Inside Esther & Nacho Manzano’s Kitchen

15th December 2016

Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Mónica R Goya

The Asturian chefs pick out a three-milk cheese, a few of their favourite natural ciders and some of the Spanish cookbooks that have had an influence on their cooking


Gamonéu cheese by Sobrecueva »
“This cheese is made from three different milks: cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s. In the past, shepherds would go high up in the mountains where there was more pasture for the animals – they milked them up there, they made the cheese there, it was matured in caves and they smoked it a bit. This one is made in the valley by a well-known producer called Sobrecueva. It’s very expensive, like €40 a kilo. It’s easier to find a good Cabrales [another three-milk Asturian cheese] than it is to find a good Gamonéu, but this one is very good.”

Geo cheese »
“This is a cow’s milk cheese made by a new producer called Lazana in Las Regueras, near Oviedo. It is tasty, creamy – we use it in cheese boards in the restaurant.” – Esther

Foncueva cider »
Cider is a really big deal in Asturias. The traditional cider – referred to as “natural” – is still and not very sweet. It is usually poured from a height to achieve carbonation and consumed quickly before the effect fades. Esther, like all Asturians, has a view on which producers to look out for. “Foncueva is a cider producer we really like and always have at the restaurant,” she says, “though we also use Zapatero and Trabanco.”

Geri cider vinegar »
Agustí Torelló Mata balsamic vinegar »
Esther recommends these two vinegars, one made with cider, the other balsamic – they use them both a lot at the restaurant. Incidentally, Agustí Torelló Mata make a really excellent cava.

We ask about a jar of nice-looking honey on Nacho’s kitchen counter. “This is artisan honey from a local producer – my mum bought it from the lady,” says Esther. “We have bees at home in Tazones,” she adds, “but only for our own consumption. We only have one beehive.”

Nacho and Esther put a very rustic torto dish on the menu at Casa Marcial in the early days – a counterintuitive move for a fine-dining restaurant – but it was a big hit. Now you can find it everywhere in Asturias, she tells us, adding, “but not all of them are as light as ours”. She is keen for me to pick up some Asturian cornflour on my visit and try out the dish at home. She doesn’t specify a brand but we’ve heard Molinos de la Veiga is a good one.



El sabor del Mediterráneo, Ferran Adria »
The second book by Ferran Adria, written when he was rising to prominence at his groundbreaking Catalan restaurant El Bulli. It had a big impact on Esther at the time. “This book was an introduction here in Spain to a more creative Mediterranean cuisine,” she says. “It was revolutionary here in the early 90s and very modern for the time.”

Tratado del Chocolate, Xabier Gutiérrez »
Esther says this 1989 book, by a member of the creative team at Arzak in San Sebastián, opened her eyes to savoury desserts. “At the time most desserts were sweets; he did things that got my attention, like the leek cake. I’m glad I found this book,” she adds, “I didn’t know where it was.”

Enciclopedia de Cocina »
“This is a five-volume book that features the latest molecular cuisine techniques. It is very modern and very well explained,” says Esther.

La Cocina Completa, Marquesa de Parabere »
This book is Nacho’s pick. “Marquesa de Parabere’s book is like Maria Luisa’s but more complete,” he says. (For context, Maria Luisa is a bestselling food writer from Asturias. Many Asturian women learned how to cook from her books, as many would get a copy when they got married. She has been compared to Julia Child by the likes of El Pais.)

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Posted 15th December 2016

In Things


Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Mónica R Goya

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