Food spotlight: Basque in one of the world’s most fascinating cultures


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The Basque people, who live in a semi-autonomous region of northern Spain as well as in southwestern France, are believed to be the direct descendants of farmers who settled in the area some 35,000 years ago, making them perhaps the oldest ethnic community in Europe. Their language, called Euskara, is unrelated to any other language in the world.

While its cuisine has been influenced by neighbouring French and Spanish dishes, Basque food is a unique mix of seafood and fish especially salt cod as well as cured ham and other meats, and the region is host to some of the best restaurants in the world. Among the most iconic Basque foods and dishes (and our favourites) are:

  • Marmitako: A hearty fish stew made from potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes, marmitako which means “from the pot” was originally eaten on fishing boats along the coast.
  • Gateau Basque: Called Etxeko biskotxa in Basque, this traditional dessert is made from layers of wheat flour cake and filled with vanilla cream, almonds or cherries.
  • Jambon de Bayonne: Taking its name from the port city of Bayonne in southern France, this ham is cured for seven to ten months. It’s slightly sweet and has a chewy texture.
  • Gerezi beltza arno gorriakin: This one-of-a-kind cherry soup is served warm or cold. The cherries are poached in wine with sugar and served with sour cream or even ice cream.
  • Fish soup: This hearty soup is made from onions, garlic, tomatoes, celery, parsley, white wine and thyme. Local fish, squid or shrimp are then added.
  • Pintxos (the “tx” in Basque is pronounced like “ch”) are the Basque equivalent of Spanish tapas or finger food snacks and usually consist of small slices of bread topped with ingredients like cod, anchovy, peppers or potatoes and fastened with a toothpick.

Have you ever tried Basque food? Here and here are a couple of delicious and simple-to-prepare recipes. And please share your thoughts with the Shop Talk Blog community forum!

 

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Did you know: Bilbao’s Guggenheim

The Basque Country’s largest city, Bilbao, has seen a cultural renaissance in recent years, thanks in large part to the iconic Guggenheim Museum, which opened there in 1997.

30 thoughts on “Food spotlight: Basque in one of the world’s most fascinating cultures

  1. My mom lives in Basque contry in Spain side! I love people there and the food is outstanding!!! I have been in France side as well as my mom lives 10min from the border! Love pintxos! Every pab has different ones and they even makes competition who has the tastiest! The Gâteau Basque is my favourite from french side! Museum Guggenheim is amazing, lots if modern exhibitions.

  2. Love,love,love!!! My mom lives in Basque county in Spain and 5min from France!! The nature is outstanding!!! Mountains, beach and ocean!! The food is delicious at any cafe or restaurant! Pintxos are must to eat as well as fish and hambon (it’s called prosciutto here but less salty and much tastier) and gâteau

  3. MOST OF THE BASQUE DISHES ARE DIFFICULT TO DUPLICATE EVEN IF YOU FIND THE INGREDIENTS THEY ARE NOT THE SAME, FRESHNESS IS AN ISSUE AS MOST OF THE ITEMS ARE IMPORTED AND WHO KNOWS HOW LONG IN TRAVEL BEFORE THEY ARRIVE IN OUR STORES. PINTXOS ARE HOWEVER DOABLE WITH LOCALLY FOUND INGREDIENTS, ANY FORM OF TAPAS IS POPULAR.

  4. The food sounds good on some. Not a big fan of fish One day I will get a chance to learn how to cook some of the recipes. Thank you for sharing and also the group sounds like an interesting group to getting to know.

  5. I have been to the Guggenheim Museum. Spectacular. The Basque Country and the people are truly wonderful. Spain is definitley worth visiting.

  6. I was intrigued by the Marmitako and the Gateau Basque.. Not sure I would be fond of the other recipes but definitely going to try the Marmitako.. looks soo Good! Thanks for sharing

  7. Regarding the Basque language . . . I had understood that there were similarities between the Basque language and the Language spoken by the Welsh . In fact, there appears to be a DNA link as well.

    some of my ancestors on my maternal Grandmother’s side or the family came from the area of the Pyrenees and both she and I , though born and raised on huge areas of prairie lands in Canada, had and have strong feelings for mountainous areas.

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/basque-ing-in-welsh-dna-2281798

    Thanks for the post

  8. I grew up in Newfoundland Canada where fresh and salt cod and aged hams were part of our diet back in the 40’s and 50’s, recipes that were passed down through the generations no doubt came from the day of the sail when my great grandfather RIGGS would leave my home port on the schooners for months to foreign ports only to bring back those aromatic spices I can still smell to this day and the wonderful dishes that I’m certain were influenced by the Basque culture. Can’t wait to try some of these tempting recipes, its winter and this sounds so soul warming.

  9. I ate basque food when I was young. My dad knew a number of basque descended sheep herders and they often made dishes for our family. Loved it then and am sure I would love it now, if I could find places that prepared it.
    Not much of this type of cuisine in Sourhern Alberta.

  10. I have not yet tried any of these dishes even though they sound delectable I watch every cooking show on the telly and then try my own hand at making things

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