Cooking in San Sebastian

Twisting and shaking is the last think I thought I’d be doing when I came to San Sebastian. “It’s all in the wrist action,” said Luis Irizar, one of the most renowned chefs in Spain, who was doing his best to teach us the rudiments of Basque cuisine.

At his school overlooking the harbour, he was showing us the secret of bacalao al pil-pil, a simple dish made with salt cod, garlic and olive oil. Josetxo, Luis’s assistant, grabbed the handles of the earthenware casserole and showed us how it was done, his bulky frame wobbling alarmingly as he wiggled his hips.

In case you’re wondering, the point of all this jolting and jiggling is to release the gelatine which is naturally present in the fish, which then mixes with the oil to form an emulsion known as salsa verde, or green sauce. “Fishermen invented this dish and it really is a miracle, as you can see,” said Luis. Indeed, the sauce soon started to form before our eyes, and a few minutes later, we sat down to eat it.

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