The Sil carves it's way across Galicia's inland province of Ourense. This rugged, mountainous area is known as the Ribeira Sacra - one of the country´s best wine regions. As it twists and turns through the province, it creates a series of micro climates, which are perfect for Galicia's hardy and aromatic grape varietals, notably the godello and mencia. Grapes have been grown in the region for more than two thousand years, and when you consider the treacherous lengths that are gone to tend to the vnyards along the canyon, it's not hard to understand why wine making is looked upon here with divine significance.
The cooking is distinctly Galego, but with many inventive twists. Chorizo con castañas, a dish that is typical of these particular hills, because of the abundance of chestnut trees. Lentijas con algas, lentils stewed with seaweed farmed in the shallow rias on the atlantic coast. Filloas – Galicia's version of pancakes – served with queso de pais – soft and creamy cow's milk cheese, made in the next village. Bread baked in the communal stone oven, which is shared with the surrounding households. Home-made jams, honey and juices. Cake made from a traditional recipe, served for breakfast every morning.
Pastel de Ourense
This most traditional of cakes is native to this particular corner of the Ourense province. Interestingly, it's made using a sour dough starter, meaning there's no baking soda or other rising agent. Served at breakfast time and after lunch, it's delicious as it is, but really comes into it's own when dipped into very hot coffee.
Enough for a huge baking tray full
Make a sour dough leavan starter.
Mix with warm water.
Add half kilogram of plain flour. Form into a dough, cover, and leave to rise for five hours.
Cream half a kilogram of butter with twice that volume of sugar (about a kilogram).
Add twelve eggs, and another half kilogram of plain flour to the butter and sugar, and mix well.
Mix the butter / egg mixture together with the dough, and transfer into rectangular cake tins.
Bake in hot oven for 45 mins – an hour. At the Reitoral, they use a old fashioned wood burning stove, with a couple of large chunks of oak in the burner. If you don't have one of them, turn the dial to 180 degrees.
Remove from the oven when the top has turned golden brown and a skewer comes out clean after piercing.
Sprinkle with more sugar and leave to cool.
Serve for breakfast and after lunch with hot coffee for dipping.