Some time ago I joined a trade delegation hosted by the commercial arm of the Spanish Embassy on a visit to Galicia, a region in the north western corner of Spain. Effectively a  European jolly with as many wine samples as you could shake a corkscrew at. Flanked along most of its borders by sea, ocean and Portugal, Galicia appears to have more inlets (Rias) than Norway has Fjords. Galicia’s cool green terrain, with a temperate, ocean driven micro-climate, are favoured with modest rainfall and warm dry summers – Kent with a Spanish accent. The capital city is Santiago de Compostela, the culmination of a thousand year old pilgrim trail to a cathedral-clad shrine, reputedly housing the remains of the apostle Saint James.

You know these shrines, no one’s ever quite sure of the contents although three million pilgrims per annum, many with accompanying donkeys, appear a little more certain.

Our task was demonstrably more secular. We were here to taste several flights of Galicia’s, indeed Spain’s most important white grape variety – Albariño, a fragrant, almost perfumed white with a delicious peachy finish. We were to trek around numerous wineries and tasting cellars, frequently concluding our vinous appointments in a local restaurant where we were to be supplied with local cuisine and even more Albariños. As you may imagine, ours was not to argue with this daily gastronomic assault.

Bolted on to the visit, sine que non, was a tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where we pattered over the alleged remains of Saint James whilst craning our neck to study his statue high in a window mullion. Outside, blinking, we wandered crocodile-like on to the next tasting. Now, passing a row of fine pastry shops (pastelería), we were beckoned by an array of Tarta de Santiago. This traditional almond cake called, siren-like, with its promise of a guilty sugar fix whilst providing some correctional piety with its central decoration of the Cross of the Order of Santiago. There are many almond cakes across Spain but this was by far the most delicious I had come across. Nougat-like in its flour-free consistency, with a crisp, chewy surface, this tarta alone would have provided a reason for any pilgrimage I might undertake.

Galician Almond Tart from Spain (2013) Jeff Koehler

60g unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

275g sugar

5 egg yolks

225g ground almonds

Zest of lemon

Plain flour for pan

65g chopped almonds

Icing sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/gas mark 6

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a mixer.

Add egg yolks one by one, blending each into the batter before adding the next.

Add ground almonds and lemon zest

Grease a 25 cm spring-form pan with butter and dust with flour.

Pour in the batter.

Once the batter has settled, generously sprinkle the chopped almonds over the top

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden

Remove and let cool then transfer to a serving plate

Dust with icing sugar using a cut-out of the cross of St James if you wish