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Eating in Asturias

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Offline nick

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« on: August 27, 2007, 23:59 PM »
Hi all,

For lack of any wildlife trip reports from my trip to Asturias here's a very brief eating guide instead from my two weeks there, during which I spent much of my time eating and then recovering from the copious dishes they serve. Necessarily, I'm also including Asturian names as these are most often shown on the menu. I've also posted here on the web and will be adding to it over the next few months. http://www.iberianature.com/material/spain_food/asturias_food.html

The simplicity and excellence of Asturian food is based on first-rate fresh ingredients from the sea, market garden and pasture, and a cuisine as yet untainted by urbane pretensions. A word of warning, helpings here are huge, so you are advised to under order, or pack plenty of Rennies.

The fabada is the archetypical and almost national Asturian dish, today found throughout Spain . The basis of the stew is a variety of large white beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris ) known as fabes in Asturian and fabas in Spanish, accompanied by pork shoulder (lacón), morcilla, chorizo and saffron. As with other Iberian potages (cocido madrileño, escudella) the pork products are taken out after cooking and served up separately. Variations on the theme include fabes con almejas, fabes with game. Fabes are protected by a denominación de origen and are possibly the most expensive pulses in Spain, with the good stuff going for 15 euros or more a kilo in Asturias in 2007. The fabada possibly originated at the end of the 19th century as a sophistication of the equally delicious pote, a hearty and wetter stew made with your white beans, cabbage, other vegetables and the usual pork fauna.

Seafood and fish are excellent. I particularly enjoyed the hake in cider sauce (merluza a la cidra), and tuna stew. Sardines (parrotaxas in Asturian and anchovies (bocartes Asturian; boquerón Spanish) are everywhere and usually very good. Highly recommended though I didn't try them are caldereta (fish stew), scorpionfish ( tiñosu Asturian - cabracho – Spanish) and monkish (pixín Asturian; rape Spanish).

Beef is unsurprisingly superb and protected by a denominación de origin. I also had a wonderfully tender cabrito (kid-goat) dish, and some delicious wild boar. Free range chicken (pitu de calella) and eggs are widely available.

Tapas/raciones/dishes. As noted above these come in very generous portions. Typical Spanish dishes are remarkably absent. I saw one bravas and no tortilla de patatas in the two weeks I was there. Incidentally, Asturians also do a famous sea urchin omelette which I unfortunately did not chance upon.

Patatas con cabrales.
Tortu: Maiz cake with a variety of fillings minced meat (picadillo) tuna, cheese and more.
Cebollas rellenas con atún. Onions stuffed with tuna.
Beef cutlets in a cabrales sauce
Chrorizo a la cidra, a classic Asturian dish present throughout Spain , though in my opinion overrated.
Desserts Tarta de queso – wonderful, home-made and varied. Try it and try it again Asturian rice pudding (arroz con leche) is also well worth trying.

Cider is your traditional drink in Asturias with an almost nationalistic culture growing its ritual pouring. This is a very dry cider, and unlike French or English natural ciders, uses predominantly acidic apples, rather than sweet or bittersweet ones, resulting in a low alcohol content of 3º to 5º. The best places to drink cider are the sidrerias (they are also great places to eat) . Here the cider is served by an escanciador, usually a man, a waiter expert in pouring the drink. He moves from table to table pouring a small amount at a time (known as a culín ), The escanciador raises the bottle above his head and expertly pours a thin stream of cider into a slanted glass, usually though not always, not splashing the punter. According to Asturian etiquette, this must be drunk immediately by the drinker before the cider loses its carbonation. Anything you do not drink is thrown into a wooden bucket placed on the woodchip-strewn floor. The glass is then passed back to the pourer who pours out another culín, and passes it to another drinker. As such it serves a social function of sharing. If you want to hold onto you glass and drink you cider in sips you are advised to order your own bottle as hogging in seriously frowned upon.

Asturias is justly famous, in Spain at least, for its cheeses, many of which are almost only available in the small area where they are made, usually with traditional, artisan methods in small family farms. Others such as casin, cabrales and a fuega´l pitu are more widely found. There are claims that Asturias has the widest range of cheeses in the world per square kilometre.

Most widely known is cabrales, simply one of the world' great smelly cheeses, but don't be fooled by the commonly held perception in the rest of Spain that the smellier and fouler the Cabrales the better. Here like good Roquefort or Stilton, its strength is in it mildness. It is used extensively in cooking as a sauce for potatoes, breaded cutlets and steak. Cabrales is made from blended cow's, goat's and sheep's milk - in winter cow's milk, and left to mature for six months in natural limestone caverns. The use of worms in the production of cabrales to improve the taste is a modern myth.

Nick
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2007, 12:24 PM »
Hi Nick
Sorry you did not manage to find the sea urchin omelete, it is really excellent, I tried it for the first time this year, it has a superb taste of the sea about it, mind you I love Sea Urchin anyway, it looks awful (Grey jelly0 but taste superb, though best for me steamed for a few minutes before serving, but of course they can be eaten raw. There is a restaurant in the Puerto Deportiva, Gijon, in an old square where they are a specialty. As you say the food in Asturias is superb, but the warning about quantity is true, usually 6 of us order for 4 and it works out about right. We are back up to Asturias next week for three days (Wedding Anniversary treat) at Tapia de Casariego, there is a fish restaurant in Ribadeo, just across the Ria that is excellent. i will report back on this.
Regards
Dave
« Last Edit: August 28, 2007, 13:34 PM by Dave »

Offline nick

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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2007, 13:21 PM »
Thanks for that Dave,

Isn't sea urchin only available at a certain time of the year? - it is in the Med - in the winter
I wrote this on sea urchins last year
http://www.iberianature.com/material/spainseaurchin.html
Nick
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2007, 18:46 PM »
Hi Nick
I think the season is around November, so perhaps my omelette was made with frozen ones, still it tasted great.
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2007, 01:26 AM »
Greetings Nick,
Thanx for that! Great morceau!
Far more readable than mine - where you go for clarity, I go for depth ... or weight!

We obviously don't frequent the same kind of establishment, 'cos I've never seen
Quote
a wooden bucket placed on the woodchip-strewn floor
.
And as for not getting splashed ...

Regs.,
Technopat
Ps.
Have a great time in Asturias, Dave! I take it
Quote
We are back up to Asturias next week for three days (Wedding Anniversary treat)
refers to your own, in which case doubly so!
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline nick

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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2007, 11:32 AM »
I've just found it, but not read it yet. More on Asturias food from Technopat here http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,151.msg5058.html#msg5058
« Last Edit: August 29, 2007, 11:34 AM by nick »
Nick
http://iberianature.com/barcelona/history-of-barcelona/spanish-civil-war-tour-in-barcelona/
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Offline nick

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« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2007, 11:44 AM »
I take it you didn't starve. Much more comprehensive and knowledgeable than my effort. If you don't mind I'll be incorporating elements of this.

In my admittedly limited experience I've eaten somewhat better in Asturias than in Galicia, but to be fair on my trip to the latter my budget was lower, and was probably eating more in tourist areas.

Thanks for explaining the compangu

You're not a cheese man?
Nick
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2007, 13:18 PM »
Greetings Nick,
Help yourself!
My experience Galicia/Asturias is similar to yours, but Asturian cooking does seem to have more variety. By the w., cider article in the pipeline - proofreading stage, but will have to wait till mid-September.
Regs.,
Technopat

Re. your
Quote
For those of us that like/love/adore cheese, there’s no need to go into more detail. And for those of you who don’t, ...
:dancing:
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Dave

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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2007, 13:56 PM »
Hi everybody
My Sister in Law, whose parent are Asturian, although she was born and has lived in Leon all her life, reckons that Asturian meat is not up to much, compared say with Lechazo from Guadalajara. I must say I disagree. there is a restaurant in Albandi, near Candas, called the Torrontagui where Cordero de Estaca is a specialty. The Estaca is a fire pit and the lamb is hung on the sides to roast, whole halves of Lamb. also the beef is superb, done on a grill in front of the fire as well as other dishes. One of the waitresses speaks perfect English, as she married an Englishman and lived there for many years. Book before calling as it is very popular. also wonderful Cider,Natural, served as Nick described.
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2007, 14:56 PM »
Greetings Dave,
With all due respect to your sister-in-l., as with all/most comparisons, rhetoric plays an important role: she's comparing meat from Asturias in general with lechazo - for iberianatureforumers not familiar with the term, a PDO (more here at Wikipedia) roast suckling lamb slaughtered before it's 35 days old.
She might just as well compare a Vega Sicilia with your local bodega's garafa wine. Both are excellent for what you want. Or can pay.
Need any more stuff you can use in evidence against her?  :technodevil:

Regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline nick

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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2007, 17:46 PM »
Hi Technopat,

Where is the cabrales post you speak of? Can't find it.

Nick
Nick
http://iberianature.com/barcelona/history-of-barcelona/spanish-civil-war-tour-in-barcelona/
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2007, 18:01 PM »
Greetings Nick,
To be found at
this great thread on the great iberiantureforum food board

Regs.
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline nick

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« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2007, 21:04 PM »
got yer
Nick
http://iberianature.com/barcelona/history-of-barcelona/spanish-civil-war-tour-in-barcelona/
Spanish Civil War Tours in Barcelona
http://www.iberianature.com/
A guide to the environment, climate, wildlife, & nature of Spain
The Amazon/Forum Bookshop - lend us a hand
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/shop/index.htm
And also now The Natural History of Britain
http://iberianature.com/brita