Traditional cooking has stood the test of time. It has always been connected to the food and agricultural practices in the Autonomous Community of Navarre, and to the richness of the land which yields succulent produce in each season, used to prepare the dishes so loved by the Navarrans and anyone who cares to try them. Borage, collard greens, cardoon and artichokes in winter; asparagus in spring; ox meat, fresh white beans and pepper in summer; and game and mushrooms in autumn.
The flavour and goodness of the raw ingredients from Navarre are guaranteed by 7 Protected Designations of Origin, 6 Protected Geographical Indications and 4 quality certifications. Throughout history, Navarre has taken care to recover, maintain and promote the indigenous products which are known for their quality and which are prepared using traditional methods.
QUALITY VEGETABLES AND LEGUMES
The Navarran cookbook is based mainly on the most select vegetables, whether natural or preserved, which as well as being healthy and nutritious are delightful to the palate. When in season we can enjoy the full splendour of local vegetables such as the artichoke, the little gem lettuce (known as Cogollos de Tudela), white and red cardoon, borage, Lodosa piquillo peppers or the tender asparagus. When prepared as a vegetable stew the flavour is undeniable. Artichokes, peas, asparagus and fresh broad beans cultivated in the soil of the La Ribera region are essential ingredients for this dish.
The leek and the potato also have starring roles in a dish known as porrusalda, a broth containing these chopped ingredients and which is prepared in different ways depending on the area it comes from. The fresh white beans from Sangüesa or the red beans from Baztan, usually cooked with pig’s tail or quail, provide a good accompaniment to these dishes.
Other typical Navarran dishes are the estellesa soup (made with lard, rice and milk), traditional migas from Ujué and the Roncal valley, tomato and pepper rice stuffing, corn bread with chistorra cured sausage, lamb offal, etc.
The stew par excellence in Navarre is the calderete, linked to the important role of livestock rearing in this Autonomous Community. It is prepared with lamb or rabbit, potato and a few vegetables. The local custom of getting together over good food means this dish is usually eaten during religious processions, parties or social gatherings.
We shouldn’t forget the ox stew of course, normally eaten following the San Fermín fiestas, nor the lamb stew with tomatoes and peppers, nor the succulent meat dishes such as the roasted suckling pig, kid or grilled steak.
In addition, the hunting tradition passed from fathers to sons and the abundance of species across the entire region means there is a huge range of seasonal dishes served in Navarran restaurants, such as wild boar and deer stews, partridge and quail or the famous Etxalar pigeons.
NOT FORGETTING FISH
Whilst Navarre is not a coastal region, its proximity to the Cantabrian Sea has influenced the creation of various traditional dishes using hake, sea bream, horse mackerel, baby squid or grouper. The star dish, however, is the cod stew with red peppers. The rivers of the region also yield pike, prawns, crayfish and, of course, trout, usually served with ham.
Navarre is prime wine territory, and since time immemorial thousands of hectares of grapevines have sustained an exquisite winemaking tradition. Under the Navarre and Rioja Designations of Origin an excellent wine list awaits us, comprising rosés, reds and whites which are highly prized by connoisseurs, and which combine perfectly with any of our traditional dishes.
AND THE CULMINATION
This celebration of flavours in Navarre would not be complete without the pleasure of a good dessert to sweeten up the after-dinner conversation. You’ll be able to try desserts including the typical curd with walnuts and honey, a Roncal or Idiazabal cheeseboard accompanied by quince jelly or cream-filled rolled wafers. Those of you with the sweetest tooth won’t be able to resist the txantxigorri cakes, the mantecadas (sponge pastries) from Tudela, the pies from Aoiz, the classic chandríos (doughnuts), the goshua pudding or the delicious leche frita (a fried mixture of milk, flour and sugar).
And for those who wish to stretch out the after-dinner conversation, don’t forget the pacharán, a spirit liqueur with medicinal properties produced by soaking sloe berries in aniseed. It has been drunk since the Middle Ages and it is still customary to prepare it at home for personal consumption. It is the essential accompaniment to the fiestas and celebrations of good food in Navarre. Don’t miss out on trying it!