Many people visiting Spain never find their way to Galicia. The argument they often use for not going there is the weather.
“What” they say, “do we do there if it rains all day long?”
Well let us begin there. It does not rain all day, every day in Galicia. Sure, it is called ‘green Spain’ for a reason. But the sun shines often. I say, whatever the weather, get to Galicia.
And, whatever the weather, eat the food there. It is among the very best in the entire culinary orientated country.
So, if you go to Galicia and it rains, either cook at home using the very best local produce or, better still, go to a bar or restaurant and sample the local cooking.
I was once taken to a restaurant in Galicia that served quite possibly the best food I have enjoyed in the country. I only wish I could remember what the place was called and exactly where it is. That is so frustrating.
But you are spoiled for choice in Galicia. Not just with good food but also with great white wine.
And it seemed to me on my tour of Galicia that there were no shortage of splendid locations in which to eat. The food amid the splendour of Santiago de Compostela is, considering this is one almighty tourist destination, very good value for money.
Pontevedra is a favourite destination of mine in Galicia. It retains the title as the place where I ate the best ever serving of seafood soup to pass my lips. A sunken dish packed full of the very best seafood landed locally.
La Coruna is another location in which you can experience traditional Galician dishes. Meals such as Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician octopus in paprika) or Caldeirada (Galician fish stew) or, on days when a cold wind is blowing in from the Atlantic ocean, Gallego (Galician soup). This soup is packed with fresh vegetables, beans, chorizo and a ham knuckle.
A signature food in Galicia is the Empanada. I’ve known British visitors say these are every bit as good as authentic Cornish pasties. Outside of Galicia I might argue that point.
But in this part of Spain they are a speciality with a variety of fillings and I have sampled Empanadas that are every bit as tasty and filling as anything I have eaten in another windswept destination, Cornwall.
It is fish and seafood ‘foodies’ who do best in Galicia. Menus are full of both classic and inventive dishes using the produce of the seas.
Chefs here adapt their menus for the seasons. More than any other Spanish region I have visited, they cook according to the expected weather and, of course, in line with what is in season.
Marcelo Tejedor is a chef in Santiago Compostela and he has written about the menus he serves in summer and winter.
He said: “On a cool but rainy summer day, we could begin with an anchovy pâté, followed by crayfish soup, an assortment of sautéed local vegetables, a dish of steamed Celeiro hake with green pepper stock, rice with seasonal sponge seaweed and finish up with a little bica (a typical sponge from the Ourense area, with fresh cream and aniseed).
“On a hot and sunny day in summer we could create a menu featuring marinated freshly-caught sardines, kinder tomato, stewed wild mushrooms, baked sea bream with sea lettuce and for dessert, a mille feuille (a puff pastry spread with a vanilla cream).
“In winter I would start with a cafetocaldo – a broth made in a coffee pot with seaweed and dried vegetables. That might be followed by a raw scallop accompanied by cream of codium (another seaweed), a meta-egg with breaded truffles, grouper with a lemon and tomato pilpil sauce, local roast beef with potatoes and traditional local pancakes (crepes).”
That all sounds very nice and organised to me. But part of the joy of experiencing Spanish food is in trying it in its most basic form. Whether that is buying an Empanada from a cafe, eating snacks in a cosy bar in front of a warming fire or dining out in one of the many splendid restaurants in Galicia that serve traditional, local food at its best.
Get to Galicia. Yes, take a brolly. But be sure to also be hungry.