Asturian veal

One of the greatest gastronomic riches of Asturias is its pantry from the land and the sea, in addition to its tasty, healthy home-made products based on local breeds whose variety and purity make the regional map a patchwork of original and traditional contributions to enrich the kitchen and good eating. Asturias means market gardens, where the large white bean known as the "faba" is queen, but it also means the sea, with fish and seafood from a choppy sea and unique dishes and stews. It also means the ritual of the yearly slaughter of pigs and free-range chickens, which in Asturias is synonymous with healthy, organic hearty meals. In fact, few rituals like this one provide so much produce for daily meals and gastronomic festivals, as well as keeping the pantry well-stocked throughout the year...

From the land

Among the many gastronomic treasures that the land holds in Asturias is the large white bean known as the faba, the veritable queen of the Asturian market garden, a local product that is the basic ingredient of Asturias' most emblematic stew: fabada. The Asturian faba has been protected for more than twenty years now by a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), which guarantees its origin and quality. The faba goes well with everything: seafood, game, etc. Fine white beans can be found throughout Asturias, but special note should be made of those grown in the meadows along the Rivers Nalón and Narcea, in the vicinity of Pravia, Grado, etc., whose market gardens display a "catalogue" of excellent produce which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cabbage, pumpkin, courgettes and exceptional strawberries from Candamo. The region is also immensely wealthy in terms of fruit trees, bearing fruits such as apples, kiwis, hazelnuts and chestnuts.

From the sea, rivers and estuaries

Asturias has more than three hundred kilometres of coastline, constituting its scenic balcony and showcase for the sea and the delicacies it provides. The fish and seafood in this region have a well-deserved reputation for their exceptional quality and for certain peculiarities, ranging from the fishing techniques used here to the way of seasoning or eating these products. For instance, albacore tuna (bonito) is still caught with rod and tackle; the most valued hake is hook-caught (del pinchu); the tastiest baby squid are caught with a simple hook and line (de potera); and sea urchins (oricios) are eaten raw or just slightly boiled, while one of the great "pastimes" of Asturians is eating a velvet swimming crab (andarica) or periwinkles accompanied by a bottle of cider.

A cold, choppy sea very rich in plankton and a seabed that requires crustaceans to exert all their "muscular" effort to find nourishment give rise to native Bay of Biscay (or Cantabrian Sea, as it is known locally) spider crabs that are unique in both shape and flavour. The same may be said of the spiny lobster and lobster (bugre), as well as the exceptional rock fish, such as red scorpion fish and striped red mullet. Other gastronomic "treasures" to be found amongst the rocks are limpets (llámpares) and gooseneck barnacles (percebes).

Asturias' estuaries –Eo, Navia, San Esteban de Pravia and Villaviciosa– are the perfect natural breeding ground for those species that require a mixed salt and fresh water habitat. Highly appreciated oysters are cultivated in the Eo Estuary, while baby eels are caught in San Juan de la Arena and San Esteban de Pravia. Clams and razor clams are to be found in Villaviciosa Estuary, among other delights. When going further upriver, a world unto itself offers up salmon, sea and river trout, eels and more. The river species round off a unique assortment of fish of exceptional quality.

"Made in Asturias" (meats, cured meats, local breeds, honey)

Asturian meat is of renowned prestige and quality. Asturian veal comes under the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), and is guaranteed to satisfy. Both local breeds, Asturiana de los Valles and Asturiana de la Montaña, possess privileged genetic lines based on two secrets: the pure air they breathe and the ecosystem they inhabit, where they feed on highly nutritional, natural pasture. In both the kitchen and at the table, this healthy life means a multitude of recipes and dishes, in which other local breeds such as the Astur-Celtic pig, the mottled Pinta chicken, the free-range chicken and the Xalda sheep also play a leading role.

The yearly slaughter is one of the most deep-rooted and authentic rituals linked to the gastronomic pantry still conserved and newly promoted in Asturias. Almost everything from the pig is used and in a great variety of ways. It is precisely this diversity which is clearly evident in the map of the cured meats in Asturias: characteristic products of the modus operandi of western Asturias are the chosco –typical in Tineo– and the butiello and androya; chorizos, blood sausage, moscancia and the sabadiego are very typical in central Asturias –the last being characteristic of Noreña. Very typical and different in the central area is the fariñón from Carreño, reminiscent of eastern offerings, the emberzau and pantrucu.

Honey is also a very "Made in Asturias" product, usually the chestnut or heather varieties, seeing as Asturias is a veritable paradise for bees and pollination in areas such as Boal, Aller and Peñamellera.

A question of gastronomic personality
Stuffed onions.
Stews and bakes

The richness of the Asturian market garden means that its stews and bakes, ideal in autumn and winter, are varied and of exceptional quality. Different versions of fabada and pote Asturiano (both made with white beans and pork meats, with potatoes and cabbage greens sharing the leading roles with white beans in the latter) make up a world of possibilities where stuffed onions and peppers also take centre stage, as well as other dishes requiring a fork, but where the excellence of the market garden is the true star.

Hunting and deer mating season

Autumn is the time for hunting and mating calls, the resounding pageant of rutting deer and the mating season. It is also the time when wild boar, roe deer and of course deer reach the table, as well as the time for enjoying smaller game, such as hare and chamois, and truly savoury fowl such the Eurasian woodcock. Autumn in Asturias means gastro-events, many of which feature game, seeing as there are true masters in the kitchen when it comes to seasoning and complementing such savoury delicacies.

Wild mushrooms, the shell of the crab, sea urchins and spelt wheat

Almost two thousand varieties of mushrooms –many of which are edible– make Asturias a unique enclave for mushroom lovers, with an endless list of dishes and recipes, in addition to also serving as complements to a broad range of other foods. Asturian peculiarities include the "use" given to the shell of the local crabs as a bowl in which cider and Cabrales cheese are mixed together to achieve a unique emulsion as well as eating sea urchins raw or just slightly boiled, or even cooked for a few seconds in the microwave oven. Another peculiarity is a cereal used since ancient times in Asturias, namely spelt wheat (escanda), used to make a rich, organic bread that complements a variety of products and dishes quite well.

The "cachopo", one of the kings of Asturian cuisine

The cachopo, an Asturian dish par excellence, consists of a unique creation where cured ham and cheese is placed between a pair of generously-sized veal fillets. After being coated in breadcrumbs and beaten egg, it is fried and eaten while hot, usually accompanied by fried potatoes, peppers or button mushrooms and sometimes with melted cheese on top. Numerous variants employing fish, chicken or pork, or filled with seafood, cured beef, wild mushrooms, peppers, cheese, asparagus, etc., have arisen from the original recipe.