A true Spanish classic dish updated at aqua nueva

Posted on July 10, 2014

Pulpo a la Gallega con su empanada at aqua nueva

It’s the hallmark of aqua nueva chef Alberto Hernandez’s cuisine that he takes some of Spain’s most famous traditional dishes and reinvents them from a modern but highly respectful angle. Drawing on his years of experience at leading restaurants including world-renowned el Bulli, Alberto creates dishes which, while recognisable as the classics that inspire them, surprise and delight with their flavours, textures and technique.

A perfect example of this is Alberto’s Pulpo a la Gallega con su empanada. This is in fact a marriage of two dishes typical of GaliciaGallega - the largely coastal region in the far north-west of Spain; pulpo a la Gallega, or Galician-style octopus, and empanada Gallega, a savoury open-sided pastry.

Pulpo a la Gallega is known in Galicia as polbo a feira – ‘fair-style octopus’ – which reveals the dish’s origins. It was prepared in batches to satisfy the appetites of the crowds attending the region’s cattle-fairs, from around the late 19th century. Octopus was popular in Galicia’s inland, hillier climes because it lasted well when transported, whereas the crustacea popular on the coast did not.

Blanched repeatedly to curl and tenderise the tentacles, then boiled until soft but still with some ‘bite’ – rather like al dente pasta – the octopus would be tossed in hot paprika, salt and olive oil, finished in large copper cauldrons and served on flat wooden plates by specialist vendors known as polbeiras. While the fairs are a thing of the past and wooden plates have fallen out of favour, pulpo a la Gallega is still hugely popular both in Galicia and throughout the rest of Spain as a way to enjoy octopus.

Alberto’s preparation of this dish follows tradition but it’s the presentation that distinguishes it; paprika-tinted octopus tentacles are cut into bite-size morsels, served on a beautiful plate and accompanied by an empanada Gallega, the open-sided Galician ‘sandwich’ version of the savoury pasties popular throughout Spain and Latin America as a snack.

Elegant and contemporary, while understanding and respecting tradition, Alberto’s Pulpo a la Gallega con su empanada embodies not only his cuisine but also the very ethos of aqua nueva. Come and experience traditions transformed for you yourself soon!

To book your table at aqua nueva and discover traditional Spanish dishes transformed, please click here.