WALK THE CAMINO

Gastronomical Camino

Navarre

Asparagus from Navarre has its own Denomination of Origin and the quality is exceptional. This makes it one of the bases of the gastronomy of the region. “Asparagus Officinalis” is cultivated on the banks of the mighty River Ebro and remains underground with absolutely no exposure to the sun. The result is a vegetable smooth in texture, little or no fibres and a perfect balance of smoothness and bitterness on the palate. It has a system of roots that emerge from the vine from which the hearts form what will become the asparagus. Cultivation of this plant requires great care to avoid exposure to the sun. The stalks are classified by size and consumed either fresh or preserved. Its culinary applications are diverse: it is excellent in soups, omelettes, grilled, as a garnish, in salads or cooked and accompanied by all types of sauces.

The Tudela artichoke is a native white variety. Once the plant is harvested, individual selection is carried out to ensure the Designation's quality requirements. The fruits are crunchy in texture, slightly bitter, very tasty and juicy. They can be eaten in a variety of ways and form part of many recipes in the cuisine of Navarre and the northern peninsula.

La Rioja

La Rioja is situated on the Camino Frances route. It is a land of travellers and exchange, where relationships are formed and culture and customs interchanged. All this is reflected in its gastronomy and provides the traveller with the opportunity to taste top quality wines. La Rioja has also been very much influenced by its neighbouring regions, adapting diverse dishes with a touch of exquisite simplicity so typical of this area.

La Rioja cuisine is simple and uses the top quality products found in the region. The popular agricultural tradition of the area provides a great variety of local vegetables and pulses: peppers, garlic, onions, artichokes, asparagus, lettuce, chard, borage.

No visitor to La Rioja can resist its great stews, made with fava beans or "caparrón" beans. These dishes are unique and use beans which have not been completely dried. As a result, the beans conserve their natural flavour and absorb the flavour of the quail or spicy sausage with which they are cooked. The pig, a symbol of Christian culture, has always lived side by side with the people of La Rioja, either as wild or as farm animals. The Muslim presence in mainland Spain has left its mark on this region, the Riojans having a great taste for lamb. Both types of meat are extremely popular, although the fish dishes put up a fierce competition. Look out for bonito, cod, hake, red bream and mackerel. Sweet black pudding and Riojan chorizo are just a couple of examples of the produce prepared in the mountains.

Castile

Castilla-Leon is the largest of the Spanish regions, comprised of nine provinces which share flavours but conserve their own traditions. Its nickname is "España del Asado" (Spain of the Roast). Castilla-Leon is best known for roast suckling pig and lamb.

Here in Castilla-Leon, cooking is a cult. They hold many food conferences dedicated to lamb, pork, game, wild mushrooms all of which demonstrate how important cuisine is to the locals. In Castile, the chef prepares his dishes with great care: lamb, hare, rabbit, partridge, pork, fried breadcrumbs, trout and pickles.

This care is also reflected in the sweets and pastries, some of which are traditional recipes from old monasteries and convents: "Lazos de San Guillermo" (bow-tie shaped pastries), "Yemas de Santa Teresa" (egg yolk confectionary), "Toscas de la Virgen", "Bizcochos de San Lorenzo" (sponge cakes), "Virutas de San José" (fritters)… all of which satisfy the hunger of the pilgrims on the Camino Frances.

El Bierzo

The Leonese county of El Bierzo is another region on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, with picturesque villages such as Villafranca del Bierzo. The local gastronomy has special dishes using “botillo” (a spiced, cured meat), chestnuts, peppers, wines and liqueurs. Bierzo’s "botillos" have an undisputed leading role in the cuisine of the county.

The "botillo" is made using different parts of the pig (mainly the ribs and tail), chopped up and marinated in salt, paprika, garlic and other natural spices. Packed in natural skins and smoked and part-cured. It normally takes on a globe shape, reddish grey in colour and weighing between approximately 500g and 1,600g per piece. When cut, it shows deep red tones, a firm consistency and an intense aroma. It is eaten cooked and accompanied by vegetables, above all cabbage, potatoes, chickpeas and chorizo pepper. It is a simple, hearty dish with no great secrets in the preparation, but it is one of the stars of El Bierzo's cuisine.

Galicia

The cuisine of Galicia is based on the freshness, quality and variety of local products from its long and dramatic coastline, which are used in the preparation of many of its regional dishes. The importance of gastronomy in Galicia is manifest in the 300 fiestas dedicated to food and wine held throughout the year. Their origins lie in the many traditional fiestas held during harvest time or religious holidays for centuries. At these "Romerías", promises are made to the local patron saint and completed with a traditional feast. Some of these fiestas attract crowds and are of great interest to visitors.

Galicia’s situation in northwest Spain has more than a 1000 kms of coastline. Its cold waters are home to some of the world’s finest shellfish and seafood. Galicia’s seafood is simply prepared and a delight for the palate. There is an enormous variety here, freshly caught and lovingly prepared. A platter of seafood and shellfish in Galicia can be enjoyed in the knowledge that its nutritious and healthy too.

Some favourite dishes include “Pulpo a Feira” or Octopus with potatoes, which is widely available. Other delicacies on offer include barnacles, mussels, clams, small crabs, crayfish… all simply prepared but with the most complex of flavours.

Cod is the ancestral fish in Spanish cuisine; salted and cured, it is still found throughout Spain. Fished in the cold waters of the North Sea, cod has been a very important food for centuries. Prepared in many different ways: boiled, fried, grilled, stewed, in vinaigrettes or salads, accompanied by a wide variety of sauces, you’ll find cod dishes in many different guises.

The north of Galicia

A Coruña and Lugo  are two provinces where the fishermen bring in what many consider to be the king of shellfish: the barnacle. We suggest you try them on the Costa da Morte area (Camino de Finisterre) and the north of Lugo province. The Costa da Morte area is also outstanding for wedge shell clams and the mussels which grow along its coastal cliffs. Wedge clams are generally served as a first course in an earthenware dish. The quality of these mussels is acknowledged through the Mexillón de Galicia Designation of Origin. Before leaving A Coruña, try octopus à la mugardesa in the village of Mugardos. You’ll love these dishes for the contrast between their simple preparation and rich, juicy flavour.

The south of Galicia: O Grove and the Rias Baixas

O Grove is a fishing village nicknamed “shellfish paradise”. It is situated near the Camino Portugues in the province of Pontevedra and every October is the setting for a wonderful Festival in Praise of Shellfish. O Grove has a wonderful location in the Rías Baixas estuary region, meaning that there is good seafood to be had all year round. Especially good are the small crabs, spider crab, lobster and crayfish. The whole area around O Grove is packed with shellfish beds.

A little further north in Muros and Noia, on the Celtic Camino, the specialities are cockles and clams. If you fancy trying these gastronomic delights in quiet surroundings, head for Ons Island and the idyllic setting of the Illas Atlánticas National Park. Here you’ll fall in love with the bruños which is a kind of spider crab, and the octopus casserole.

To accompany your food

The experts say that there is no better combination than a good platter of seafood and shellfish washed down with local wine. Galicia has a wonderful range of wines with their own designation of origin (D.O.), which are the perfect accompaniment to seafood.

Albariño  is one of the most popular wines from the Rias Baixas D.O., a delicately coloured white wine that is dry, fresh and delicious, and fairly low in alcohol content making it the perfect and affable companion to a Galician seafood lunch.

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