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Spanish Secrets: Festive Feasting

In this wonderfully tasty article Craig Briggs will make your mouth water with his description of a Galician farmhouse feast.

For a long, delicious read about the experiences of Craig and his wife Mel in rural Galicia click on Spanish Secrets in our column menu on the right-hand side of this page.

Following on from last week's tale, we left the lean-to and returned up the stone steps and into the farmhouse. A corridor ran the length of the house dividing the accommodation into two equal halves.

The first room on the right was the kitchen. This was a hive of activity, the focus of which was a large wood burning stove. Typically this was in a central position enabling people to work on three sides.

Across the corridor, opposite the kitchen, was the dining room. Two tables had been set, the first with ten dining chairs around it and the second with a wooden bench either side. Hanging on one wall were old framed photos of parents and grandparents, as if they were watching the afternoon's events.

With the time approaching 3 o'clock, everyone seated and already drinking our host Manalo's wine, his wife Marisa asked who would prefer spaghetti, instead of the traditional Galician starter of Callos.

Our friends David and Terri have previously attended such events and warned us about Callos. Both they and my wife Melanie, quickly chose the spaghetti. I on the other hand couldn't believe that Callos could be quite as David had described, and so I chose it.

A large glass bowl of Callos was placed in the centre of the table, along with a basket of crusty bread. Being a guest I was handed the serving ladle first and told to help myself. David's earlier description was spot on.

Callos is a type of soup with chickpeas, but the main ingredients are lumps of fat and bones. Such is their love of this dish that they even put the bones in their mouth and suck the fat off them. I on the other hand ate only the soup and the peas, which was surprisingly tasty.

The next course was various roasted meats, no vegetables, just a relatively small bowl of lettuce coated in Manalo's own delicious wine vinegar. On the first stainless steel platter were two roast rabbits. They were already jointed, but I knew there were two because of the number of heads.

The second platter was piled high with roast chicken and a third with roast lamb, all cooked to perfection and delicious. The second table in the dining room received similar portions. There were more people eating in the kitchen

All these animals were reared and slaughtered on the farm and were now being eaten there.

After the meats came desert. Four round trays were brought to each table. One with different varieties of biscuits and figs, another with custard filled cake, a third with three or four different varieties of cakes and the last with nougat, chocolate and fudge.

A meal in Galicia would not be complete without strong black coffee and liqueurs.

After which I sat back in my dining chair feeling somewhat full.

Less than an hour elapsed since finishing this feast before another tray was brought from the kitchen. This time with thirty or more blood pancakes, delicately rolled and stacked.

With the obvious exception of their appearance, which is a deep red wine colour, they are very similar to crepes. They are coated with honey, sprinkled with sugar, served whilst hot and eaten with one's fingers.

Another hour passed before Herman, our host's son, brought yet another tray of food. This time peppered pigs' liver. The liver is cooked whole and coated with a hot spicy pepper sauce. I can honestly say it is probably the best liver I have ever eaten.

Unbelievably within the hour the tables were being set again for evening dinner.

We started with delicious shell fish soup, followed by cold roast meats, (again not a vegetable in sight) followed by more cakes, biscuits and chocolate. After this came cheese and crusty bread, and the obligatory coffee and liqueurs.

Our hosts and their friends had been the warmest, kindest people one could wish to meet. They live simply, have few material possessions, but they work together, play together and eat together in good humour and can show anyone how to enjoy life to the full.

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