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Wednesday, November 16, 2011


arrieros somos
(we are muleteers)
muleteers, existed in León from 1 AD. They were from the Maragato Region of León and were the link between the area to the outside world taking their goods to markets and purchasing other merchandise in exchange. Twice a year they exchanged grapes for rye, millet, barley, and wheat brought from outlying areas to León, the capital. They also took these products plus wine and oil from villages to weekly markets in the capital. They were famous for carrying lunch boxes filled with pork products, cocido from Leon (without leeks or carrots), codfish with rice, eel with garlic and cracklings. They stopped at roadside inns at the end of their meals to buy greasy soups, establishing the custom to have soup at the end of the meal in the Maragato Region. See Maragatería. [Alonso Luengo. 1994:39; Ares. “Las Comidias.” 1994:117:118:130; Sánchez-Albornoz. 2000:48:54:115 etc; and Trapiello. 1994:135]

For 12 turnovers

Conger Eel, Beesands, South...
Photo by: Jim Linwood
2 lb conger eel

1 tsp ginger
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp pepper

1 tsp ground saffron
1/3 ice water
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 package of yeast
½ c butter

2 ¼ c flour
1 egg
6 garlic cloves mashed

1 lb chopped and fried onions.


Scald the eel. Clean and wash it. Slice it and remove the bones. Season it with ginger, salt, and pepper.

Dissolve saffron in water. Mix this with vinegar, yeast butter, ginger, salt and pepper. Sift the flour and add it and the egg. Knead well. Let rest 20 minutes covered with a cloth.

Roll out the dough on a slightly floured surface and cut it in circles. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

PREHEAT OVEN TO 375º F / 190ºC

Place the slices of eel in the circles of dough. Throughly mash garlic cloves. Sprinkle about 1/2 a clove over each turnover (add onions if using them) and fold the circle over to make it the shape of a half moon. Seal the edges shut by pressing down with the handle of a spoon.

Place the turnovers on a greased cookie sheet and bake 20 minutes or until done. Let cool and serve.

*Note: Nola makes one turnover as big as needed to fit the eel. The recipe above calls for individual turnovers for the muleteers to carry in their lunch boxes when traveling.


  1. A very interesting recipe, worth while trying, as there is often coger eel in the market (not true eel), but we use it scarcely for anything more than fish soups or broth for paella. I am often a bit confused about distinction between "congrio abierto" (open) and "congrio cerrado". One of them has less bones and the other is completely filled with them and so "uneatable" unless you use it to make a broth.
    Cocido maragato is eaten, as you point, "in the reverse", ending with the soups. Many maragatos stablished as fishmongers in Madrid,as a result of their trade.

    I wanted to remark that the proverb in the picture is: "arrieros somos, y en el camino nos veremos"; literally: we are muleteers and we'll meet on the road. The true meaning is "we'll measure ourselves", or "I'll show you who I am" in a rather defiant way.
    You can see an example of their proceedings in the Quijote, by the way!

  2. The "open" conger eel refers to the part around the branchial openings - around the gills - This has fewer bones and the meat is used for main dishes. The "closed" part is that around the tail which is too boney to use as a main course. It is used to make broths and soups, They prices are according to demand. The part closest to the head is the most select.

  3. The Maragatos are a curious race living in the mountains in Leon. One theory is that they were Muslims who chose not to leave the area when the Christians reconquered the area. They converted to Catholism but have always lived apart and wear "Maragato" clothing which is different from other styles. As indicated in my notes above, Sánchez-Albornoz has indicates documentation of the Maragato multeers taking goods to the market in Leon. They are mentioned in Don Quijote, Book I, Chapter XLVIII, Goya ironically has a serial painting titled, "Capture of the Bandit El Maragato" because they are known for their honesty. Jorge Barrow, in this book "The Bible in Spain," mentions riding through the Maragato country in Leon.