I did it! I walked 800 kilometres (500 miles) across Spain. It was brilliant. A long, slow, meditative walk across the country, over mountain ranges and across plains, through farms, villages, cities….
If you’re interested, you can find the full story here in my column, The Dish, in the Kingston Whig Standard.
Here’s a short excerpt:
“Walking slows you down. You have time to absorb the world around you – the sky, the horizon, the trail itself. Your feet, heart, and brain get into sync – a beautiful symmetry of motion, feelings, and thought. You have hours alone. And hours shared with people, often those whose first language is not English. Sometimes you only have a few words in common.
I’ve only been home a week, but what I miss most (aside from the people and the walking) is starting my day in a Spanish bar, with a beautiful café con leche – the Spanish equivalent of a cappuccino. Bars are where life happens in Spain. Coffee and breakfast, beer, wine and food, lunch, dinner, late-night snacks, Wi-Fi, and a television stuck on the sports channel. Older men drink espresso and play dominoes. Younger people meet for wine and tapas. Hungry pilgrims descend along with their packs and walking sticks.”
flowers still in bloom in November
livestock along the route
walking sticks and scallop shells for passing pilgrims
the cathedral in Burgos and the big blue Spanish sky
sunrise over Spain
a typical municipal albergue (or pilgrim hostel) -this one in Puenta la Reina
a pilgrim dinner taken by the waitress (that’s me at the back!)
Spanish food along the Camino is simple, tasty, inexpensive, plentiful, and varies by region. Tortilla, the Spanish omelette made with potatoes, is served almost everywhere. There are hearty soups like caldo Callego – made with white beans and sausage; and a classic chickpea and chorizo stew; and of course, that most famous of Spanish dishes, paella. Grilled pulpo (octopus) is a speciality of Galicia. Bocadillos abound (substantial sandwiches usually served on a half-baguette or large bread roll) stuffed with jamón y queso (ham and cheese) or calamari or chorizo. And pilgrim dinners served at night offer three simple courses including soup or salad, a main course with meat and vegetables (though more often, fries), dessert, and local wines, usually red. One night I had a heavenly glass of Godello, a sublime Spanish white.
This classic dessert, the Tarta de Santiago, is a Galician speciality. A thin, gluten-free almond cake that has been made since the Middle Ages, it is typically served dusted with icing sugar and marked with the Cross of Saint James (find templates online – I used this one). This beautiful, simple, intensely flavourful cake improves with age so make it a day or two ahead.
Tarta de Santiago
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 150 grams (1 ½ cups) of finely ground almonds or almond flour
- 2 tbsp rice flour (or regular flour if not baking a gluten-free cake)
- Grated zest of one lemon
- 2-3 tbsp icing sugar to decorate
Liberally grease a 9” spring-form pan (in addition, you can line the pan with parchment paper although this step is not absolutely necessary).
Beat the eggs with an electric mixer for a minute or so, then add the sugar and beat until fluffy – another minute or so.
Using a spoon, stir in the finely ground almonds and rice flour, along with the lemon zest. Fold gently to combine the ingredients.
Using a spatula, scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until browned. Check for doneness. It may need a further five minutes but don’t overcook the cake and dry it out. Place the cake on a cooling rack and leave to completely cool.
If using the Cross of Saint James template, place it in the centre of the cooled cake. Using a small sieve, sprinkle with icing sugar and carefully remove the template. Slice the cake in thin wedges and serve with whipped cream.