The Asturians are baying for blood, yet the jury has spoken and as of March last year, the Best Fabada in the World is in Madrid! The winners of last year´s competition was none other than the Mesón Asturiano Sidrería Arturo in the Hortaleza area of our capital.
Originally run by Asturians, today the Mesón is in the hands of chef proprietor Carlos Guillermo García, a former pharmacist from Peru. Unable to find work in his previous profession, he was forced to take a cooking job to make ends meet. “I´d never even been near a saucepan in my life”, confesses García timidly. The original Asturian owners treated him like one of the family and passed on their secret recipe for their winning bean stew on their retirement in 2015 and García has been working his chemistry on it ever since.
For those of you unfamiliar with Spanish pulses, fabada is a slow-cooked white bean dish with various guises of pork. Ranging from morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, tocino and pancetta (lard and bacon). Slightly similar to its French cousin, cassoulet, yet without the silky duck confit. This is potent fare and the resultant gases when eaten in “fartura”, which ironically means abundance in Asturiano, and harnessed correctly could probably power the whole of Pozuelo.
On an icy cold day I am rather partial to a steaming bowl of fabada and on a recent trip to Asturias we had the pleasure of sampling a delicious variety at Casa Belén in Villaviciosa, just 20 minutes inland from the beautiful coastal town of Gijón. Asturians are known for their hearty appetite so the Menú del Día comprised an ample starter of Sopa de Ajo, alias a garlic and pimentón soup thickened with bread, a giant chalice of Fabada and then the other regional speciality: Cachopo (2 breaded veal fillets filled with melted cheese) & chips washed down with cider and Belén´s special natillas (custard) to follow, all for the paltry sum of €15. The Macdonalds Happy Meal with its meagre soggy burger and mass produced French Fries for the same price wouldn´t do very well in this area…..
Funnily enough, if you´re looking for a quick fix, whilst not being a huge advocate of tinned food, the Litoral brand of ready made fabada is surprisingly tasty and the giant catering can sizes of 5 portions have served up many a happy winter lunch to me and my 51 immediate in laws at the farm near Aranjuez where we got married. Think of it as gourmet Baked Beans with all the porky trimmings. It certainly takes pride of place as a Spanish storeroom staple and I´m hoping to get my hands on some of Jurgita´s prize Lithuanian chillies to perk up my next Asturian ration.
So watch this space for a possible visit to an Asturian restaurant with the lunch bunch coming soon….
Mesón Sidrería Arturo – Calle del Mar Bering, 9. Hortaleza, Madrid. Tel 917 63 12 39
Casa Belén – Calle General Campomanes, 1, Villaviciosa, Asturias. Tel 696 05 37 21