Cook like a lo­cal: Alpu­jar­ras

The best things to eat and drink, plus a recipe for pork with gar­lic and pep­pers

Olive - - Contents - Words DAVID AND EMMA ILLSLEY

The rugged foothills of the Sierra Ne­vada moun­tains, south-east of Granada, the Alpu­jar­ras ex­ert a semi­le­gendary pull on many An­dalu­cians, and in­deed many other Span­ish peo­ple. It’s a ro­man­tic, whim­si­cal place, known to be re­mote, ru­ral and – that most Span­ish of things – quixotic. The re­gion is blessed with ex­tremely fer­tile soils that yield all kinds of in­gre­di­ents, from al­monds to grapes via figs, or­anges and, of course, olives. The Moors, whose rule over the Alpu­jar­ras lasted for 800 years, in­tro­duced al­monds, cumin, pomegranates and aubergines to the re­gion, all of which thrived thanks to the many long days of sun­shine. The ports, an hour or so away, are part of a thriv­ing fish­ing in­dus­try, and the forests run thick with game and wild herbs – all high-qual­ity raw in­gre­di­ents that lo­cal kitchens make the most of. A largely un­sung hy­brid of North African and Span­ish in­flu­ences, la cocina Alpu­jar­reña is as rudi­men­tary as it is de­li­cious. It is not fancy, it is sea­sonal and ro­bust. What dis­tin­guishes it most of all is its rel­a­tively straight­for­ward prepa­ra­tion – tra­di­tion­ally much of it would have been done out­side in the fields, us­ing por­ta­ble in­gre­di­ents and im­pro­vised fire-pits (when pre­pared in­side, peo­ple used ele­men­tary hearths in the cor­ner of a kitchen). To­day, this ap­proach hasn’t much changed. In Ber­ber-like vil­lages, small but re­silient com­mu­ni­ties tend al­mond and olive ter­races, and cul­ti­vate im­mac­u­late and an­cient veg­etable patches, while tiny lo­cal bars and restau­rants serve recipes that have been handed down through gen­er­a­tions of farm­ers.»

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