food - cuisineWalkingmountain books


  The Basque country (Euskadi)
The Basque country takes its food seriously, cooking societies1 flourish and the tapas bars in San Sebastian are probably the best in Spain, although I wouldn't say that to a Madrilano!  The Spanish Basque country is made up of Vizcaya (Bilbao), Guipuzcoa (San Sebastian), Alava (Vitoria) and Navarre (Pamplona).

San Sebastian
There are numerous bars in the Puerto area (Parte Vieja) but it is worth tracking down the more sophisticated ones in areas like Gros to the east. There are a number of cheap and cheerful seafood restaurants along the fishing harbour side, the tapas bars are through the gateway leading into Calle Puerto. "La Fabrica" (C. Puerto, 17) is a rather smart restaurant when you have had your fill of tapas. 
Barrio Gros
Here the more sophisticated bars beyond (and in) the Kursal  are likely to have a bar area of tapas that need to be hot ("caliente"), we nearly picked up a raw sea urchin tapa! These hot tapas and raciones (large portions) may be priced individually, so do take note of what you have eaten. Two we liked were Bar Bergara (C.General Artetxe, 8) and Alona Berri (C. Bermingham, 24). You will need a streetplan as here in this residential area the bars are more widely spread out.

La Concha - San Sebastianclick for bigger imageDonostia
La Concha - San Sebastian bay

San Sebastian also has numbers of excellent high class restaurants, "Akelare" <Pedro Subijana's "Akelarre" website>  (Michelin 2 stars), situated on a hilltop overlooking the sea, being an example. Also "Arzak" (Avda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui, 273) <website> recipe

Bilbao is the industrial centre of the Basque country, situated close to the cloudy hills and now home to the world famous Guggenheim museum.
In the old town Plaza Nueva is a good place to start looking for food. "Victor Montes" is  a tapas bar with restaurant upstairs, they also have an excellent delicatessen across the square. Calle Perro has a number of friendly bars and restaurants.

The Guggenheim museum
Many people visit Bilbao purely for the museum, it is accesable from the old town by tram or on foot but if you want to spend some money and make a special occasion of it you could stay at the (expensive) Hotel Grand Domine opposite the museum, where the modern style compliments the art of the museum.
Cooking of the region
Angulas - baby eels.
Kokotxas - hake cheeks.
Bacalao al pil-pil - salt cod in garlic sauce.
Txangurro relleno - stuffed spider crab.
Marmitako - tuna stew with potatoes and peppers.
Merluza en salsa verde - hake in parsley sauce.
Lubina con Txakoli - Sea bass in local white wine.
Piperada - sweet pepper omelet.
An unusual sharp white wine is called Txakoli, cider is also drunk here.
Pimientos rellenos - sweet red pepper stuffed with beef and ham with a pepper and tomato sauce.
Idiazabal - sheeps cheese

1 - Txokos and Cofradias.


Basque cookery books

Merluza con almejas - hake and clams
In a earthenware casserole soften some onion and garlic in olive oil, add fish stock and parsley and white pepper. (the sauce can be thicked by adding flour before the stock or by emulsifying) add the hake steaks (which will cook in a few minutes) and the clams. Once the clams open serve in the pan decorated with white asparagus spears.

Txangurro (chan-goo-ro)

(ingredients per 2 spider crabs)
1 leek, 1 carrot, half an onion, 4 tomatoes
brandy, olive oil, butter, breadcrumbs, a nora, rice.

chop leeks carrot and onion  up small
boil and drain the crabs (10-12 minutes)
remove the meat (keeping top shell intact if you wish to serve in it)
grind the shell and claws to powder.

add the ground shell to olive oil in a pan and add the vegetables (not tomatoes), cook until tender.

put a cup of brandy in a pan and ignite, add the peeled and chopped tomatoes, a chopped nora or some hot paprika, a little white wine, some fish stock and a tablespoon of short grain rice. Simmer for an hour then strain and reserve the liquid.

warm the crabmeat in some butter, add a splash of brandy and ignite.
add the reserved liquid and the vegetables.

Stuff the shells with the mixture (if using). Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and dot with butter and heat under the grill for a few minutes.

hake and clamsArroz con almejas (clams and rice)

Fish stock (we use salmon, hake might be more authentic)
three carrots and a leek, julienned
an onion,  chopped
Fresh clams (soaked in water to remove sand)
a clove or two of garlic, chopped
a cup of short grain rice
saffron and paprika.

Sweat the onion, carrot and leek and garlic in olive oil, in a cazuela or heavy pan until softened.
Add the rice, saffron, paprika and stock (add additional water if needed) to just cover and simmer till soft.
Add the clams and raise heat till clams open, discard any that do not.
This recipe is adapted from Pedro Subijana's "Akelarre".

See also :-
CheeseWineBasque cookery books Cookery reference books
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