The World-famous Cuisine of Extremadura
Out in the southwestern countryside of Spain lies the autonomous region of Extremadura, home of open, rolling pastures and holm oak trees which provide some of the most beautiful and unspoilt natural landscapes in all of Spain.
This region does far more than just provide wondrous scenes for the countryside wanderer. Extremadura’s culinary tradition, a result of its specific geographical makeup, is considered among the finest in all of Europe – and perhaps Spain’s best kept secret.
Black Iberian pigs play as big a role as any animal in Extremadura’s gastronomy. These pigs become jamón Ibérico, a sweet, marbled ham traditionally served with bread, oil, olives and cheeses – but only after being cured for three years.
Jamón Ibérico is the ham in standard form, fattened with grain feed. Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, a true delicacy, is Iberian pork of the highest calibre. They spend the winters of Extremadura in the dehesa, or oak forests, feasting on a diet of at least 80 percent acorns. These acorns give the ham a rich, nutty complexity.
Extremadura is also well-known for its selection of sausages, such as chorizo (pork sausage), morcilla (black sausage), and salchichón (a summer sausage). Any visitor looking to sample the flavours of Extremadura in one dish are encouraged to try migas, a dish of breadcrumbs fried in pork fat and flavoured with chorizo, a fried egg and Extremadura’s crown jewel, pimentón de La Vera, a regional smoked paprika (discussed in further detail below).
A variety of wonderful cheeses can be found across Spain, and Extremadura is no exception. In fact, the National Spanish Cheese Festival is hosted annually in Trujillo itself.
Extremadura boasts a sampling of excellent cheeses – both mature and soft – made from sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk. The most popular may be Torta del Casar, a sheep’s cheese opened from the top and served with crusty bread – simply scoop the creamy product from within, spread over your piece of bread and enjoy!
Torta de la Serena is another popular sheep’s cheese, born from the milk of merino sheep in the southeast part of Extremadura. Served similarly to Torta del Casar, Torta de la Serena is often warmed slightly to reveal a deeper, nutty flavour.
Enthusiasts looking to sample a firmer cheese may try Ibores, which comes from the milk of goats in the Trujillo area. Ibores gives off a mild aroma of goat and tastes of slight peppery and salty notes.
Perfect Pimentón de La Vera
Pimentón de La Vera is one of Spain’s most valuable spices, and is grown and exported out of Extremadura. Pimentón, or paprika, is the fragrant spice with an iconic red colour as bold as the flavour it produces. The peppers of La Vera valley were first introduced as gifts for the king and queen of Spain by conquistadores – many of whom come from Trujillo – and sent to the monasteries of the country side to cultivate.
Pimentón de La Vera is paprika made specifically from peppers grown and smoked in La Vera valley. Sitting next to the pepper fields are the smoke houses, where the peppers a hung and smoked over burning holm oak, and then ground to a powder.
Foodies looking for distinctive flavour without a lot of heat should opt for pimentón de La Vera dulce. Those looking for more kick should look for pimentón de La Vera picante.
For those interested in working with these authentic ingredients, Trujillo Villas España offers a 7-night cooking holiday spent at the historic Palacio de Piedras Albas. A local cookery tutor will walk you through all the irresistible ingredient combinations of the local cuisine, as well as guided food tours through Trujillo, Montanchez and Caceres.
More information on this special holiday, perfect for the hands-on epicurean, can be found here. If you’d rather enjoy the tastes of Extremadura without preparing them yourself, any one of our Villas are a perfect getaway option. Click here for more information.