Before I talk more about Letux and the day we spent there, I wanted to mention a town called Belchite, through which we had to pass to get to our destination. Seeing the ruins of Belchite so soon after the recent bombings in Aleppo left me wondering if, as a species, we ever truly learn from the mistakes of the past? Belchite you see was also the battleground of a civil war.
The war in question was the Spanish Civil War whose combatants met at the town of Belchite between August and September 1937. Basically the town was devastated and was left as a memorial of the war. They actually built a new town, from scratch, alongside the old.
Walking through the old town is quite an experience. Bullet holes for example can be clearly seen in many of the buildings. It is an eerie yet enchanting scene, but also a reminder of the devastation that (Civil) war can bring. In the words of Bon Jovi:
They kill their former neighbor
Sometimes even an old friend
They go nuts in their blind rage
This is civil war
The village was used for the setting of at least several films including Terry Gilliam’s film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
So let’s get back to Letux and the afternoon we spent there. The two sisters, Pilar and Luisa, put on a delicious and varied spread. They had arranged for us to eat outside, in a beautiful spot on the edge of the garden and shaded by flowering bignonia vines. The table exquisitely set with fine crystal and classical porcelain.
We enjoyed all the dishes they served, but there is one in particular that I wanted to mention, the octopus dish, or as they would say here, Pulpo a la Gallega. Firstly it was delicious, secondly it is very easy to make, and thirdly it is one of the dishes we had in Galicia and one of the dishes I wanted to share with you all.
Pulpo a la Gallega is simply pieces of octopus, on a bed of potatoes dusted with pimentón and with a little olive oil drizzled on top. It sounds simple, it is simple, but as I said in my last article on Galicia, good, simple ingredients cooked well can be as delicious as the finest fare in any good restaurant. Some of you might be put off with it being octopus, but I really would recommend you give it a try. The good news is that unlike chicken, you can invite eight guests round and still give each one a leg!
As for the Flying Pear Tart….. we wanted to take a little something with us to thank Pilar and Luisa for inviting us. I had made a tart. Within the pastry case I had put a layer of home-made toffee, followed by our own home-grown pears, halved and cored and all filled with a custard sauce. I had never tried it before, in fact it was my own invention thought up for the occasion. It looked delicious. I say that it looked delicious because we never had the chance to try it.
At this point, words fail me. How can one capture in words how just as I was carrying it out to the table, the serving plate became trapped in the dangly ant-fly strings on the door? Or how, although the plate became trapped, the tart was free to move, and indeed did so in spite of the considerable detriment to its own physical structure? In the end the tart continued on its journey performing a couple of summersaults, fit for an olympic gymnast, before meeting its untimely end on the concrete floor. If I’d had 8 arms like an octopus I might have caught it, but as it was my efforts were of no avail!
I am told the look of shock on their faces was something to behold, unfortunately I was looking in despair at what was left of my beautiful tart. But fear not my loyal fans, like a phoenix will it rise again and before too long you may see it here, on the blog, in all its glory!
Anyway, back to the recipe. If you have a quality supplier of frozen food, then for once I would recommend you buying frozen octopus as you are going to have to freeze it anyway. Freezing will tenderise the octopus as it helps to break up the fibres.
When we were in La Coruña we went to one of the best octopus bars (pulpería in Spanish) in the city. I was told that to tenderise their octopus they put them in a concrete mixer and bang them around inside for a while……. so unless you want to add a rather large and atypical kitchen appliance to your home, pop it in the freezer.
Pulpo a la Gallega
Serves 6 as a starter
3 Kg Octopus
5 Medium potatoes
Freeze the octopus for 3 days or buy already frozen.
Defrost the octopus overnight then put into a pressure cooker with the potatoes. It is better not to peel the potatoes at this stage. Do not add any liquids to the pan nor salt. The octopus will release liquids as it cooks and is naturally salty.
Seal the lid and bring the pressure cooker up to the high pressure mark. This is normally 15lb’s of pressure. Reduce the heat and maintain the pressure for 9 minutes.
When the pressure permits open the pan and take out the octopus and potatoes.
Peel the potatoes and slice into discs. Place the potatoes in layers on a serving dish.
Cut the tentacles of the octopus and discard the rest.
Slice the tentacles into discs and lay onto the potato base.
Drizzle on some quality olive oil and dust with pimentón.
As per my comments in the previous dish from Galicia, the pimentón dulce gives warmth and colour to a dish. There are spicy versions available, but “dulce” (meaning “sweet” in English), is more normally used here. I can see it for sale on Amazon so if you can’t buy it in your local shops you could buy it from there. It is important for the recipe, so if you can’t get it do try and get something similar, rather than omitting the spice entirely.
As always, please send me any comments or questions you might have.
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge