Olive Magazine
A collage of Asturias including Arenas de Cabrales, bowls of arroz con leche and a cow up in the mountains

10 things we love about Asturian cuisine

Published: April 21, 2020 at 2:46 pm
loading...

Nacho Manzano, executive chef at the Ibérica restaurants in London and Leeds, shares what he loves about the food of Asturias

Want to learn more about Asturian cuisine? Looking for Asturian dishes to try? Read our guide below then check out Nacho's recipe for Spanish scrambled eggs here. After, read our guide to best internal routes for food lovers.

Advertisement

Nacho Manzano and his sisters Esther, Olga and Sandra were born in the house that’s now their two Michelin starred restaurant, Casa Marcial, in La Salgar, Spain. He is also executive chef at Ibérica restaurants in London and Leeds.

While the menu at Ibérica showcases dishes from around Spain – including tapas, paella and jamón ibérico – it’s Casa Marcial’s dishes that have made Nacho one of Spain’s most celebrated chefs. Championing sustainability, his passion is for the produce that grows around his restaurant. His specialities include retired dairy cow beef and hyper-local ingredients. casamarcial.com


1. Fabada

Leaving Asturias without eating a good fabada (faba bean casserole) is a sin. It’s our most popular dish and is a stew made from white beans, chorizo, blood sausage and pork belly. It’s a filling comfort food that everybody loves – you can make it in the UK with butter beans. The markets in Asturias sell vacuum packs of ingredients to take home to cook. Another classic Asturian stew similar to fabada is pote, made with pork, sausage, chorizo, beans, cabbage and potatoes.

Close up of typical spanish "fabada asturiana" dish

2. Terrain

Asturias lies between the sea and mountains, and is full of inspiration. Our cuisine is about roots, respect and tradition – the importance of the products and recipes. It’s also about how we develop, evolve and are creative with the ingredients that are
on our doorstep. Many of our dishes involve combined sea and mountain produce that’s inspired by the landscape that surrounds us. The region is rich in amazing vegetables and fruits, meat, cheese, seafood, poultry, mushrooms and cider.


3. Seafood

The variety of fish and seafood found in the waters of northern Spain is immense, and is served in our marisquerías (seafood restaurants) and sidrerías (cider houses). There’s every kind of seafood you can imagine: lobster, crayfish, velvet crabs, brown crabs, spider crabs, octopus, squid, limpets and, when the cold arrives, oricios (sea urchins). Fish dishes include fritos de pixín (fried monkfish bites), hake, sardines, red mullet, turbot, John Dory, dusky grouper, red bream, monkfish, red scorpionfish, conger eels, white seabream and gilt-headed bream.

Sea urchin with Hollandaise sauce and apple. Gijon. Asturias. Spain.

4. Cider

We have more than 500 varieties of apples in Asturias, so it’s only natural that cider (sidra) is our regional drink and part of our identity. In fact, more than 80% of Spain’s cider is produced in Asturias. It pairs beautifully with cheese and many traditional dishes. The way it’s served is a dramatic ritual in sidrerías – the practice is called escanciar, and involves pouring cider from the bottle to the glass from a height. This awakens the carbonated gas and volatilise part of the acetic acid in the cider. There are also new types of sparkling and natural ciders served directly in a glass.


5. Pitu caleya (wild chicken)

Originally a celebratory dish, pitu caleya was typically eaten as the centrepiece of feasts in villages to pay respect to patron saints, or as a treat for family and friends who helped with the traditional pig slaughter. It’s a slow-grown chicken, bred in large, open spaces on a wild diet of insects and grubs, which produces a darker, denser meat than that of most farmed chickens. It needs to be cooked long and slow in a braise, and we serve it with Spanish rice. We have had it in our restaurants since our first menu in 1993 and it’s now one of our signature dishes. An Asturian dish that respects the real taste of chicken.

pitu caleya, or wild chicken, served with Spanish rice

6. Corn

In the 17th century, corn was brought to Asturias by the Spanish conquistadors from Mexico. The soil and climate make
it a high-yielding crop, so it’s become a staple of the Asturian diet. If you travel through Asturias, you will see a lot of corn fields, which brings up a lot of childhood memories for me of playing around them. The first dish I cooked when I was 14 years old was a corn torto with scrambled eggs, onion and cabrales cheese. Corn tortos was a very humble food that you ate when there was no bread at home, and it wasn’t on restaurant menus. Now you can find tortos with all kinds of ingredients in most restaurants in Asturias. We put it on Casa Marcial’s first menu and the dish has been present in all my restaurants ever since – it’s still a success. Check out Nacho's recipe for Spanish scrambled eggs here.


7. Wine

Asturias isn’t well known for its wine but wine-making has been present in the south-west of the region since the ninth century. Production is difficult because the landscape is rugged and mountainous, which makes maintenance and cultivation hard. For this reason, it’s called ‘heroic viticulture’ – a term that refers to the fact that the conditions force wine-growers and producers to overcome vertigo on the hillsides. The result is interesting white and red wines from the Cangas del Narcea area.


8. Cheese

In Asturias, cheese is a religion. In such a small area, we have more than 50 amazing cheeses – more than any other region in Europe. In fact, it’s nicknamed ‘the land of cheeses’, making it the perfect home for the Asturias Paraíso Natural International Cheese Festival, host to the World Cheese Awards earlier this year. The cheese here is made with cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk, or by mixing different milks. The most popular are cabrales, gamonéu, afuega’l pitu, casín and beyos, which all have Protected Designation of Origin status. Cabrales is one of the most famous cheeses in Spain. It’s very blue and pungent. If you love cheese, you can’t miss visiting the amazing cheese caves of cabrales and gamonéu, where the cheeses are aged.

Asturias – the ‘land of cheeses’ – is famous for its cow’s milk cheeses, as well as sheep’s and goat’s

9. Cachopo

This is basically two fillets of beef with cheese and Spanish ham sandwiched between them, which are then breaded and fried. Cachopo is very filling and contains a lot of calories, so it’s a great dish to share with friends and family, especially after
a long walk in the mountains. For cheese lovers, we also have a traditional dish called ‘escalope and cabrales cheese’ – a flattened slice of beef smothered in a blue cheese sauce.

Advertisement

10. Arroz con leche (rice pudding)

This is the most traditional dessert in Asturias, and one of the most popular desserts in Spain. I know that a version of rice pudding is present in every country but the Asturian one is exceptional – we’ve really mastered it. The secret is to use short-grain rice, which produces a soupy texture when boiled with full-fat milk. It’s then topped with a layer of caramelised sugar, similar to a crème brûlée.

bowls of arroz con leche

Comments, questions and tips

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content