MARI CARMEN EDO: RELLENOS DE PAN Y GRASA
Chef, Hotel Castellote
Dish: Carnival Dumplings / Rellenos de Pan y Grasa
Mari Carmen, who married into the world of restaurant cooking, has been preparing the Hostal Castellote’s renowned Carnival bread dumplings for decades, but she had never linked them to Altamiras’s rellenos cooked in meat broth. Plain crumb rellenos still round out many modern cocidos, but these days few people make charcuterie-studded Carnival dumplings. As I drove along a looping, dipping and rising mountain road to meet Mari Carmen and her husband Mariano Lechal, it became clear why so many traditional Aragonese recipes have survived quite naturally here, high in the Maestrazgo mountains: the landscape, dramatically beautiful, barely touched by modern development, is steeply sloped and hard to work, even in the age of mechanisation, and Castellote is remarkably isolated. Mari Carmen and Mariano remember the days when bread was baked collectively, often only once a fortnight, and fish was preserved in olive oil. Walking up and down the slopes of the deep-cut valleys around the village, then sampling the Hostal’s resourceful dishes, often built around a few local ingredients, these fiesta dumplings take on a new meaning outside the context of today’s traditional popular cookery. Instead the rich flavours, intensely meaty, fall into place as those of luxurious fiesta food designed to help people leave behind lean times for just a day of celebration.