In the parts of northern Spain I frequent (the Basque provinces of Alava and Guipúzcoa) one of the simplest and most delicious foods is the talo. Consisting of a thick cornbread tortilla wrapped around chorizo, chistorra, cheese or even chocolate, the concept of the talo is far from rocket science, but the results are off-planet on the scrumptiousness scale. The delectability of the talo is augmented by two factors: its consumption in tandem with cider or chacolí (a type of sparkling white wine produced in the Basque Country and which, in spite of its acidity goes down very well); and the fact that talos are almost exclusively available during fairs, feast days and fiestas and are to be eaten outdoors, where the fresh northern air and festive spirits leave any Michelin-star sauce in the ha’penny place.
It is the filling that makes the talo. The chorizo used is of the young, soft and thick variety and is boiled in cider, lending it a tanginess it wouldn’t otherwise have. The fried chistorra will be harder and have a more meaty taste. One of the most interesting cheeses employed is Idiazábal, a very strong-tasting sheep’s cheese which, under Denominación de Origen regulations, can only be made in the Basque Country and Navarre. Such is the capacity of cornbread for soaking up overpowering flavours, it seems as if any filling can be used for a talo no matter how pungent!
Given the capacity for the Basques and Spanish to combine a love of the outdoors with an equally intense love of food, there are many treats of the tapa variety widely available at outdoor events. (The blighters also have the weather to reliably plan and execute open-air fiestas at any time of the year!) I look forward to writing further blogs on the many such dainties I encounter along my travels this year.