Blog

Galician Cuisine

Like much of traditional Spanish food, Galician meals are often simple, hearty, and humble. Despite being one of the historically poorest areas in Spain, Galicia is rich in quality ingredients. It has over 1500 km of coastline, and seafood is quite prominent in dishes here. It is also the wettest part of Spain, nicknamed ‘green Spain’ for its lush valleys and countryside.

galicia-farmland

The fertile land means growing fruits and vegetables is simple, whether it’s peppers and potatoes, beets and beans, or nuts, corn, wheat, and mushrooms, among many others (and recently, kiwis!). Many animals are also raised for prized meat, among which are beef, eaten as veal, and also poultry and pork have a place in the iconic dishes. Cheese is also a pride of Galicia, with Tetilla, Ulloa, San Simón and O Cebreiro all receiving Denominación de Origen title protection. Finally, sweets and baked goods round out the buffet, and they are not lacking. The food tradition is strong with over 300 food festivals per year.

Spanish eating culture

 

A common way of eating lunch in Spain is the Menu del Dia, a fixed three-course meal whose tradition originates from the time of the Spanish dictator Franco. Though each restaurant is slightly different, most will serve appetizers and bread, then a first and second plate. This is followed by a dessert or coffee. With a price typically between 10-14 Euros, this is an excellent way of filling yourself up on tasty food for cheap.

In Spanish culture, large lunches are typically eaten around two in the afternoon, and smaller dinners sometime after nine. As this can be off-putting to many differently-accustomed foreigners doing The Way of St. James, many eateries are open earlier, so feeding yourself won’t be a problem. The only difficulty will be deciding what to try! Compiled here are iconic, authentic dishes in Galicia, worthy of trying during your trip.

menu_del_dia_01_5558585578

Small bites

Pimientos de Padrón
These are small, green peppers grown south of Santiago de Compostela (those doing the Portuguese way will pass through the town named Padrón, where they are grown). The peppers are said to have been grown in Galicia since the 16th century and are harvested each summer. They are typically eaten in small portions, sauteed or blistered and covered in flaky salt. They are similar in size and shape to the Japanese Shishito pepper, and likewise most are mild but some are decidedly not. Pimientos de Padrón are less grassy in taste.

Served as a tapa, roasted and salted pimientos de Padrón are delicious
Served as a tapa, roasted and salted pimientos de Padrón are delicious

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Empanadas
Ubiquitous in Spanish-speaking countries, empanadas originate from Galicia. Meaning wrapped-in-bread, empanadas offer a moist filling covered in soft, flaky pastry. Galician empanadas are huge–they’re cut into squares or slices before being served. The filling typically includes meat–classically tuna, but also pork, cod, and beef. Accompanying the meat in the filling are sauteed onions and tomatoes. Empanadas work well as a mid-day snack, or may be included as the first plate in a fixed-menu lunch.

empanadas_gallegas-diversia
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Queixo

Queixo, or ‘cheese’ in the local language of Gallego, is typically eaten with honey or a paste made from quince fruits. The most famous are Tetilla and Ulloa, which are mild and soft cow’s milk cheeses. San Simón is an aged cheese with a smokier taste and O Cebreiro cheese is cured and even firmer.

1200px-queso_tetilla-mercado

Seafood

The Galician approach to seafood is simple, with few ingredients that let the fruits of the sea shine. Fish, crustaceans, and molluscs all have a place in the dishes of Galicia. The best way to sample the variety is to order a mariscada, a large platter of seafood. Though they can be pricey, they let you sample the available diversity.

mariscada

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Vieiras
Scallops are symbolic in Galicia, being associated with The Way of St. James. Many pilgrims carry a scallop shell with them. The sweet, tender scallops are a regional delicacy and are typically served in one of two ways. The most simple way to prepare them is steamed and served in their half-shell with a splash of wine or lemon juice. They can also be topped with breadcrumbs and baked in a gratin style.

Mexillons y ameixas
Mussels and clams are often steamed in a white wine until the shells open, then finished in a sauce of tomato, olive oil, and herbs.

4339252291_291ba6d237_b

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pulpo

Octopus is a key ingredient in this part of Spain. Octopus is an interesting food in that it must either be cooked fast and hot, or simmered for a long time, to avoid a rubbery and chewy texture. In Galicia, both methods are used for different plates. The most iconic dish is polbo á feira, or fair-style octopus. The octopus is traditionally beaten to tenderize, then cooked in a copper pot with paprika, olive oil, and potatoes. It’s served cut into medallions on a wooden board. The grilled octopus is called polbo á prancha and not as widespread.

polbo_a_feira
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Merluza
Served as merluza a la Gallega, merluza (also known as hake) is a flaky white fish. It’s boiled with potatoes and served in a garlic and paprika sauce.
8210991728_6f82f7e757_k

Meats and Stews

Lacón con grelos is a hearty dish of pork shoulder with greens. Salted pork and chorizo are cooked with turnip tops and potatoes.

lacon_con_grelos_cuenca
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Caldo gallego is a winter stew of broth packed with potatoes, beans, turnip tops or cabbage, chorizo or other pieces of pork, and creamy pork fat.

Churrasco is the Galician take on barbecue. A recent influx of immigrants from Argentina has brought the tradition of grilling pork or beef.

churrasco_a

Sweets

Filloas are often served sweet, but need not be so. Like French crepes, they can be stuffed with honey or jam, or eaten savory with chorizo or accompanying another dish. The batter is versatile and can be made with milk or blood.

as_filloas_24631260401

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tarta de Santiago is another iconic Galician food. It is a dense, crumbly cake, sweet from the ground almonds and sugar. The cake dates back to the middle ages. The top is decorated by powdered sugar sifted around a reverse stencil of the cross of St. James.

4467497071_e95273b21c_b

albarino

Galician Wines

Overview

Climatic conditions in Galicia are notably different than in most of Spain, and the cool, wet climate is closer to parts of France, Germany, or the UK. As a result, Galician wine is different in character from the typical Spanish wine. The majority of wine produced in Galicia is white. The wines are lower in alcohol and more light and refreshing in mouth-feel, unlike the more classic heavy Spanish red wines. There are five name-protected wine areas in Galicia signified by the DO label, or the Denominación de Origen, meaning that the wines are tested for quality and consistency. The most famous of which is the Rías Baixas. Though wineries in Galicia do produce some red wines, notably from the Mencía grape, the most-grown grape varieties nowadays are still the white Albariño and Godello. Though bright and acidic, wines produced in Galicia are meant to be consumed within a year or two after bottling.

History

Wine has been grown here for over 2000 years, since the time of the Roman presence in the Iberian Peninsula. Not much is known about the early history of the grapes brought to Galicia, but Albariño has been grown since the 12th century. Wine was exported to England and Italy starting in the 16th century, but in the late 1800s grape phylloxera hit Galicia, damaging the grape plants and stunting output. The area was slow to recover and many Gallegos left Galicia during the 19th and 20th centuries due to bleak economic conditions. Wine production and quality declined as a result. Wines were still grown In the 1960s and 1970s grape production increased, and the traditional grape varieties, such as Godello, became more widespread. Spain’s entrance into the European Union in 1986 brought funding for Galicia and wine making has reemerged as a significant trade.

Denominación de Origen

In 1988, Rías Baixas gained name-protection. Rías Baixas, or ‘low rivers’ in Gallego, refers to the area where many of the large Galician rivers enter into the Atlantic Ocean, close to Portugal’s northern border. The granitic soil and proximity to the ocean lead to a mineral component with a hint of brine, and flavors of citrus, stone fruits, tropical fruits, and apple.

Ribeiro is inland from Rías Baixas, with an elevation between about 75 to 400 meters (250 to 1300 feet), and grapes are often grown in terraces to deal with the steep slopes. Wines from Ribeiro taste more of fresh fruit and have a stronger body than those from Rías Baixas. Ribeiro was the first area in Galicia to receive DO recognition, in 1957.

Ribeira Sacra sits between the region of Ribeiro and Valdeorras and its steep hills boast terraces with a low yield but high quality of wine. Due to the geographic constraints, terraces are small and harvesting must be done completely by hand. Red wine is more of a focus in this region than in other parts of Galicia: red wines from Ribeira Sacra are strawberry to cherry colored with an aroma of fruit and flower.

Monterrei is further inland, and lies right against the border with Portugal. At its high altitude of about 400 to 450 meters (1300 to 1500 feet) and long, dry summers, wine from the area shows qualities of the wines grown in the Spanish central plateau. Though it received DO classification in the 1980s, the classification was later suspended until 1994. Monterrei is the least-known wine area in Galicia.

Valdeorras, or valley of gold, was formerly a slate mining region and this is reflected in the minerality of the wines. This region is the furthest from the Atlantic ocean and its influence, with some of the driest climate in Galicia. The predominant grape is the indigenous Godello, and wines from this region have characters of the French Chardonnays from Burgundy.

Orujo

Orujo, or Aguardiente (fiery water), is a liquor made from the residue of the wine making process. Grape peels and seeds are fermented in vats and distilled to produce a spirit with an alcohol content over 50%. A Galician tradition is to make a beverage, called queimada, by adding lemon peel, sugar, and ground coffee to a bowl, then pouring Orujo on top. The drink is allowed to burn until the flame turns blue, and is then drunk.

katedra tui

The Portuguese Way

The Portuguese Way consists of 634 kilometers, the distance between Lisbon and Santiago de Compostela.

In the middle of the 12th century, Portugal was proclaimed an independent country, widening the roads that lead in and out of the country, thus making The Portuguese Way possible. Kings such as Manuel the Fortunate traveled The Way and he even did so twice, along with his head priests.
Sancho the II, king of Portugal, alongside hundreds of pilgrims have made their path and paved it for future visitors. They did it without the help of modern navigation systems, using the stars as a guide and their strength of faith to keep them going.

The Portuguese way is the easiest of the paths as there are no steep hills to overcome. It is a picturesque road which runs through fields, age-old forests, small villages and historic towns such as Coimbra and Porto in Portugal, as well as Pontevedra in Spain.
It passes over medieval bridges that were built for the purpose of the way. Running beneath those ancient bridges, the rivers are the very life-force of the wondrous nature surrounding you on your way, letting you experience the unique culture both of Portugal and Spain.

polnoczny szlak plaza

The Northern Way

The Northern trail starts in the town of Irun, which in Basque means “fortified town” and is the old Roman name of Oiasso. The Way is 875 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela. This path is a true spiritual adventure, running through the beauty that is the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. The scenery is one of marvels, age-old cliffs withstanding the elements and the harsh mistress that is the sea, surrounded by beaches with golden sands. What follows as we delve deeper into the country, are evergreen forests and the small streams that nourish them.

This path isn’t as frequent as the others may be, with 13,000 visitors per year, but it is truly a magical experience that lets you take in the landscape and the diversity that is nature!

historia szlaku sw jakuba

The Roots of The Way

The Trail or The Way of St. James, also known as Camino de Santiago, is a series of paths running through the whole of Europe. They cross ancient cities and villages which are now almost forgotten by modern society. The paths lead through time-honoured forests, majestic rivers and roads leading to the edge of the Cantabrian coast.  They all conclude at one place, Santiago de Compostela.

The Way is over 1200 years old, and its history begins in the year of 812, when relics belonging to St. James, a disciple of Christ, were found and recovered. From that moment onwards, the city of Santiago de Compostela has seen and welcomed many influential minds, pilgrims, travelers, scholars, spiritualists and kings. That, in its own way, has had a positive impact on the economy, gastronomy and culture in the surrounding areas.

The most famous way is The French Way, beginning in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. However it doesn’t mean that the rest of them are any less interesting. No matter which path you choose, they all have unique charm and magic as each is so different to the other. Unmatched scenery and beauty await any who wish to endeavor on this journey of self-discovery, conquering the roads on which kings and pilgrims marched upon hundreds of years ago.

the french way

The French Way

Our journey begins in the picturesque 13th century French village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. That is where the French Way, and our story, begins.

The village grounded by the armies of Richard the Lionheart, raised and restored shortly after by the kings of Navarre, where it stands until today–a true jewel, located in France 8km from the border of Spain. Pied de Port translated means “foot of the pass” from Pyrenean French. It was, and still is, the first stop for all pilgrims marching on The Way to Santiago de Compostela. The last chance to rest and resupply before entering the arduous 800 kilometer path.

The road leads us though the French Basque and into Spain, through the regions of Navarre, the beautiful wine regions of La Rioja, cutting through the heart of Castilla y Leon right to the evergreen forests and hills of Galicia, home to the tomb of Apostle Saint James the Great. Every year The Way sees 200,000 pilgrims who seek to explore and enrich their experience by traveling just like the pilgrims of old. Walk the path and tread the soil where millions of pilgrims, travellers, explorers, and adventurers have crossed.

They have left their footprint; it’s time you leave yours.