Looking at the trinkets and trophies the first UK conquistadors brought back with them from their sojourns to foreign climes – and here I’m talking about the first package holidaymakers to the Spanish costas – you’d think many of them had just spent two weeks in 19th century Mexico, rather than one of the most culturally diverse and, then, fastest developing economies in Western Europe. Sombreros, plastic donkeys and miniature guitars are all well and good but in making a quick peseta or two flogging-on these ephemeral articles to sunburned British holiday-makers, the Spanish misrepresented the vast cultural riches that lie within the Iberian peninsular. Perhaps they were trying to put us off moving inland.
Some of the most surprising aspects of Spain can be found on the north coast, particularly within the regions of Asturias and Galicia, the two autonomous regions that lie farthest north west of the country. It is a common thread to compare the former to Wales and the latter to Ireland, such are the geographical similarities.
But it’s not just a matter of landscape: Asturias, for example, is a Principality, like Wales, and therefore the first son of the ruling monarch is ennobled with the title Principe de Asturia; the Spanish equivalent of Prince of Wales. If we can draw a line of comparison connecting the two former Empire states, then the fine and balanced son of King Juan Carlos is treading in a parallel line of footsteps embedded by no finer exponents of a nation’s right to monarchy than Henry VIII and Prince Charles; information I’m sure that he is thrilled to know.
Similarities between the two regions do not end there: the principle industry of Asturias was, for many years, coal-mining, though in my own experience and research I have found no evidence of large groups of ruddy-cheeked, blazer-clad men singing harmonious laments to unrequited love and seaweed.
But viva la differencia or, as they say in Asturias, “Are you suggesting my uncle’s mule?” *
Another common thread can be identified by taking a look at some of the regions’ national dishes. I’m sure you’ll all know about Welsh Rarebit, the wholesome staple of cheese on toast, but did you know that the traditional recipe also contains beer or, to be more precise, ale? Sure enough, a few tablespoons of light ale can be added with mustard and washed down with the very beverage sourced for the food.
As for those Asturians, they moved things on a stage further by taking a leaf out of the Belgian’s book by sticking their food ingredients in the beer, in this case, cider. The regional dish Chorizo con Sidra is one that can be enjoyed at any time of the day as boiling the cider to half the volume evaporates the alcohol. I wouldn’t bother to recommend a drink to go with this dish – all you need is a hunk of bread to mop up the liquid.
Anyway, for your own delectation, why not try the following?
Chorizo con Sidra – Chorizo and Cider
Medium sweet cider
A French loaf.
You need to:
Simply slice the chorizo into pieces 1cm – 1 ½ cm, you choose how many slices you need. Put the pieces in the pan and then cover with 3 parts volume of cider. Bring to the boil and then turn to a low heat. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Ladle the contents into a bowl and, bread in hand, get cracking. Any residual liquid can be mopped up with the bread.
Welsh Rarebit – you’ll probably have most of the ingredients in your fridge anyway, so why the hell not?
Slice of toast
Grated cheese, cheddar / Edam. 100g
Milk, 1 tablespoons
Indian Pale Ale, 1tablespoons
English Mustard, 1tsp
Worcestershire Sauce – a splash
Simply put the cheese and milk in a saucepan and melt slowly over a low heat. Add a little salt and pepper and then add the butter and ale. When it is piping hot, pour it over the toast and place under the grill until browned. Add the Worcestershire & wash down with the ale!
* Check this.