vino de cangas © Mónica R Goya

Beatriz Pérez of young Bodega VidAs is the president of the Cangas Wine Protected Designation of Origin regulatory board. She has been on the job for over a year now and she is working extensively to raise awareness of the unique "Vino de Cangas" (Cangas wine) in Spain and abroad. In this interview she talks about her beloved Cangas wine and why we need to protect it.

 

How long have you been the President of the Cangas Wine PDO? What are your tasks?
I was elected along with the rest of the members of the current board of directors at the General Assembly held in December 2016.
My job is to represent the Cangas Wine Association as well as defend and promote our Cangas PDO wine, our viticulture and our native varieties and make this project attractive so that more people can join and grow with them.

How would you define Cangas wine?
The wines of Cangas are Atlantic, more similar to the wines of the north of Portugal, Galicia or south of France that to wines of the Iberian plateau. Due to the characteristics of both the climate and the terroir (mainly slate) the wines are fresh, with natural acidity that makes them very good for aging, they are fruity, medium-grade (between 12-13º) which makes them easy to drink. Being made with unique varieties, these are original, exclusive wines, produced in very limited editions which makes them highly appreciated in expert sectors for their difference, quality and originality.

What makes Cangas wine different? Why is it called heroic viticulture?
The Cangas wine is a product rooted in the Asturian south-west, here we are wine people culturally speaking, wine has always been present in our lives and it rules the calendar.
Our viticulture is recognised with the international seal "Heroic viticulture or mountain viticulture" because our vineyards are settled in small plots with a 30% máximum slope, which makes cultivation difficult and makes the work exclusively manual with the help of very little mechanisation (As it can be a small tractor to load the boxes of grape during the harvest). The grapes are handpicked, all manual, and it’s done in boxes of about 17 kg to preserve the quality of the grapes during transportation until they are processed in the winery.

Cangas wine grapes © Mónica R Goya

What grape varieties are grown in the area? Are there local ones? What's the most difficult of having vineyards in a mountainous area such as Cangas?
In our Cangas PDO we have four native grape varieties: Albarín Blanco, Albarín Negro, Verdejo Negro and Carrasquín. We also have other varieties that are also grown in other production areas, mainly Mencía and Blanca Extra.
The difficulty of making wine in our area comes hand in hand with the type of vineyard and winery. The vineyards are small plots, there are no large extensions of vineyards as in other Spanish wine regions. In addition, the work in the vineyard is manual and this makes farming much more expensive, the average price of Cangas grapes per kg is around  1.50€. The size of the wineries is small, we are family run wineries that put extra care on each of our wines, we could say that we elaborate handcrafted wines of limited editions. Not being a large processing area, everything becomes more expensive, transportation, bottles, labels, marketing, etc.

Please tell us about the history of the Cangas wine
The oenological tradition in the southwest region of Asturias dates back to the ninth century. The first Asturian monasteries brought an agricultural evolution that led to the greatest use of available land.  Part of that land was devoted to the vines. The liturgical need of these communities was decisive for the development of viticulture.
After the foundation of the monastery of San Juan Bautista de Corias in the eleventh century, the area devoted to vineyard cultivation began to multiply and this trend would continue until the nineteenth century. The vineyards of that time already had many of the unique characteristics that we can still find in today’s ones.
The buoyant mining industry led to a generalised abandonment of the vineyards, to the point that it almost disappeared. About 20 years ago, a recovery process began, planting the seeds of what is now recognised as the Cangas Protected Denomination of Origin.

Cangas de Narcea © Mónica R Goya

Are wineries open to the public?
Some of the current wineries in the Cangas PDO offer visits to both the vineyards and the winery where the characteristics of the growing methods as well as the elaboration of the wines are explained.

Some producers have done an amazing work recovering old vineyards. How do you envision the future of Cangas wine?
An enormous effort has been made to recover old vineyards that are currently in production, as well as to improve cultivation techniques and to start new plantations with native varieties. I think the project "Wine from Cangas" is an attractive project, there are young people who are determined to plant and create new wineries. For a depressed area such as the southwest of Asturias, especially after the mining crisis, the Cangas wine can help develop the area, set the population and create jobs, things that unfortunately are very necessary.

Where can you buy Cangas wine outside Asturias?
The wineries export to countries like United States, Japan, and to the rest of Europe, to countries like Holland, England etc.
Within Spain you can find Cangas wine in Madrid, Barcelona and other regions.

Can you recommend any particular bottles of Cangas wine?
As president of the Cangas PDO I recommend each and every one of the bottles produced under our seal, guaranteed with the official back label that informs us and ensures that the wine that is being purchased is a wine made in the production area and with the grape varieties that are grown in the vineyards of heroic viticulture in our area. It is very important to check this back label since it is the only guarantee that the consumer has about the origin of the wine and the grapes from which it is made.

vino de Cangas vineyard © Mónica R Goya
 
 
 
Arandanos Grandas de Salime - © Monica R Goya

Asturias is brilliant to grow blueberries, the weather and its fertile soil make a perfect combination to grow this delicious berries. 

Wild blueberries aren't difficult to find in Western Asturias, a mostly untouched territory where the mix of coastline, mountains and reservoirs is breathtaking. The recently built motorway takes you from Oviedo to Navia in around an hour. I still remember when travelling to Western Asturias in the summer included several stops to collect wild blueberries that grew freely on the side of the road. 

Blueberries, Grandas de Salime © Monica R Goya

The difficulty lies in knowing where to find them. However, if you are around that area, you must stop to buy some at the Caxigal's cooperative orchard, just outside Grandas de Salime. 

We talked to Manuel, who explained to us that in their two hectares they grow six different blueberry varieties. Thanks to that, they are collecting berries from June to October. They started the orchard ten years ago and have been collecting blueberries from it for seven years now. Most of the 17,000 kg of blueberries they collect annually are exported abroad to France, UK and Holland mainly. The orchard is an addition to all the amazing conservation work that this pro-environment cooperative does to preserve the area and sustain the livelihoods of rural people.

Blueberries, Grandas de Salime © Monica R Goya

Their blueberries are delicious, full of intense flavour and as fresh as it can get. Caxigal's berries are grown with minimum use of chemicals and their superior quality makes them perfect from jams and compotes. 

Blueberries, Grandas de Salime © Monica R Goya
Blueberries, Grandas de Salime © Monica R Goya

 

Caxigal
El Chaelo s/n 33730 Grandas de Salime

 
 
 
Güeyu Mar sardines - © Monica R Goya

Güeyu Mar is a favourite restaurant in Asturias. A five-minute walk from the spectacular beach of Vega in Ribadesella, its location is as breathtaking as the food on their grill.

Sardinas_Gueyu_Mar_MonicaRGoya_4.jpg

But today it’s not about the restaurant, it’s about what you can buy to enjoy their savoir faire long after your visit. Their sardines. Olive oil and sardines, that’s it. It might sound simple but it took them over a year to develop a formula that respects the subtlety of Güeyu's grill magic and adapts the flavour, texture and aroma of the sardines for canning.

This treasure is available to take home with you and I urge you to do so. Not only to taste what will likely be among the best canned sardines you will ever have, but also to travel back to Asturias, to its sandy beaches and its soulful cuisine.

Playa de Vega, Asturias © Monica R Goya
 
 
 
Cubiletes de Amalia - Foods from Asturias

Behind every family recipe there is love. Pure, simple love. And fond memories. Cubiletes have been a long tradition at ours and it is one of the most coveted recipes I have. Every year, on December 23rd, Amalia and my mum would make cubiletes and casadielles for Christmas Eve. The roles in the kitchen were always the same: Amalia led, my mum followed and I observed.

Amalia was generous enough to share her family recipe with my family some +30 years ago. She started giving some of these treats to my dad –back then her neighbour- on Christmas and when he got married, she taught my mum how to make them. She was one of the most loving, caring, humble and respectful people I have ever met. She wasn’t my grandmother, but I love her as if she was. It breaks my heart that today we will be doing the cubiletes without her, that we don’t have her warm smile, her loving words, her advice and experience leading the baking session. But the thing about family recipes is that they keep the essence of the person who passes it on long after they are gone. She isn’t here, but somehow she is.

Los cubiletes de Amalia

Merce, Amalia’s daughter, has been kind enough to let me share her mum’s recipe with the world and I will always be grateful for that. You are a lucky bunch, trust me.


Cubiletes, a step by step recipe

Yield: 24
You will need cup-shape moulds

Ingredients for filling
250g ground almonds –if you can toast and ground them on the same day much better-
250g sugar
2 eggs, beaten
8 tbsp white wine
powdered sugar to decorate

Ingredients for the pastry
500g flour
2 tsp baking powder
160g sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250g unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tbsp white wine

Cubiletes

We will prepare the filling first as we need to let it rest while we make the pastry.

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients gently until well incorporated. Once you have a soft paste let it rest while you make the pastry.

In a medium bowl, add flour and baking powder. In a big mixing bowl, mix sugar and egg until well incorporated. When you have a yellow paste then add unsalted butter, white wine and olive oil. Once all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly add slowly the flour and baking powder mix and stir with a wooden spoon. You will know that the dough is ready when it isn’t sticky and you can handle it with your hands.

Cubiletes

Preheat the oven at 180C.

Take a little ball of dough and place it into a cup-style mould. With your hands, shape the ball of dough into a thin layer, stick to the mould. The thinner the better. Then add the almond filling with a spoon. The filling will expand while baking so leave some space on top.

Cubiletes

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes keeping an eye on them to avoid burning.

Let them cool and then dust with powdered sugar.

Cubiletes
 
 
 
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya

Slow life in Tazones

Lee en castellano


Tazones is a picture-perfect fishing village and an outstanding spot to enjoy the art of slow living while warming up sipping fish soup

Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya

Located in eastern Asturias, less than an hour from the airport or Oviedo, this charming village is said to be the place where a very young Charles V Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain set foot on Spanish soil for the first time in 1517.

These days Tazones is a bright looked after little village where the colourful houses facing the seaside only add charm to the place. Life here goes at a different pace. Slow mornings in Tazones are made of salty air and murmuring water. Days are easily memorable when you get lost around the narrow paved streets, when you seem to discover a pretty secret on every corner, when every neighbour says "buenos días (good morning)" with a smile and when you can have a truly spectacular fresh fish soup for an affordable price. Fish that has probably been captured less than twenty-four hours before you eat it.

Life probably doesn't get better than that.

Tazones_FfA_MonicaRGoya_2.jpg
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
Tazones, Asturias - Monica R Goya
 
 
 
Membrillo - Monica R Goya

Membrillo

A homemade quince paste recipe

Lee en castellano


Turkey might be the leading country in producing quinces, but in northern Spain we are anything but short of these quintessentially autumn fruits.

Membrillo - Monica R Goya

The quince tree is native to the southwest Asia region and it is believed that the word marmalade originally refers to quince jam (from Portuguese marmelo, which means quince).

Quinces are one of my favourite fruits, so delicate and special, only apt for those who try hard enough as it is almost inedible –too hard and too sour- when raw. However, there was a time in my childhood when I hated quinces for it meant hours spent by a casserole, just stirring. My mum, dad and I would take turns. Stirring boiling quinces is a dangerous affair (the bubbles might burn so try to avoid any contact by all means). And I didn’t even like quince paste back then!

Membrillo, quince paste - Monica R Goya

Nevertheless, at some point in my childhood that changed and every time I passed by my mum’s quince trees I could almost smell the soft, aromatic membrillo (quince paste) that we make every year at the beginning of the autumn, when her trees are laden with fruits.

Luckily some years ago my mum upgraded her recipe to a simpler one and the hours of stirring have been substituted by blending. Sometimes she is still nostalgic of her previous method and does it the long way. I must admit I am don't.

Quince tree - Monica R Goya

Membrillo (Quince Paste)

Nothing reflects better the flavour of autumn in Asturias than membrillo paired with some of our excellent blue cheeses, maybe Cabrales or Gamonéu. I love it on spelt or rye sourdough bread.

Yield: two rectangular pieces

Ingredients
1kg quinces cored
700g sugar
Juice of one lemon

Two sealable containers of a shape of your choice


Wash the quinces, cut out the cores with a sharp knife and roughly chopped them in small chunks. Put them in a large pan together with the sugar and the lemon juice, cover and let macerate for 24 hours.

Membrillo - Monica R Goya

The next day the sugar should have dissolved and quinces should be covered in an aromatic lemony syrup. Bring to the boil in a medium heat and then simmer for about 45 minutes over a low heat or until the quinces are tender. The paste should have a dark red, brownish colour. Blend and transfer the paste into a sealable container. Leave it to cool and then store in a sealable container for up to a year*. Once opened store in the fridge.

(*) Anything with so much sugar will keep a year or forever!

Membrillo and Gamonéu cheese - Asturias - Monica R Goya
 
 
 
rula de Avilés - Monica R. Goya

Are there any reasons why you would set your alarm for four in the morning? I can’t think of many, but the morning I visited la rula de Avilés (fish market) I had to. If you want to catch some action in the morning you need to be there early. Very early.

The fish market in Avilés sells around 80% of all the fish sold in Asturias and that is around 15,000 tonnes of fish per year. Located in a massive pristine building spanning across 17.000m2 by the Avilés coastal inlet, from the rula’s loading bay you can spot one of Avilés most famous buildings, the spectacular Niemeyer Center. This cultural centre was a present from the late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and definitely a landmark worth exploring. 

At the rula some of the fishes I saw were so fresh that they seemed to still be alive. It was particularly interesting to see the process of how the fish arrives from the boat and leaves in the fishmongers’ lorry in only a few hours. The rula in Avilés is very modern and screens and remote controls have replaced the person who used to shout the prices of the fish. Maybe less charming but probably better on the food safety side, the rula is as modern as it gets and if you love fish, it’s a great place to spend some time at.

Note that the rula offers guided one-and-a-half hour tours in the summer and at much more civilised times, usually in the afternoon. Free entry, booking is essential.

Rula de Aviles - Monica R. Goya
Rula de Aviles - Monica R. Goya
Rula de Aviles - Monica R. Goya
Rula de Aviles - Monica R. Goya
Rula de Aviles - Monica R. Goya
Rula de Aviles - Monica R. Goya
Rula de Aviles - Monica R Goya
Rula de Aviles - Monica R. Goya
Rula de Aviles - Monica R. Goya

Rula de Avilés
Av. Conde de Guadalhorce, 0, 33401
Avilés, Asturias
+34 985 56 51 90

 
 
 
Tomato sauce | Monica R. Goya

A family affair

A freestyle tomato sauce to make now

Lee en castellano


When you come from a family with a garden and with a stubborn zero-food waste attitude, it’s only natural that preserves are an important part of your pantry.

This freestyle sauce has been in my family for years, it is rich and runny, with a soft texture. It incorporates elements from other Spanish classics such as the fritada riojana (that also includes peppers) but it has been basically something that my mum and aunties came up with trying to use the surplus vegetables from the garden.

Tomato sauce | Monica R. Goya

Back home in Asturias there is a sort of tomato canning weekend every year. It involves a few members of my family and the mission has been the same from the beginning of time: using all the surplus tomatoes from the garden and making canned tomato sauce that will be used throughout the year, until the new season comes.

I only appreciated the superlative importance of that tomato canning season when I left the nest to go to university. Suddenly I forgot the hassle of making it and felt fortunate to have those jars at hand in my pantry. Being able to prepare pasta or fish with a delicious sauce free from hidden sugars in no time was a real blessing.

Tomato sauce | Monica R. Goya

Tomato sauce, step by step recipe

Ingredients

Yield: 9 medium jars

3kg ripe tomatoes
600g red peppers
250g green peppers
1kg onions
50g garlic
25g salt
*Bottled lemon juice or citric acid

As with any preserves aiming for a long shelf life, jar sterilisation is the most important part of the process. Wash all the jars and lids in hot soapy water. Once the jars and lids are clean, soak them in boiling water for fifteen minutes. Make sure you use a jar rack or a towel so that the jars don’t touch the bottom of the pan.

We always use a large pot so that we can do them all at once, but when I do it on my own I need to do several batches as I don’t have such a large pot. Any option is ok as long as the jars and lids are soaked in boiling water for fifteen minutes. Then you can use kitchen tongs to pull them out upside-down on a spotlessly clean kitchen towel to dry.   

If you don’t have a garden it is worth asking your farmer at your local market. Many times the farmers have “ugly” produce that they don’t bring to the market because they know they won’t sell. However, if you ask for it, they might be able to bring you the tomatoes that otherwise would be discarded at a reduced price. And everyone wins.  

Dip the tomatoes in plenty boiling water for three or four minutes to skin them more easily. When they cool, skin them and put aside.   

In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the peppers, onions and garlic in a good olive oil until soft. Then add the skinned tomatoes and continue cooking uncovered until they have reduced to a jam looking sauce. Stir often to prevent it from burning.

Once the sauce has cooled, pass it through a food mill –or do it directly in the pan with an electric hand blender-. Add the salt to taste towards the end.

Tomato sauce | Monica R. Goya

Ladle tomatoes into the sterilised jars and add a tablespoon of olive oil per jar. Then seal and process the jars in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes. The jars must be covered by at least 3cm of water. Once they cool leave them upside-down on a flat surface for twenty-four hours and check for liquid loss.

*While researching this recipe I found out that to be canned safely in a boiling water bath all foods should be high acid. The tomato sauce isn’t naturally high acid enough to be on the safe side, and this is achieved by adding bottled lemon juice or citric acid to the sauce. This is to prevent botulism, since it cannot grow in high acid environments.

The proportions to be added to the jars prior ladling the sauce would be as follows:

For jars around 500g/a pint:
¼ tsp citric acid or 1 tbsp bottled lemon juice 

In our recipe lemon has never been added and it has always worked fine. Obviously we always check that the sauce is ok before cooking with it, but we are incorporating the lemon solution from now onwards.

Tomato sauce | Monica R. Goya