Interview with Heritage Cities Chef: Santiago de Compostela
The ultimate goal on the Way of Saint James and the destination for pilgrims since the 9th century, Santiago de Compostela is the perfect city for a visit at any time. As you stroll through its historic town centre, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, you will discover one of Europe’s best preserved monumental ensembles, and a unique blend of cultures.
Marcelo Tejedor. Chef at the restaurant Casa Marcelo
What dishes and wines will greet visitors when they arrive in the city?
In general, Santiago offers a wide variety of fish and seafood including mussels, barnacles, crabs, clams, cockles and scallops; empanadas or filled pastries, one of the signature dishes of the gastronomy associated with the Way of Saint James, prepared using a wide variety of ingredients such as cockles, marinated pork loin, cuttlefish, octopus, etc. They’ll also find the typical pulpo a feira (octopus and potatoes), meat or caldeiro (prepared by cooking in much the same way as for the pulpo a feira); Padrón peppers and other locally grown vegetables such as turnip greens from Oroso, beans, mangetout, tomato, onions and potatoes, which are among the most highly-prized ingredients. Codistanco has a particularly good reputation for potatoes.
And also the Galician soups and stews, water bread –there are still some stone ovens where the bread is baked with firewood– or the typical Santiago tart are among the other culinary delicacies on offer in the city.
And what dishes have been contributed to the local gastronomy by the travellers who have come to the city from such a vast range of different cultures over the centuries?
The origins of Santiago date from the year 1000 and, since then, it has welcomed people who have brought with them new ingredients and different cooking styles. You could say that our cuisine is a compendium of all of them. Among the ingredients we’ve inherited are dried red peppers and almonds. And the methods of preparation include the empanada, or filled pastry. The travellers who came to Santiago didn’t have much in the way of resources and used a very practical style of cooking, favouring dishes which were easy to make and carry, long-lasting and full of energy.
Are there different dishes for each season of the year, or for feast days such as the day of Saint James the Apostle (25 July)?
In summer there are dishes based on ingredients which can be found throughout the area: Padrón peppers, bonito or seasonal seaweed, all prepared in a variety of ways. There is no particular dish or confection for the Apostle’s day, but dishes based on fish, vegetables and seaweed are generally served.
As Santiago is an inland city near the sea, is there a predominance of either inland or coastal cuisine or is it a combination of both?
Nowadays the traditional soups, stews, veal and pork casseroles, filled pastries or products from the surrounding areas feature together on the menu with seafood-based dishes. Santiago’s cuisine has traditionally been based on very good bread, oven-roasted foods, meat and vegetables, ingredients which are found in abundance throughout the area.
There has been an evolution in the last 40 years, as the possibilities of transporting and storing different foodstuffs has meant that there is now a greater use of seafood products, and the range of dishes available in the city has become progressively richer. Menus in the city now include fish soups and stews and other typical dishes from coastal cuisine.
Can you suggest a complete menu for a sunny summer’s day and for a rainy day?
On a cool rainy summer day, we could begin with an anchovy pâté, followed by crayfish soup, an assortment of sautéed local vegetables, a dish of steamed Celeiro hake with green pepper stock, rice with sponge seaweed (a seasonal seaweed with which we make an emulsion) and finish up with a little bica (a typical sponge from the Orense area, with fresh cream and aniseed).
For a hot and sunny day in summer we could create a menu featuring marinated freshly-caught sardines, Kinder tomato (with a surprise), stewed wild mushrooms, baked sea bream with sea lettuce and for dessert, a millefeuille.
And what about in winter?
In winter we usually start the menu with a “cafetocaldo” (a broth made in a coffee pot with seaweed and dried vegetables),followed by a raw scallop accompanied by cream of codium (another seaweed), a meta-egg with truffles (breaded), grouper with lemon and tomato pilpil sauce, local roast beef with potatoes, and caramelised filloas or crêpes (another local dish).
RECIPE: Open sea
Ingredients and preparation:
Tincture of vinegar: 3/3 parts syrup, 1/3 Pedro Ximénez vinegar, 1/3 water, 3 gr. Xanthan gum. Mix all the liquids together and add the Xanthan gum, beating until it thickens.
Oil of Osmundea: 200 gr. Osmundea and 300 ml. sunflower oil. Put the Osmundea and the sunflower oil in an airtight container. Place in a bain Marie for one hour. Strain and leave to cool in the fridge.
Wakame: 100 gr. Wakame, 100 ml. mineral water, 100 ml. Osmundea oil and 5 gr. Xanthan gum. Liquidise the Wakame in a blender together with the mineral water and the Xanthan gum. Add the Osmundea oil and filter the mixture through fine muslin. Place in the siphon and inject a charge of nitrogen. Allow to stand in the fridge for an hour.
The scallop and the finishing touches: 240 gr. fresh scallop, spring onions, tarragon, chervil, soybean sprouts, fried bread croutons, chopped mint and Maldon sea salt. Cut the scallop into slices crosswise and arrange on one side of a heated plate. On the other side of the plate, arrange the Wakame cream, and the tincture in the middle. Sprinkle the herbs and the croutons over the top, and season with a few flakes of salt.
Marcelo Tejedor was born in Vigo and studied at the Santiago de Compostela Catering School. He began his career in Arzak, in San Sebastián, and Roberto, in A Coruña. After working with prestigious international chefs in L´Amphitryon in Toulouse, he was awarded his first Michelin star. He then opened his own restaurant in Santiago de Compostela, Casa Marcelo, which has also been awarded with a Michelin star. He has won numerous prizes, including particularly the Galician Gastronomy Prize, the Cocinero de Oro prize, in 2002 and the Canal Cocina Prize in 2008, in the category Originality and Innovation, for his liquid bread in aerosol.
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