By John Ensor • 07 September 2023 • 14:31
Gordon Ramsay, Gino D'Acampo and Fred Sirieix.
This week a programme, aired on ITV, highlighted a unique area of Spain that has ancient Celtic roots.
The second episode of the popular series, Gordon, Gino & Fred: Viva Espana! was entitled ‘Fiesta Forever’ and aired on Monday, September 4, showing the trio touring Galicia in the corner of northwest Spain.
Galicia enjoys around 900 miles of rugged coastline and is one of the seven Celtic nations alongside Ireland, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany, Scotland and Wales.
Galicia even has its own language, Galego, and is spoken by over three million people. In reality, when chatting with the locals they often mix both Galego and Castellano even within the same sentence. Meanwhile, the Galicians are extremely proud of their heritage and are quite un-Spanish in many of their ways and traditions.
Galician food in particular is something they fiercely celebrate, which is why foreign restaurants are extremely few and far between. Some months ago a Thai restaurant opened up in a town called Chantada, in the Ribeira Sacra region, British expatriates flocked to it, but one suspects it is still the subject of much curiosity to the locals.
Heading up the show is Michelin-starred chef, Gordon Ramsay, who appears alongside Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix. Speaking of the local gastronomy, Gordon said: ‘The Galician style never really gets a look in. Everyone talks about tapas in Barcelona and the richness in Madrid, but no one really understands the gems that are unearthed on this beautiful, rugged coastline.’
Galicia is known for its high quality meat and in particular its abundance of seafood, which is probably why the group’s first stop was at the coastal village of Cambados. They joined a group of women at low tide in a search for the region’s famous clams.
In the end, the work proves to be too hard for the three celebrities who instead offer to provide lunch for the 200-strong band of female shellfish hunters.
But it’s not just seafood that puts Galicia on the culinary map. The wines it produces are outstanding, with a former US president listed among one of its biggest fans.
Further inland the trio visited the area known as Ribeira Sacra (sacred shore), famous for its ‘heroic viticulture.’ Fred comments: ‘This is one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world.’
The reason behind the heroic winemaking title is obvious to visitors once they see it. According to the official Ribeira Sacra tourism website: ‘This term refers to the conditions of the terrain, which make growing and tending vines especially difficult.’
The terraced vineyards are located on the steep sides of the canyons that rise above the Rivers Miño and Sil. The slopes can reach gradients between 30 and 100 per cent meaning that mechanised grape harvesting is impossible and has to be done manually by fearless workers.
In the programme, Fred explains it is also known as Obama wine. At a presidential event in Washington back in 2017, Barak Obama chose wine from the Ribeira Sacra to be served to his guests, which led to a shortage of supply due to the huge demand it generated.
Upon ascending the slope, Gordon, Gino, and Fred encounter Esther, the heir to the vineyard passed down from her ancestors. Even at 86, she continues to labour on the hill with her crew. They whip up a meal for Esther using Galician steak and nearby delicacies. Afterwards, they muse about their own futures when they reach the age of 86.
The next stop on Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Galician adventure was to sample another regional curiosity, queimada. Literally, queimada means ‘burnt.’ A ferociously strong alcoholic punch that includes Galician brandy, sugar, coffee beans and lemon peel. However, it’s more than just a drink. The queimada is part of a superstitious ritual where, before the powerful cocktail can be consumed, it is set alight while an incantation is uttered.
After his first experience with Queimada, Gino in particular is dealing with a raging hangover as they reach the historic city of Santiago de Compostela. Their main agenda is to explore the expansive fresh food bazaar and learn about the regional speciality, percebes or goose barnacles.
Percebes are now famously expensive and even more famously dangerous to harvest. What makes it so perilous? The barnacles thrive on rocks, much like numerous other marine foods. These barnacles favour the hard-to-access rocks along the Galician shoreline. It’s these very jagged stones, iconic to Galicia, that face the relentless fury of the wild sea. Numerous vessels have met their end here, giving the coastline its ominous name, Costa da Morte (Coast of Death).
The programme closes as the three friends make their way to the shoreline to prepare some of Spain’s finest dishes using their market finds. Gordon prepares the barnacles in a steamy mix of lemon, beer, and bay leaves, while Gino crafts a warm Galician octopus salad.
According to the ITV review: ‘The guys end their memorable Spanish adventure with a joyful, naked, dip in the beautiful ocean.’
In the heart of Spain’s verdant northwest, Galicia stands as a testament to the meeting of ancient Celtic roots and the vibrant spirit of modern Spain. Its rugged coastlines whisper tales of old, while its culinary delights tease the tastebuds of those fortunate enough to visit.
As Gordon, Gino, and Fred journeyed through this mesmerising land, they not only unveiled its hidden gems but also embraced its soul. Their laughter, camaraderie, and occasional misadventures painted a vivid picture of three friends, each bringing their own gifts, united by the allure of Galicia’s untamed beauty.
As the sun set on their Spanish escapade, it was evident that Galicia had left an indelible mark on their hearts, just as it does on everyone who visits.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
When he's not writing for EWN he enjoys gigging in a acoustic duo, looking after their four dogs, four chickens, two cats, and cycling up mountains very slowly.
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