Recipes inspired from Galicia, in northern Spain

* Vegetable and lentil soup~
* Meatballs in a sweet tomato sauce
* Spanish tuna pie
* Santiago almond cake

Today’s collections of recipes are inspired from a recent trip to Galicia, in northern Spain. Much of the food in the area has not changed over the centuries. 

Solid, old recipes that have been passed through the generations are still used in every tavern and tapas bar. 

In countryside gardens, there are large sections dedicated to growing vegetables and fruit, chickens roam free in the little hillside villages and each day is hailed by cockerels crowing at dawn.

In small private Albergues, the local hostels, a large communal meal is cooked in the evening with the bounty from the garden and surrounding farms. 

Throughout my stay there I had bright yellow tortillas cooked with free range eggs, soft intensely flavoured meatballs, paper thin slices of cured meats served with wedges of sweet melon and wooden plates piled with sliced octopus that was dressed in sweet paprika oil and served with chunks of crunchy bread.

Recipes inspired from Galicia, in northern Spain

At times it is easy to mistake the surrounding flora for that of the Irish countryside, with hedgerows of blackberries, fields of clover and forests of oak trees, then the intense sun gains heat throughout the day and you are reminded that you are in Spain.

The tuna pie recipe here is something that was served from early in the morning in local cafes, it is often eaten for breakfast. 

I usually preferred it at lunchtime with a bowl of green salad. 

Meatballs and lentil stew are popular recipes throughout Spain and tend to be firm family favourites. 

You can experiment with the spices and flavourings in both if you wish. I add a little honey to the meatballs and their sauce. 

As well as the sweet smoked paprika, rosemary is also nice or a small bunch of thyme.

Santiago cake dates back to the Middle Ages, in 2010 it was award protected status. 

This celebrates its uniqueness and stipulates that must be made with at least 33% almonds and only in the region of Galicia to officially hold that title. 

The cake is unusual as it generally does not have a pastry base but the bottom layer hardens in cooking to allow the tart to be sliced and served. 

The light dusting of sugar, with the relief of the cross of Saint James gives the cake its name. 

I have included a recipe that has some zest in it, as I think it cuts through the sweetness, but I met bakers who omit this and add a little sweet wine instead.

Vegetable and lentil soup

Recipes inspired from Galicia, in northern Spain

  • 300g of puy or red lentils
  • a dash of olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 boneless pork chops, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 100g of chorizo sausage, cut into thin slices

METHOD

Soak the lentils for one hour. Heat the olive oil into a large pot over a medium heat. Add the vegetables and cumin and sauté for three to five minutes.

Add the pork cubes and chorizo, and sauté for three more minutes, making sure that the meat doesn’t stick.

Add just enough water to completely cover the vegetables and meat.

Bring gently to the boil then add the lentils and reduce to a simmer until they are cooked, which will take about one hour.

Check the pot every 15-20 minutes. Add water if needed. When the lentils are fully cooked, season to taste. Serve in bowls with crunchy bread drizzled in olive oil.

Meatballs in a sweet tomato sauce

Recipes inspired from Galicia, in northern Spain

  • a dash of olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 5 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp of chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp of honey
  • 500g of beef, very finely ground
  • 50g of breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbs of parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 tsp of nutmeg, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • a dash of milk
  • flour for dusting
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 120g of tomato puree
  • 2 tsp of smoked paprika

METHOD

Heat a dash of oil and sauté one of the onions until it has turned translucent.

Add one of the chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes, and1 teaspoon of honey. Allow to simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime mix the breadcrumbs, beef, parmesan and nutmeg together.

Stir the two together once the tomatoes has cooled and add a little milk if needed. Form into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Roll them in flour and set aside in the fridge. Heat another dash of oil and sauté the remaining onion, add the garlic and fry until it is stating to turn golden.

Then add the rest of the tomatoes and the teaspoon of honey. Stir in the tomato puree, paprika and teaspoon of the chilli flakes.

Taste and season. Allow to simmer for twenty minutes. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in the frying pan and sauté the meatballs until lightly browned.

As they are done, lift them out and place them in the sauce. Serve with crunchy bread or rice.

Spanish tuna pie

Recipes inspired from Galicia, in northern Spain

  • a dash of olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 small potatoes
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 2 tbs of tomato purée
  • 280mls of stock
  • 180g tin of tuna, drained
  • 500g of shortcut pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten

METHOD

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion until translucent and add the garlic, potato and carrots. Stir until the potato has softened. Add the paprika, oregano and tomato puree and cook for five minutes.

Add the stock and allow to simmer until the stock is absorbed. Add in the tuna. Roll the pastry large enough to fit into the base of a 9 inch loose base tin.

Grease the tin and gently press the pastry down and fill with the tuna mixture. Roll the rest of the pastry and lay it on top.

Brush the edges with the beaten egg and pinch the two layers together all around the edge of the tin.

Brush the top of the pie with the rest of the egg and make a hole in the centre. Bake at 180 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until golden.

This is nice served with a fresh green salad.

Santiago almond cake

Recipes inspired from Galicia, in northern Spain

  • 225g of whole almonds, skins removed
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 155g of icing sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon

METHOD

4 drops almond extract Blitz the almonds in a food processor until fine. Beat egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy.

Add the lemon and orange zest and almond extract. Add the ground almonds and mix in.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks and fold them into the almond mix.

Grease an 11in spring form or loose bottom tin and pour in cake mixture. Bake at 180D for 40 minutes. Let the cake cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar. If you wish cut out a paper cross before dusting and lay it on cake.


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