Extremadura, a heritage of flavours. Matías Macías. President of the Extremadura Gastronomy Guild.

In Extremadura you eat. With the gaze, with the palate and with its history. Its varied gastronomy invites to fuse with the beautiful landscapes. Its fields are responsible for delicatessens such as Iberian ham, cheese, meat, cava, tomato, paprika from La Vera … All top quality products that offer the world not only a varied gastronomy, but also a true spectacle of textures, flavours and history.

The cuisine of Extremadura has several pillars, explains Matías Macías Amado, president of the Cofradía Extremeña de Gastronomía. “The Jewish, Arab and Christian cultures are present in our dishes. Although there is also much of the cuisine of the time of transhumance and pastoral dishes,” says Macias. In his words, the legacy of the Arabs is very present in recipes such as: porridge, aubergines in a casserole, syrup or meatballs.

Enjoying the gastronomic offer of Extremadura is a song to the earth. Its pure and clean air, its Merino sheep, goats, pigs, cheeses, all are “stars of the area”, defines Macias, and it is that each food has been treated and prepared in an artisanal way, following the traditions that have been transmitted through generations. Legacies that are increasingly closer to the public. “Both the cheese route in Extremadura and the Iberian ham route are important not only for the diffusion of our traditional and avant-garde cuisine, but also for the preservation of our roots”, adds the president of the Brotherhood.

Most of Extremadura’s cheeses originate in transhumance. The customs and pastoral needs resulted in many of the recipes of these famous dairy products. It was the nomadic sense that created these cheeses that have become the culinary identity of Extremadura.

Macias has been working since 2005 to preserve and rescue the ancestral dishes of the sustenance kitchen “that which is cultivated in the orchards and cooked in the wood-burning ovens”. If there’s one thing the people of Extremadura have, it’s a taste for good food. The restaurants from the humblest to Atrio, in Cáceres (with two Michelin stars) pamper each one of their recipes and offer the Extremaduran and the foreigner “a magnificent product with an excellent preparation”.

In addition to the richness of its cuisine, two of its most important cities, Cáceres and Mérida, are World Heritage Sites and gastronomic capitals. Cáceres was the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy during 2015 and Mérida in 2016 obtained the title of Ibero-American Capital of Gastronomic Culture.

Since 2014 the Government of Extremadura proposed to make this region a gastronomic destination. And with determination and different offers of tourism they have been achieving it little by little. “It is being achieved that not only the historical monuments are visited, but that people come to eat”, emphasizes Macías. And he underlines “Routes such as the one for cheese encourage people not only to know the product but also to discover its history and the production process”.

Although Iberian ham reaches its maximum expression in these lands, cheeses with a designation of origin such as La Serena, La Torta del Casar or Ibores become the “white gold of the area”.

Gachas, cojondongo, stews such as the old-fashioned green ram, and the famous migas are representatives of Extremadura’s traditional gastronomy. But cooking evolves as humans do. And in this process some of the most famous restaurants such as Atrio present an offer with the usual products, but with a twist. Within their menu they have prepared dishes such as the pork mask, Norway lobster and creamy bird juice, the truffle purée sandwich, or the carabinero with breaded nose, and of course, sweet rice with wild asparagus. And for dessert a version of the Torta de Casar with truffle.

Wines are not left behind. The banks of the Guadiana offer true oenological treasures. Among its stars the cava with denomination of origin shines. This region was known as the kingdom of the white, its wines were destined to bulk and distilled, they called it “wine of pitarra”. But the efforts of the people of Extremadura have meant that today they have a handful of winemakers and vine-growers who produce excellent wines that have given rise to the Ribera del Guadiana appellation of origin or the creation of wineries such as Pago los Balancines, Carabal, Viña Puebla and Palacio Quemado.

Extremadura offers, through its history, its legacy and its gastronomic traditions, a true journey for the senses.