Monday, 13 August 2012

Lechazo - The Spanish sacred roast lamb

As I already mentioned in my previous post, roast lamb and pork are the dishes a visitor to the province of Segovia (Castile y León, Spain) definitely must taste before moving on. Actually this is much more than just food - it is more of a tradition and some might even define it as religion.
The roasting of lamb is an ancient art of this region which has not changed much for centuries. Even today this art of preparing and the delight of eating it remain something of a ritual.

During my visit to the region I visited two villages - Pedraza and Sepulveda, renowned for some of the best restaurants offering traditional lechazo.

For a lamb to be classified as lechazo, the meat has to comply with several regulations.
For the meat to be tender enough a lamb must be slaughtered when it is 20 to 30 days old and weighing between 5-7 kg. It must also have only been fed on its mother's milk and cannot have grazed. That is where the name lechazo comes from - the Spanish word for milk is leche. Also not every breed is appropriate for this purpose. The most commonly used is Churra breed, although a few others are also allowed.

To taste the real thing one should visit a typical Castilian asador - restaurant specializing in roast meats. Since this is the only thing they do, there usually is no need for menus. Lamb is roasted in a wood-fired oven for around four hours until the meat is cooked through. These traditional clay or brick dome-shaped ovens are also part of Spain's Arab heritage.
If the main ingredients (in this case - the lamb) are as they should be, the preparation is pretty simple. Quartered lamb is placed in clay pots and only a cup of water and some salt is used in the cooking process.

With all this in account it is obvious, this can not be a very cheap treat. Nevertheless it is something definitely worth tasting.

With some local help we found one of the best asadors in the area. Situated in a picturesque village of Sepúlveda, Figón Zute el Mayor is one of around 20 such places there. You can find it in a street just below the main square.
At this asador one can choose from a very limited list of things on the menu - actually there is no menu. If you visit this place it is kind of obvious, you came for the lamb.
I guess besides the lamb you can only get a salad, some cured meats, fresh home-made bread, one or two local deserts and you can wash it all down with wine or water. That is it.
Frankly there is no need for anything else. It is a combination that goes together perfectly.

The meal we had there was simply delicious and I can only recommend it. I will definitely visit this place again if I just get a chance.

For me the lamb itself is a good enough reason to visit this old town. However loosing yourself in the narrow streets of Sepúlveda is also quite an experience. There is the old village cemetery and also a museum worth visiting.

For nature and sports enthusiasts there is also a chance to visit Hoces del Río Duratón Natural Park. It is a nearby picturesque river canyon with 100 meter high cliffs and as such a great place for bird watching, canoeing and climbing.


Emm in London 13 August 2012 at 20:37  

I love your photos in this post, especially the last two. Now I'm really getting excited for my trip to Spain. I love sampling local cuisine when on holiday but I would pause before eating this... It sounds similar to veal, which makes me a little uneasy.

Travel-PB 13 August 2012 at 23:37  

Thanks. I also really love the last one.

I don't know what your moral objections might be - but the taste of the lamb was definitely worth every cent we payed.
Make sure you let me know how you liked it if you decide to try it after all.

I wish you a great vacation in Spain! Take time to stray off the beaten path at least for a while - it can be so rewarding.

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