheep and goat’s. after that, it was on to Castile-La Mancha, the historical capital of Spain. I went quail and boar hunting, and there was again some very good cheese – it is where manchego come from, from La Mancha sheep. Everywhere you looked, people were growing things – beans, fruit, apples – in every backyard.

Then it was off to the eastern coast, south of Valencia. It was like the Grand Canyon there, very dry and arid, with lots of dried up pathways and ramblas where rivers used to cut through the land, where shepherds once herded their flocks. There’s lots of desert plant life, olive groves and almond trees – the area gets more sunlight than any other in the country, so they can grow tomatoes, grapes and oranges trees. Down the southern coast, I ended up in Huelva, near Seville, just in time for the annual matanza, the pig slaughter. It’s a real community celebration, full of joy at the knowledge that this meat will see the town through the winter. It started at 6.30 in the morning with a glass of aguadiente, a really stiff drink – which you need because the slaughter is pretty brutal.

The diversity of the produce as I travelled through the country was quite outstanding. I’d always written Spain off as a country of potatoes, smoked paprika and seafood, but once I started my journey I realized just how much top-quality food they have. The landscape of Spain is just as diverse – Brits can be guilty of only going to the coast or Madrid and Barcelona, and it’s such a mistake.

I had no idea how varied and wonderful the scenery and the food were elsewhere.

1 comment: