In a nutshell: Plump mussels, harvested from the cold Atlantic waters of Galicia, pickled to a traditional recipe by a Basque Country family firm.
First-time visitors to Galicia can't help but notice the scores of floating wooden platforms that pepper its rias – the rugged coastal inlets that dominate the landscape of this part of northwestern Spain.
These platforms are actually home to a thriving aquaculture industry. For it is on ropes suspended from them that some of the world's finest mussels are grown.
The best of this crop is preserved by Arroyabe, a 120-year-old, family-owned firm from the Basque port of Bermeo. First, they gently fry the mussels, then they are packed in escabeche – a pickle sauce of oil and vinegar that was the traditional method of preserving fish before the advent of sterilisation.
Like many food production methods that were borne out of necessity, escabeche is now widely enjoyed throughout Spain for its taste alone.
Not only are these juicy mussels delicious, they are full of health benefits, too. Rich in iron and iodine, they are also a great source of the vitamin B12, which plays an important role in brain function.
How to use:
- Enjoy with bread for lunch. Lightly toast slices of sourdough, pile the mussels on top, and dig in, with some good-quality mayo on the side.
- Serve with cocktail sticks as a tapa, alongside some roasted marcona almonds and an ice-cold copita of manzanilla sherry.
Details: 115g tin.
For centuries, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream have shepherded shoals of tuna to the Bay of Biscay, on the 3,000-mile journey from their spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. And for just as long, they’ve been caught by Basque fisherman during their June-to-November season. For the past 120 years, the best of this catch has been preserved by Arroyabe, a family firm from the fishing port of Bermeo. As well as tuna, they preserve anchovies, cockles and garfish – also known as needlefish, due to their long and pointed snouts.
At each stage of the production process, Arroyabe employs production methods that would be familiar to the firm’s founders. Tuna, for example, is caught the original and best way using rod-and-line, a low-impact method that doesn’t damage the seabed or capture other species, as would happen with trawling.
As you would expect, all its products are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
The fish is then hand-prepared by skilful and experienced workers who carefully select the best pieces to use. Most are packed in olive oil, which enhances the fish’s smooth texture and savoury flavour. Some are packed in water, which brings down the product's calorie count, while some are packed in escabeche – a pickle sauce of oil and vinegar, a traditional method of preserving fish that was used before the advent of sterilisation.
Whichever you choose, you can be sure of the quality. For decades, Arroyabe’s seafood has been widely appreciated in its homeland, where it graces the menus of the Basque Country’s restaurants, txoko clubs and pintxo bars. Now you can enjoy it at home.