We interrupt this hikinglogue on the Camino del Norte to discuss food on the trail.
The meals available on the Camino are very heavy on the meat and cheese. This makes sense since the area is full of farms raising cattle, sheep and goats.
Much of the meat is processed into chorizo (Spanish sausage), bacon, and bologna. Every area has a special way of curing its meat and making cheeses. Cured meats and cheeses stay for a long time, which is most important when you have bars and cafes with a small clientele.
The best way to enjoy cured meats is Asturia bean soup. They take fava beans, potatoes, kale and boil it with ham, chorizo and blood pudding. I tried not to think about the fat content and concentrated on the healthy beans.
But it is really “Asturian”; once we crossed the bridge into Galicia, the soup disappeared from the menu.
Since I’ve been back home, I made my version of Asturia bean soup with chicken – less fatty and still good.
In these small villages, getting fresh fruit and vegetables is a challenge. The picture at the top of this post was taken at a large food hall in a big city. In the small supermarkets, we ended up buying what looked fresh and eatable – apples one day, bananas that hadn’t gotten too soft, another day, kiwifruit that wasn’t rock hard.
But our go-to for vegetables was ensalata mixta, mixed salad.
Unlike most salads in the U.S., the salad wasn’t tossed but laid out on a large plate: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sometimes shaved carrots and beets, half of a boiled egg and some canned tuna fish. You sprinkle olive oil and white vinegar and you have a meal. Once we discovered that ensalata mixta was a constant in cafes, I must have eaten one almost every day.
It’s wasn’t easy to cook in hostels. On the Camino Frances, you see lovely pictures of groups gathering around a communal table, cooking together. Here, the hostels were small, and most didn’t have more than a microwave.
You never knew what the facilities were going to be, so it didn’t seem worth carrying groceries from a far-away market only to find that the “kitchen” was a microwave and two cups. Still, we ended up cooking twice.
Here, we were in a town with several markets. After checking out the hostel kitchen, we went to the supermarket to buy dinner supplies and invited everyone around. The others took care of the wine and doing the dishes – a fair exchange.
No discussion of Northern Spanish food would be complete without mentioning (praising) Spanish tortillas (or omelette). It was ubiquitous for lunch in many cafes because it stays fresh for a couple of days. You order a piece and they heat it up for you.
Spanish tortillas is not related to the Mexican tortilla we know in the U.S. It’s potatoes covered in egg batter cooked in a large cast-iron pan.
Each cafe makes it differently. Some are mostly potatoes with just enough egg batter to hold it together. Others have lots of egg and little potatoes and even a few pieces of sweet peppers.
We watched one man cook a tortilla, cover the pan with a large plate, and flip it at just the right moment. If you flip it when it’s still soft, you would get a gooey mess on the stove. That’s why I’m not going to try to make that at home.
Once in Galicia, every place had Santiago cake. Very simple – almond flour, sugar, eggs and orange zest. It’s even gluten free. The cake is supposed to date from the middle ages. If I get a springform pan, I might try to make it.
This picture shows individual tarts. Usually, it’s packaged as a big round cake that the server cuts in wedges.
That’s a cake I could eat every day – and I did.