Having eaten our weight in Pastel de Natas we left Portugal and headed North, back across the border to Spain. Ever since leaving France we have been unintentionally following the famous pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostella, criss-crossing the iconic scallop shell markers and spotting backpack-clad hikers as we went. So it seemed only appropriate to make Santiago the final destination of what has in many ways been our own little pilgrimage; a quest to discover the best foods, wines and oils of Europe as well as the people and landscapes which make them.
Santiago, one of the last strongholds against Moorish Spain, hasn’t missed any architectural opportunity to advertise the power of the Christian Kings. A great, granite stronghold rising up from the rolling Galician countryside, its streets are crammed with imposing churches and palaces, all towered over by the mighty Cathedral.
Unfortunately, when we arrived the Cathedral was covered in scaffolding for restoration works. So we set off to find an alternative place of worship and found it in the form of the glistening, granite food market. Seafood is a big deal in Galicia and the Santiago market is a showcase of the regions specialities from octopus cooked in a copper pot while you wait, to “percebes” – a particularly delicious type of barnacle. Tempting as the barnacles were (we’re really not fans!), we thought it was only fitting to eat the symbol of Santiago: Scallops!
Back in our lovely little AirB&B we cooked them up with a few of our favourite ingredients we’d picked up along the way; morcilla from Spain (like black pudding but better) and a dash of white Port. Of course, like all good pilgrims, we’ve kept a shell as a memento.
Keen to get to the source of all this marine bounty, we drove half an hour West of Santiago to the coast. The Iron Age hill fort of Castro de Baroña juts out on a little spit of land, sandwiched between long, sandy beaches on either side.
After exploring the remains we climbed out to the end for a picnic and got to know the local inhabitants…
As the tide went out we noticed several solitary figures armed with knives, heading towards the edge of the rocks. Intrigued, we followed closer and realised these were Percebes hunters. The monster-esque barnacles only live on rocks exposed at very low tides but they fetch such a high price in local restaurants that every year people are swept to their deaths trying to harvest them. We were tempted to do a spot of hunting ourselves but then suddenly we weren’t so hungry.
Although we were warned that Winter in Galicia would be wet and miserable, we think January on the beach here really isn’t so bad!
After messing about in the sea we were treated to a show of dolphins swimming close to the beach; the perfect finale!
After an incredible few months on the road it’s time to head back home. We’re looking forward to catching up with friends and sharing more stories. Thanks for joining us on our YUM Adventure – stay tuned for the next one 😉