Gastronomy on the Almohad Castles Route
As might be expected, the frontier location of the towns on the Almohad Castles route means they were the lynchpin between the plateau and the Mediterranean, and between the kingdoms of Castile and Valencia. This has inevitably left its mark on local gastronomy.
The area’s food and drink reflects the influence of these two great culinary traditions, resulting in everyday dishes made by country people using home-grown produce. The food is simple and hearty, a mix of popular favourites from La Mancha, such as Gachamiga and Gazpacho, and Mediterranean fare, such as rice.
For example, the leading dish in Castalla is Gaspatxo. Several local establishments serve it and it is well-known all over the province of Alicante. It is made with unleavened flatbread broken into small pieces, a lot of different kinds of meat, mushrooms, snails and a fried mixture of tomatoes and onion. It is seasoned with Piperella (a local variety) thyme, which gives it a unique flavour.
Eating a good dish of Gaspatxos is a ritual as well as a pleasurable experience. The mixture is first poured onto a piece of flatbread cooked over coals and then served with a good red wine and some all i oli (garlic mayonnaise). Dessert is usually a leftover piece of flatbread spread with honey and served with a glass of wild thyme tea.
Another dish from La Mancha that is very popular in Villena is Triguico, traditionally eaten in winter. It is made using crushed wheat, pork, kidney beans and parsnips. Also very popular here are relleno (a kind of pork and beef meatball), arroz y pata, snails and broad beans.
On the Mediterranean side, paella with rabbit is very popular, along with Borreta de bacalao, a cod dish made in Biar, and arroz caldoso (literally, rice with broth) from Sax.
Bakeries usually make their cakes, pastries and breads on the premises and sell a huge variety of tempting sweet treats, including rollitos de vino, rollitos de anís, rollitos de aguardiente, coquetes, rosigones, rajadillos, mostachones, sequillos, pastissets de moniato, toñas, madalenas de almendra, almendrados, etc.
In Castalla, which is part of the ice-cream making tradition in the inland areas of Alicante, you can try mantecao, the local name for the top-selling flavour of the town’s top quality ice-cream .