Nov 13 2022

GREAT BRITISH CHEFS - The Complete Foodie Guide to Cantabria and the Basque Country

These diverse autonomous regions in Northern Spain are known for sublime beaches and stellar seafood. Find out more about these historic regions, anchoas, txacolí and take a look at some awesome recipes by Elena Arzak.

San Sebastián - We visit stunning San Sebastián, one of the world’s most exciting gastronomic destinations.

(...) For anyone visiting San Sebastián, the first thing you need to do is eat pinchos (pintxos in Basque). Small pieces of bread are loaded with all kinds of food - cold slices of Serrano ham, quail’s egg and piquillo pepper, anchovies with tiny, chopped vegetables. Traditionally, these are fixed with a large cocktail-like stick (called a pintxo in Basque) and served with small glasses of beer or wine, or a couple of fingers of cider (...)

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Anchoas de Santoña - The Cantabrian town of Santoña is famed for its salted anchovies. We take a visit there to find out more.

(...) The superb raw material combined with excellent Spanish olive oil created a sublime product and Cantabrian anchovies are still considered the best in the world. At first, the anchovy fillets were covered in butter but that was soon replaced by Spain’s abundant olive oil. Other than that, the process of salting, filleting and canning has hardly changed and now Santoña has an industrial estate near its port dedicated to the anchovy processing industry. (...)

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The wine regions of Spain: Txacolí - While the food of the Basque Country is justly famous throughout the world, its wine is still a bit of a secret. We delve into the history of Basque's winemaking renaissance, and take a look at some of its best vineyards.

(...) While the food of the Basque Country is justly famous throughout the world, its wine is still a bit of a secret. Historically, viticulture had been widespread throughout the region but was confined to small scale productions for personal use. It wasn’t until the 1980s that some local winemakers decided to breathe some life into the industry. Together they recovered the indigenous Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza grapes and employed modern techniques to make quality wine worthy of accompanying their great culinary output. (...)

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Elena Arzak - The third generation of Arzaks to run the eponymous restaurant, Elena Arzak has maintained the three Michelin stars awarded to the restaurant back in 1989 and kept the Arzak name at the top table of the restaurant world.

(...) Elena’s food is famous for combining innovation and tradition, using the latest culinary techniques and influences from around the world rooted in Basque produce, to produce some of the finest culinary dishes available while still retaining that Arzak signature. There’s a modern version of the signature San Sebastián dish of txangurro (spider crab) as well as monkfish, which has been smoked in whisky-soaked cedar wood; the entire menu at Arzak is a marriage of innovation and tradition. (...)

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Fennelled fish of the day - This recipe from Elena Arzak would be made with whichever fish was in season at the restaurant, but she particularly recommends mackerel. The dish gently layers the flavour and fragrance of fennel seeds, pressing them into the cured mackerel and infusing them into butter. It is served on top of a delicate ajo blanco, a traditional Spanish garlic and almond cold soup.

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Monkfish, cedar and basque whisky - This beautiful monkfish dish from Elena Arzak uses monkfish in four different ways - the monkfish liver is used in a mojo sauce, and as a marinade for monkfish loin, thin slivers of Basque whiskey and cedar-smoked monkfish are shaved into paper thin circles, and the skins are deep fried into crisps. 

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Yellow spider crab - This spectacular dish from Elena Arzak consists of two separate, delicate preparations of spider crab hidden beneath an ornate, painted crab shell: crab and roe flambéed with brandy, and crab mixed with truffle and sherry vinegar vinaigrette.

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Seared beef - This unusual beef dish from Elena Arzak involves marinading beef with mango and turmeric, and is served alongside a mango, turmeric and coconut water-infused gravy. Arzak actually brand their potato crisps with the name of their restaurant before frying them, which gives this dramatic dish even more flair.

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Carabineros with a crust - This recipe from Elena Arzak uses carabineros, a type of giant red prawn. The 'crust' in the recipe's name refers to a crisp made from baked kiri mochi, that is used to top the sautéed carabineros tails, and garnished with slivers of kombu seaweed, pistachio and herbs.

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