Gastronomy in Castile. Castilla y Leon
If you ask most Spanish people about which dish they would order at a restaurant in Castilla y Leon the answer would probably be almost general: roast lamb. Lamb is prepared in Castilla y Leon in a brick wood-fired oven. The lamb used is “lechal” which basically stands for very young, tender lamb. This meat is so delicate you would almost not need a knife to cut it. Lamb is to be found all over Castilla, though probably it is Segovia the place where it is most famous of all for the quality of lamb. Segovia and its surrounding villages become a hot spot for people from Madrid after the summer… Tables are booked Saturdays and Sundays with visitors whose main objective is to find a table and get served lamb. In Segovia´s capital city suckling pig is also very popular. Sometimes this dish is a bit more heavy, but what was said about the quality of lamb can equally be repeated for the case of suckling pig.
Both dishes are generally served with roasted potatoes or with salad, or with both. The wine that is served with lamb is normally Ribera del Duero. During our tours in Ribera del Duero we normally include lamb or suckling pig as the main dish. You cannot go wrong in your wine and food pairing in Castilla: Ribera del Duero and roast lamb are for sure a perfect match.
Vegetarians may not find in this part of Spain their paradise… though there are good local restaurants that can adapt their menus and offer vegetarian friendly food.
We say this because if you would consider an appetizer you would discover yourself in front of rather rich dishes as well. Black pudding is one of these cases. This is a delight. Many people get surprised when they hear this. How could blood sausage a delight? Well, the reality is eat is delight. The province of Burgos specializes in this dish and most people that try it love it. If you are too keen to try it, a first dish could be Sopa castellana, a traditional soup with garlic, bread, egg and ham on it…. Not very light neither. The cold weather during this part of Spain has developed these type of gastronomy, in which men working in the fields would require a high level of calories to cope with the climate. Despite reality has changed, local food has been kept loyal to its roots.
Cold meats are also very popular. In this case it is the province of Salamanca that leads. Villages like Guijuelo are known all across Spain thanks to the quality of its ham (iberico) or chorizo. Red wines are again a great match, though iberico goes great with cava or with finos… but you are in Castilla, so most naturally you would be tempted to pair ham here with Toro or Ribera del Duero wines.
Moving to fish, cod is the kind of fish most frequently found. Cod was traditionally salted to ensure it survived the trip from the sea to the “highlands” of Castilla. This technique is still used today and salted cod (desalted prior to its preparation) is still to be found in most local restaurants. It is normally prepared with a paprika and tomato sauce and can be very tasty.
As for desserts, we would recommend you try a local Ponche. Segovia leads the way with this type of dessert. It is a nice end for a rather heavy lunch. We would not recommend this diet for a daily basis, but one day every now and then make this a very special lunch to enjoy.