Jornades Gastronėmiques del Pallars Jussą

By Simon Rice

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The Jornades Gastronėmiques del Pallars Jussą, ‘Gastronomy Days,’ is an annual culinary festival held during the autumn in the Pallars Jussą region of Lleida province. The menus combine traditional dishes often with a new slant or twist – a very typical feature of modern Catalan cooking – as well as happily importing some classics from other regions. The Jornades have been going since 1993 and each year dishes and restaurants vary. Furthermore, the timing varies as well having been held from mid-September to well on into late November. The Jornades are held each weekend for a four-week period. Each of the restaurants offers their menus on the Saturday and Sunday of one weekend only. The five or six course menus are all-inclusive and vary slightly in price. There is some sponsorship, mainly the wines and coffee, which are in effect free. Although one well known local charcuterie, Badia, has also sponsored the event over the past coupe of years.

 

We’ve been to several of the Jornades over the years. Here are a few of our favourite dishes (NB I’ve chopped and changed dishes from different years!):

 

El Salasse’ is located in the historic village of Saląs de Pallars. The restaurant is part of a restored ‘fonda’, or inn, and offers local and ‘imported’ specialities with a difference:

 

Pastís fred d’enciam de l’horta sobre fons d’escalivada i seitons (cold ‘bake’ of garden salads served with anchovies and ‘escalivada’; aubergine and peppers cooked and preserved in olive oil)

 

Salmó marinat amb salsa bernesa (marinated salmon with Béarnais sauce)

Filet d’estruć a la crema de gerds (ostrich steak with raspberry cream sauce)

 

Pastís Tatin de préssec (peach tart)

 

The Llac Negre is a small ‘business lunch’ restaurant in Tremp. Its fixed price ‘menú del diá’ is well above average in quality and value and, unusually, is also served in the evenings and weekends:

 

Amanida de pernil ibŹric amb gelat de rocafort (salad of Iberian ham with ice cream made from Roquefort)

 

Bacalla gratinat amb all i oli de pera (gratin of salt cod with garlicky ‘alioli’ sauce ‘sweetened’ with pears)

 

Magret d’anec amb salsa de raēm (preserved duck with grape sauce)

 

Pasta de full amb salsa de crema i fruites del bosc (flaky pastry tart with cream and wild hedgerow fruits)

 

Casa Roca at Sant Miguel de Barcedana provides very traditional farmhouse fare. The house is a ‘Casa de Pages’, which roughly equates to a British farmhouse B&B. As well a super-traditional dishes, often roasted in the bread oven, the cooking uses home produced ingredients like walnut oil and honey, which are also on sale as gifts:

 

Arrės a la cassola amb conill (home style baked rice with rabbit)

 

Truita de riu amb picada d’avellanes (trout with hazelnuts)

 

Cabrit al forn de llenya (kid roasted in the wood oven)

 

Postre de music amb vi de nous (mixed nuts and dried fruits accompanied by  sweet walnut wine)

 

L’Era del Marxant in La Pobleta de Belvei specialises in ‘Carns a la Brasa’, i.e. meats grilled over a wood fire. Barbecue isn’t really the right word as the food is then served in a formal restaurant. An ‘era’ is the traditional stone enclosure where livestock used to be kept and L’Era del Marxant has been tastefully converted. La Pobleta de Belvei is in the Val Fosca, an area which specialises in rearing horses for meat, so naturally ‘carn d’equí’ is a speciality, but there’s plenty more to chose from:

 

Amanida tŹbia de mongetes i orella acompanyada amb salsa vinegreta (warm haricot bean and oyster mushroom salad with a vinaigrette dressing)

 

Conil amb samfaina i cargols (rabbit baked in a vegetable medley with snails)

 

Bacalla fresc macerat amb a l’oli amb trinxat de verdures (fresh cod macerated in olive oil with vegetable ‘bubble and squeak’)

 

Formatge fresc amb codonyat (fresh curd cheese with quince jelly)

 

L’Eramont at Aramunt makes the most of its location close to the historic ruined town on a hill adjacent to the modern village. The elegant upstairs dining room is decorated with examples of local handicrafts and the restaurant specialises in innovative uses of locally produced specialities:

 

Amanida de cua de bou amb llangostina (ox tail salad with prawns)

 

Farcellets de salmó marinat amb mousse d’aubergínies (marinated salmon nests with aubergine ‘mouse’)

 

Magret d’anect fresc, a la salsa d’oporto amb poma cramelitzada (fresh duck with a port wine sauce and caramelised apples)

 

Pastis de figues i castanyes (fig and chestnut tart)

 

Hotel Val Fosca at Los Molinos is an elegant modern building set high up in this remote valley. It is very popular with visitors from Barcelona and has a cosmopolitan air, the cooking is traditional, however, but of the very best quality:

 

Amanida semicalantada d’escarola i arengada amb una vinagreta de raēm moscatell (warm salted ‘herring’ and escarole salad with a vinaigrette based on sweet muscatel wine)

 

Canelons crocantes de truita de riu i ametlles amb una salsa cremosa de tomata confitada (‘crunchy’ trout and almond cannelloni with a creamy sauce based on preserved tomatoes)

 

Bacalla amb morro i orella (salt cod with morel and oyster mushrooms)

 

Pera amb el seu almívar i coulis de xocolata i nata (pear in its own syrup and coulis with chocolate and cream)

 

The Terradets at Cellers is part of the Llac Negre hotel complex (NB. there’s no connection to the Llac Negre restaurant in Tremp) and one’s gastronomic instinct would say to ignore it. This is a mistake, however, as the family run hotel has evolved over the past forty-odd years from a humble ‘fonda’ to being the swanky-est place for miles! As well as providing separate facilities for lavish wedding banquets its ‘Terradets’ restaurant, with stunning views directly over the lake of the same name and to the north slopes of the Serra de Montsec beyond, offers sophisticated cuisine for amazing value, given the near ‘silver’ service experience:

 

Amanida tŹbia de formatge amb compote de tomąquet (warmed cheese salad with tomato compote)

 

Milfulles de peu de porc i ceps (‘mille-feuille’ of pigs trotters and wild ‘cep’ mushrooms)

 

Filet IbŹric amb salsa de vinagre de gerds (filet of Iberian pork with sauce based on raspberry vinegar)

 

Casa Lola at Talarn deserves a very special mention. As well as serving Kings and Presidents it is a great favourite with guests at Casa Rafela and has the distinction, dubious perhaps, of being featured in the Rough Guide series. The most notable visitor, however, is yours truly; I lived there for a couple of months whilst Casa Rafela was ‘en obras’, back in the days when Casa Lola was still a humble ‘fonda’ – I put on a couple of stone as one may imagine! The family are farmers locally and lots of the home-made specialities used in the cooking such as herbed dressings, sugared almonds, ‘codonyat’ (a special quince jelly used in sauces) and preserves such as tomato jam come from the farmstead, and are also on sale as gifts. Although she speaks reasonable English, quite a rareity hereabouts, Florita (Lola is her mum), a gifted cook and a wonderful host, is always willing to haul mystified diners into the kitchen to explain a particular dish!

 

Amanida d’arengada amb tomata perfumada d’alfąbrega i nous (salt ‘herring’ salad with basil flavoured tomato preserve and walnuts)

 

Mitja perdiu amb cols i bolets (partridge stuffed with cabbage and wild mushrooms)  

                                                                  

Trinxat de bistec de vedella amb cargols farcit de foie (veal steak with snails stuffed with paté de foie – ‘trinxat’ is a Catalan version of bubble and squeak!)

 

Crep de mermelada de tomąquet i amatlles torrades amb xocolata (crźpes with tomato jam, toasted almonds and chocolate)