Why I love October in Galicia: Cocinas and physalis
There are many things to love about October here in Galicia. Crisp, cool mornings, and warm sunny afternoons. The harvest, apples, peaches, tomatoes and walnuts are all needing to be picked and preserved for the winter months. The garden birds returning for the winter and our resident toad coming out from wherever she hides for the hot summer months. But, for me, the best thing about October is the lighting of my beloved cocina.
The wood burning range cooker is at the very heart of a traditional Galician kitchen. Throughout the winter it warms the room with its living heat. It also cooks my stews, caldos, and soups; good Galician fare for the colder months. I often put a stew or a roast in the oven (using my trusty Le Cruset Marmitout) overnight to cook slowly as the heat ebbs away. By morning I have a perfectly cooked moist and delicious meal. It makes wonderful porridge overnight too. The cocina also helps to dry my washing on damp days thanks to the wooden rack dangling from our ceiling. The metal sides of the rack are a rescue from our house in England, the wooden lathes hand made by my clever hubby. Luckily our ceiling in the kitchen is high enough to allow sheets to hang without getting tangled up. The cocina also heats our water. Our original rusted old stove had a water boiler attached to it. A long deep trough from which one could scoop boiling water. Sadly, by the time we inherited it, the boiler was rusted and holed. Our new/old stove makes do with two kettles permanently on the top. The large stainless steel kettle was made by my grandfather around 70 years ago and is still used daily.
Our range is a Lacunza no.9. In terms of cookers this is the equivalent of a Rayburn or Stanley. However Galician cocinas differ in one important respect. They are normally sited in the middle of the room. The cocina is built into a large unit which retains the heat overnight keeping the room warm until morning. Our unit in total is over three metres long and a metre and a half wide. This means that there is a lovely warm (some visitors would say extremely hot) space behind the stove to sit and plenty of work space on each side. I have seated 12 around the stove for dinner quite comfortably. The right hand side is my cooking space. Here I create meals and especially cakes. I make pastry and pasta dough on the polished granite worktop and cut endless tomatoes to make sauce or to sun dry. The left hand side is my writing space. It is getting a bit cool in here now but once I get that cocina going I will be having to back away from the stove in order not to fry myself.
The joys of living in Galicia and why I love October.
The recipe today is not really a recipe at all! A friend gave me three physalis plants in spring (those yellow berries that always come as a dessert garnish in pubs in the UK). Who knew they would grow so big? They have completely taken over my polytunnel. I have to hack at their many arms just to enter the place and each time I chop off a limb they grow another. I asked my friend what we should do with all the fruits. They have a tomato like appearance and a very perfumed smell and taste. He said ‘dip them in chocolate’. Well, one can never have too many recipes including chocolate so that’s what I have done. For dessert today we have physalis dipped in chocolate with homemade strawberry ripple ice cream.
Method (if one is needed). Melt 100g of dark chocolate (I love the Lidl 52% stuff) with 4 tbsp of cream. I use the microwave to melt the chocolate, just don’t stir it until it is melted or it will sieze. Peel back the papery case on the fruits(this mix will dip 20-25 fruits) but leave it attached as a ‘handle’. Once the chocolate is melted stir well until it is smooth then dip the fruits in and sit on a plate to dry. Serve with ice cream or alone. I have
had to try one of course…just to test it. They are gooood!! Oh, and it goes without saying that most fruits treated this way are delicious too.
If anyone has any physalis recipes then please share them. I’d love to hear from you.