June 19th, 2012
The first Sunday of July sees a Festival with a difference – visit Asturias in the north of Spain and you can experience the Fiesta del Cordero – one of the most popular festivals of the region. More than two thousand portions of roast lamb are served up to the tune of bagpipes and drums – all set within a green and verdant meadow. Interested? Pack your jar of mint sauce and come to Sunday lunch!
From Argentina to Asturias
Back in 1965, José Manuel Pérez, a returning immigrant to his home of Asturias, built himself a refuge, where that first year on his return from Argentina he decided on a celebration to thank his helpers – it was common in Argentina to roast a celebratory lamb on such occasions. The method used was on a vertical spit,known as a la estaca.
Creating an annual gathering
Little did he know then that he had created what was to become the Fiesta del Cordero, now deemed to be of National Touristic Interest. In a field between Lena and Quirós, the crowds gather to drink local Asturian cider after first attending an open air country Mass.
Afterwards, a ceremony is held to choose a male and female fiesta elder – the only stipulation is the contenders must be over the age of 85! These are called La Güelu and El Güelo and they lead the celebrations.
Och aye – it´s Asturias
Looking around at the green grass and high mountains you might be forgiven for thinking you have arrived in Scotland – especially when the bagpipes start up!
These are soon joined by the beat of drums as the hot ash pits are ready and the 200 or so whole marinated lambs are placed on their vertical spits, in a circle around the hot pits – to be slowly roasted to a sticky and succulent result. The marinade is a Chimichurri sauce from Argentina.
These are then carved into 2000 portions, and passed around to be eaten by the festival goers with more of that delicious cold cider. Yum! Read more about Asturian Cider in a post here….
After the eating it´s time to dance off the calories with more bagpipe music – and it goes on until late at night – must be something to do with the free flowing cider! – rounded off by colourful and loud fireworks at midnight.
And that marinade?
Chimichurri might be Argentinian,but it´s used a lot in Spanish cooking, especially for roasting and grilling meats,you can make it in your charming Asturian self catering home from home!
So on second thoughts leave that mint sauce at home and give this a try instead. It´s easy – here´s what you´ll need from the market:
- 1 cup parsley
- 1/4 cup coriander
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (chopped, optional)
- 4 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika (optional)
- 1/4 cup oil
- 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
- 1/2 lemon (juice and zest)
- salt and pepper to taste
Just bash it all up in a food processor or with a pestle and mortar – more satisfying! – for a real taste of Spain. Use it for any meat whether you´re using your holiday BBQ, or you´re giving a la estacacooking a go!
Explore Asturias, whether it´s for the Cheese the Cider, the Lamb – the stunning scenery or for the great walking country – a superb option for Summer 2012!