The girls had already been asking aloud why we needed to drive for hours into the wilds of Galicia to find what sounded to them like a home from home. Eventually down a winding country lane in a woodland clearing, we found O Paco, an enchanting 200 year old stone farmhouse with characteristic scalloped slate roof. The owners, who didn’t speak a word of English, were waiting greet us and proudly showed us round the grounds. They indicated that we could help ourselves to beans, chilli, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs and other fresh produce from the vegetable garden. On the way back up to the house we passed apple trees, raspberries and wild mint, and the henhouse where 5 hens and an impressive looking Galician cockerel strutted their stuff. We collected the warm freshly laid eggs from the nests and made our way towards the 200 year old farmhouse which was furnished traditionally, with simple country furniture, jamon and other cured hams hung over the open fireplace in the sittingroom. We were shown each room individually and finally we arrived in the kitchen where they had thoughtfully laid out some wonderful cured meat, a basket of fresh produce, some fruit and crusty bread from the bakery in the nearby village of Castro de Ribeiras de Lea. They had also gone to considerable efforts to collect tourist information in English, and maps of the area so we could explore. Further exploration into the outbuildings revealed a huge trampoline, a billiard table and a large selection of games. The pool was deep enough to dive comfortably and there were lots of seats, umbrellas and masses of comfy cushions to relax. The owners, having heard of our interest in farming and food production, had organised for us to visit a local farm where the owners Pepe and Maria Tajero Lorenzo make cheese and bake bread in the traditional way in their wood burning oven. They have a 40 hectare farm -some cows, sheep and pigs and farm primarily to supply their own needs and the needs of their local market. They had worked hard through the years and now semi-retired had a very comfortable lifestyle and farmhouse. They were very conscious of the value of the traditional way of life and the importance of passing on these values to their children and grandchildren. Like the majority of their neighbours they grew their own vegetables, had hens, milk from their cows and reared a few pigs. The pigs were fattened from scraps and home- produced grain and were killed around November. All the neighbours helped to cure the meat, the hams were salted for jamon, the shoulders cured, the streaky pork made into pancetta. Less choice cuts were made into salchicha and chorizo, which were filled into the intestines. The fillet was cured to make loma, blood and other pieces of pork and offal were made into a blood sausage called morcilla. The tail, ears, feet, were all cured and relished. The head was made into a delicious confection similar to our brawn. Every scrap was used and shared with family, neighbours and friends who reciprocated when they were curing their own pigs. This immediately conjured up memories of my childhood in Co Laois and holidays in Co Tipperary where the ritual of killing and curing the bacon and making black and white pudding was the highlight of every year.
Garlic Soup – Sopa de Ajo
1¾ pints (1 litre) water 4 cloves garlic 1 teaspoon sweet paprika 6 teaspoons olive oil 2 eggs, (or one per person) 16 slices toasted white bread 4 thin slices Serrano ham Put the water on to boil in a large saucepan. Chop the garlic and brown in the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the paprika, being careful not to let it burn. Mix a little of the paprika with some water and add it to the boiling water. Boil for a few minutes. Cut the ham into strips, fry lightly, then add to the water. Toast the bread and use to line a soup tureen. Add the eggs, 1 per person, then pour on the hot soup. Allow the eggs to cook a little, then serve immediately.
Hake with Clams and Peas – Merluza con Almejas Y Guisantes
12 pieces of hake, each weighing about 5oz (150g)
16 teaspoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic
1 small glass white wine
10oz (275g) peas
3 teaspoons chopped parsley
2 hard boiled eggs
flour for frying
Chop the garlic and parsley very finely. Wash the clams under cold water.
Hardboil the eggs, peel and cut into quarters.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic. Coat the hake in flour and add a
little salt. When the garlic starts to brown add the fish to the pan.
Stir the contents with a zig zag movement. After 5 minutes turn the fish
over and stir again. Gradually add the white wine, then, still stirring, add
about 10 tablespoons of water or fish stock if available. Finally, add the
peas, followed by the hard-boiled eggs. Stir again, then add the chopped
Serve with triangles of fried bread.
Beef with Pine Kernel and Olive Sauce – Carne con Salad de Pinones Y
18oz (500g) beef cut into 1½-2 inch (4-5cm) chunks 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2 medium tomatoes 4 cloves garlic 2oz (50g) pine kernels 4 sprigs of parsley 3½ fl.ozs (100ml) olive oil 1 hard boiled egg 14fl.ozs (400ml) water 1 teasp. paprika 3½ oz (100g) pitted green olives Heat the oil in a large casserole. Fry the beef until it starts to brown, then remove from the casserole and put to one side. Using the same oil, lightly fry the chopped onion, then add the paprika, followed by the water, fried beef, olives and some salt. Cover the casserole and cook over a low heat until the meat is tender, 45mins – 1 hour. Meanwhile, heat the tomatoes and the garlic, unpeeled, in a non-stick pan, turning them frequently. When they are ready, peel the cloves of garlic, and peel and remove the seeds from the tomatoes. In a mortar, mash the pine kernels, parsley, garlic and tomato flesh, then add the mixture to the meat when it is cooked. Finally, finely chop the boiled egg and sprinkle it over the other ingredients. Boil for 5 minutes and serve.
Lemon Ice-cream – Helado de Limon
9 fl.ozs (250ml) milk 1 egg 5oz (150g) sugar juice of 1 lemon zest of ½ lemon Separate the egg and beat the yolk with the milk. Gradually mix in the sugar, then the lemon juice and zest. Beat the egg white until stiff and add to the other ingredients. Put in the freezer. When the mixture starts to freeze, remove from the freezer and beat again. Put it back in the freezer until it is ready. Meanwhile, chill the dishes in which the icecream will be served. Decorate with mint leaves.
Basque Lemonade – Ardaurgozatza
Wash 8 lemons thoroughly, then peel off the rind without the pith. Leave to soak in 2 litres of water for 24 hours. The following day, add 1 litre of red wine and 1 litre of white wine, both chilled. Mix well and chill thoroughly. Serve right through dinner, from the appetizers to the dessert. Coquitos 9 oz (250g) desiccated coconut 9 oz (250g) sugar 3 eggs Beat the eggs, add the sugar and then the coconut. Mix well. Grease a baking sheet with oil and spoon on the mixture in small mounds. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 160C/325F/ regulo 3, until golden.