Highlights from the Bakeation in Spain
Read more about the Bikers' trip to Spain.
A small Spanish woman is the filling between a Hairy Biker sandwich.
Situated on the Northern Coast of Spain, Donostia-San Sebastian is one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations. Donostia is the Basque form of the name, whereas San Sebastian is the Spanish. The official name includes both names, although both mean exactly the same thing – Saint Sebastian.
Many of the city’s buildings were designed to mimic the Parisian architecture of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries – thanks to the royal family’s obsession with Paris and its bourgeois lifestyle. The roof of the railway station, Estación del Norte, is even believed to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel.
The city has a population of 183,000, and remarkably, has 16 Michelin stars - more per square metre than anywhere else on the planet. The city is also known as the birthplace of the ‘New Basque Cuisine’ movement, perhaps most notably with the three-starred restaurant Arzak.
San Sebastian has a thriving music and arts scene, and hosts a well-respected international film festival each year. It is also due to become the European City of Culture in 2016.
Pintxos (pinchos) bar
Munto is one of the best known pintxos bars in San Sebastian, and their chef, Ander, kindly took the time to teach the boys how to make a few of his favourites.
Pintxos (or Pinchos) are refined tapas (assorted canapé-type snacks), which are held together with a spike (pintxo). In many of the Pintxos bars, the customer will simply request a plate and help themselves to the pintxos, which are then heated up to the customer’s taste. Sometimes the sticks will be of different colours, indicating the price.
Txokos (Sociedad Gastronomica)
The Basque country has a long-held tradition of mixing socialising with food. There are many gastronomy clubs, known in Basque as ‘txokos’, or ‘sociedades gastronomicas’ in Spanish.
Members of these societies will meet up to cook together, before sitting down and eating the fruits of their labour, whilst drinking the best local wines available. Although based around cooking, the societies aren’t restricted only to gastronomic activities and quite often take part in other social events and festivals.
Traditionally, these societies are for men only, and they don’t allow women in. However, many have now changed their rules, and the newer clubs almost all allow women in. We filmed in the Casa de la Rioja, a traditional club, (although it has always allowed women in).
Many members of the Casa de la Rioja also participate in the ‘Tamborrada’ – a festival held on the 20th of January every year, to mark Saint Sebastian’s Day, in which thousands of people line the streets of San Sebastian to play the drums. The people are divided into two groups – the drummers, who play traditional military drums, and dress in Napoleonic military uniforms, and the Cooks, who play other instruments that sound like drums, such as barrels, etc.
http://www.visitbilbao.info/ - A very useful website, run by the chamber of commerce and tourism, which provides a fantastic introduction to Bilbao and the Basque culture and language.
Bilbao (or Bilbo) is the capital of the Biscay province, which houses over a million residents. The city itself has around 350,000 residents, making it the tenth most populated city in Spain. Bilbao has recently experienced something of a revival and a resurgence in tourism thanks to such pioneering architecture as the Guggenheim museum (designed by Frank Gehry in 1997); Bilbao airport (designed by Santiago Calatrava) and the new Metro system, designed by British architect Norman Foster (responsible for the Gherkin and Mayor’s Office in London).
Its culture is typically Basque, and similar to San Sebastian. Bilbao has fantastic connections to the rest of Spain and France, and the river Nervión runs through it, making it a true commercial hub.
MIER / ASTURIAS
Si and Dave made their Basque Chicken Pie on a stony beach alongside the Rio Cares in the Parque Biosaludable of Mier. Mier is one of eight parishes in the Peñamellera Alta, which lie in the Picos de Europa national park in Asturias. It has a population of only 92, and is home to one of the deepest caves in Spain.
ESCANDA ASTURIANA, LENA
Si and Dave were thrilled to have been invited to the Escanda bakery in Lena, Asturias, where they made their ‘giant sausage roll’. Escanda is the Spanish word for ‘Spelt’, which is a type of wheat that was widely consumed up until medieval times but is no longer widely used. It has become popular with supporters of organic foods, as it requires fewer fertilizers than other types of wheat. This is one of the reasons that the bikers found spelt growing in the grounds surrounding the car park of the bakery.
Many people consider spelt to be a health food, and it is thought to be a healthier alternative to the bread wheat. Many people mistakenly believe that Spelt is safe for consumption by people with Coeliac disease. However, this is not the case, as Spelt contains gluten. However, spelt bread can often be a suitable alternative for people allergic to other types of wheat.
Founded in 761 AD, Oviedo is the capital city of the Principality of Asturias, with a rich cultural heritage and thriving tourism industry.
One of the most impressive things to visit is the market, El Fontán, in which one can buy fresh fruit, sea food, meat and vegetables. This is where the bikers went to buy the ingredients for their empanada, which they cooked on the beach in Viveiro. However, the market is only open from 0800hrs until 1500hrs, so make sure you get there early for the best produce.
One of the most notable features of the city is the Calle Gascon, which is lined from top to bottom with Sidrerias – cider bars - outside which the waiters can be seen pouring the local speciality, Sidra, at arms length. At first, it appears that they are clumsy, as they spill an awful lot of cider on the ground, but this is in fact an important part of the pouring process. They have to hit the top edge of the glass to aerate the cider, which must then be drunk before the bubbles die down. The bikers visited the Sidreria Asturias in which they tried the sidra, as well as Percebes (goose barnacles), another local speciality.
Near Viveiro is Cervo - a stunning little town that holds a surprisingly large rock festival each year. Cervo is also the location of the Queimada – a ceremony in which a male witch concocts and casts a spell upon the Queimada – a burning drink, made up of orujo (a type of Galician aguardiente, made from the leftovers from the production of wine (http://spanishfood.about.com/od/drinks/a/orujo.htm), lemon and sugar. Around 50 local people put on a spectacular theatrical performance, complete with incredible costumes and props as well as professional light and sound displays. Each year’s performance is completely different to the last, with one common theme – the triumph of good over evil. The ceremony itself is beguiling and often quite disturbing, with vivid depictions of violence, rape and murder, although the ceremony that the bikers were lucky enough to witness was slightly less shocking than previous years’ displays.
While many maintain that the Queimada is an ancient tradition, the majority of evidence leads us to believe that it was in fact first performed in the 1950s, with the spell incantation being written in the late sixties. The organisers also acknowledged that it was in the 1960s when they first started performing the ceremony in Cervo. (On the official website, it states that they’re in their 28th year.) Either way, it is taken seriously and is one of the most important events of the year for many of the local people.
Viveiro is a major fishing town on the North Coast of Spain. Its population is 16,000, although this is thought to more than triple during the summer months, as a result of a thriving tourism trade. This is thanks, in no small part, to its beautiful, soft, sandy beaches. Viveiro is the location of the beautiful curved beach, Playa Area, on which the bikers cooked their empanada. As we were cooking on Saint James’ Day, the estuary in the background was filled with large fishing boats, taking part in the annual maritime procession.
TORTA DE SANTIAGO
To create the Torta de Santiago – the most famous local cake, with a cross on top, the bikers went to see Bernarda, a veteran baker and owner of A Troia – a quaint little bakery in the heart of Santiago. Bernarda’s recipes are mainly those which have been handed down from her grandmother, but she likes to experiment and come up with her own ideas, such as her incredible green tea biscuits.
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Alas, our final stop of the tour. Si and Dave were lucky enough to visit Santiago on what many locals consider to be the most important day of the year – Saint James’ Day. Each year, the town centre is closed off to traffic, and the magnificent cathedral that dominates the old town becomes the centre-piece of what could well be the world’s greatest sound and light display. Known as ‘Los Fuegos del Apostol’ (the apostle’s fires/fireworks), the amazing half-hour firework display draws crowds from all over the world. They’re keeping up with the times too, as this year’s display saw the cathedral ‘architecturally mapped’ with 16 projectors casting incredible ‘3D’ moving images over the façade, including a fire-breathing dragon bursting through the front of the cathedral; spinning spires and a huge, swinging bell. Everyone on the crew agreed that this was one of the most spectacular sights they’d ever witnessed!