Ask any holiday making Spaniard why they are in Galicia or Asturias and within the top three reasons for their journey they will certainly list the cuisine. Whether it is the delicious fresh seafood, the fruity and crisp Albariño, the Empanada de Atún or the Tarta de Santiago everyone is in agreement that the chefs of the north know how to cook.
We went over to Spain last weekend, a whistle stop trip to meet up with an architect that we've had doing an architectural survey of the house, and to let my Mum have her first look at the house in its current pre-building site state.
We stayed at Hotel Casa Paulino in Taramundi (over the border in Asturias) because it is cheap, only ten minutes from the house, and good value for money. While we were there we took a couple of evening meals in the village. After a couple of trips we'd already worked out that a starter and a main course each was a sure-fire way to indigestion so our new plan is to share a starter and then have a main each. While this would probably lead to you being thrown out of many English restaurants, the 'tapas' mentality of the Spanish seem to accept this as normal practice.
We had a fantastic starter one night, shared between the three of us, and for just 10,50 €, a 'Selection of Asturian Cheeses'. They arrived on a wooden cheeseboard with six big chunks of cheese, each sitting atop a slice of apple and centred with a small jar of the most fragrant and sweetest honey you could imagine. The waiter suggested we start with the mildest cheese fist and work our way to the strongest, taking a piece of apple between each to clear the palate. We'd eaten three of the cheeses before I remembered to take the photo below.
The cheeses are made with either cow, sheep and goats milk with a diversity of flavours and all made in unique ways with unique ingredients. Locals say that the taste varies from sheep-to-sheep and goat-to-goat and each cheese taken on elements from its environment including the caves where the strongest Cabrales are kept to mature.
By the time that the three of us had enjoyed the cheese, honey and fantastic local bread we were hoping that the main courses would be less substantial, or there would be no hope of us finishing them.
While Amanda and Mum had ordered steaks (and massive chunks of meat they were), I'd gone for another very local speciality, Fabas con Almejas (beans with clams) in a lovely thick broth full of flavour.
This dish is an absolute delight. The meatiness of the local faba beans, the freshness of the clams and the mixture of stock ingredients that make up the broth. All served together in a big tureen with crusty bread. But there were repercussions, as the poem says;
Beans, beans, the musical fruit.
The more you eat, the more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you feel.
So let's eat beans for every meal!