I was excited about pulpo a la gallega well before I ate it. Lots of Galician food involves seafood but octopus seems to hold a particularly key place. Pulpo a la gallega (also known as pulpo à feira) is available everywhere, from tapas bars to fairs (which gives it the alternative name).
The large food tent at village fairs is a hub of octopus activity. At one small festival we went to, we watched a large octopus being scooped from alarge pan into a boiling copper pot, churning and contracting in the water, then being ladled onto the hotplate for finishing and cutting into bits with scissors. It was then placed on a wooden plate and liberally sprinkled with sea salt, paprika and olive oil. Plenty of bread and red wine helped wash it down and mop it up.
The texture, a mix of firm centre and slimey edges, I found a bit disconcerting for the first mouthful but rich olive oil and the salt made it very moreish. I liked it best in thinner slices, scooped onto bread with oil and the firm wrinkled tentacles, chewy and squishy all at the same time.
I haven’t tried to make it at home yet, but if you have a large copper pot and a whole octopus, it seems quite doable. A good description of how to do it can be found here on EatDrinkTravel.
We hired a campervan in Spain. This small beast of a vehicle was cosy in the frequent rain, but very unsuited for narrow old streets, and took us all around the coast of Galicia. Galicia is the northwest corner of Spain that sits just above Portugal. The coast is full of beautiful inlets and estuaries called rías, around which the roads wind and small towns and villages perch. We surfed, ate, and drank wine and although I have lots of things I want to write about, I’m going to start with cheese.
Tetilla is a Galician cow milk cheese named for its shape (can you guess what it means?).
It is one of the four cheeses from Galicia that has been granted certification of origin status (‘Denominación de Orixe’). I find it fascinating the level of detail that applies to this certification, and the Queixo Tetilla regulatory body has kindly put it regulation information online here if you are interested. It ranges from the size of the cheese (the diameter at the base must be between 9-15cm, as must the height) to the permissible cow breeds (Frisian, Brown Alpine or Galician Red breeds). It is air dried and aged for at least a week, and ends up covered with a firm yellow rind.
When we tried it, we found it had a light fresh scent and a creamy texture, that is a bit buttery and soft enough to spread (with a small amount of effort), although it can be a bit sticky in the mouth.
You can eat it in lots of ways. We tried it plain, on sandwiches and, my favourite, for dessert with a wedge of membrillo (a preserved quince ‘cheese’ that I’m going to try and make in the next few weeks, so will post about it soon). It melts well, so we put some chunks on some of the dinners we made in the van. I liked it, I didn’t love it, more because of the texture than anything else, but I’m always happy to try something new.