In the third season of their acclaimed food/travel series The Trip, comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan explored the delights of foodie Spain. Here’s how you can follow in their footsteps
With the highest ratio of Michelin stars per capita in the world, Spain’s northern Basque region is the country’s foodie mecca. Little wonder then that Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan started their culinary trip here, tucking into seafood at Txoko, grazing the pintxo bars of Hondarribia and working their way through the eight-course tasting menu at Asador Etxebarri, just down the road from Bilboa.
Thankfully, the Basque country isn’t just for foodies with deep pockets. A pintxos bar crawl in San Sebastián, Bilbao, or Vitoria is delicious and affordable. The annual Gazga Eguna Festival in Idiazabal offers the chance to sample the Manchego-style cheese the region is famous for. Asadores (restaurants where chunks of well-seasoned meats are chargrilled) are both cheap and plentiful.
Time your visit right and you’ll also be able to visit the region’s famous sidrerías and knock back the refreshing local ciders.
Potatoes and chorizo, Rioja style (Dreamstime)
From the Basque country, Brydon and Coogan headed south to La Posada del Laurel in Prejano. This rustic inn specialises in traditional Riojan cuisine and the wines the region is famous for. It is also home to dinosaur footprints and other fossilised remains.
Foodies should seek out the region’s tender white asparagus (esparragos blancos), lamb chops grilled over vine leaves (chuletas riojana) and Piquillo Peppers (pimientos riojanos). The peppers, in particular, are ubiquitous in Riojan cuisine, either wood-roasted and served in their own juices, stuffed with lamb or dipped in batter and fried. They are also used in a local relish or to fire up the local bean and chorizo stew.
Ham and olives (Dreamstime)
From Rioja, Coogan and Brydon travelled deep into Don Quixote country, La Mancha, where they sampled the fare offered by the Parador de Almagro, a restaurant and hotel in a converted 16th century convent.
Along the way they stopped at Sigüenza in Guadalajara, famous for its spectacular Gothic cathedral and the Molino de Alcuneza, a converted 14th-century flour mill and home to slow-food chef Samuel Moreno.
Just to the east, you’ll find Cuenca, one of Spain’s up-and-coming foodie destinations, where the rather heavy local cuisine has been given a light and tasty twist.
If ham is your thing, head to Candelario, where three-storey stone houses are used to cure chorizo and ham. Aficionados say that the dry air in this part of Spain is ideal for the finest jamón serrano, known locally as pata negra.
Sardines, ready to be grilled (Dreamstime)
Taking on the gastronomic powerhouses of Catalonia and the Basque Country, Andalucia has become the leading light in southern Spain’s food revolution. The final episode sees Brydon and Coogan finishing their Spanish food odyssey in Malaga with a feast of serrano ham, grilled prawns, anchovies and artichokes in one of the city’s best-loved restaurants, El Refectorium.
Foodies will be hard pressed to have a bad meal in Andalucia. Ingredients are always fresh and the influence of the region’s history can be tasted in every bite.
Dishes fall into one of two categories, mountain and coastal, each focussing on the bounty of that particular region. Expect salads, freshly caught seafood and piles of pescaito frito by the sea, with rich stews, cured ham and freshly caught game in the mountains.
Main image: Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan eating up Spain (Sky)