Entradas populares

Friday, June 24, 2016


La Mesta en Madrid 20
Photo from: Victorino
L. mixtus, 1. mixed, mixture.

2. The Spanish brotherhood of sheep owners and shepherds. Some believe the name comes for the mixture of breeds in sheep herds. Others maintain that is a corruption of mechta, the Algerian nomads’ word for winter grazing grounds of the sheep. The date of foundation is unknown. It was known to have existed in the 12th C, when it was governed by local laws. It was first documented in 1273 when Alfonso the Wise of Castile granted it privileges and established it as ‘the Honorable Council of the Mesta,’ a syndicate of sheep owners. The purpose even today, is to conserve and foment this livestock. Meetings are held twice a year in September or October and in January or February. All can attend the meetings in which sheep owners form the council. Men and women owning at least 40 sheep or more are entitled to vote. The council is chosen by drawing of lots.

During the Middle Ages, sheep lived in a nomadic herds. In 1375 Alfonso XI dictated a law forcing all nomadic livestock to come under the control of the Mesta and he created the ‘General and Royal sheep flock’ that had as an immediate consequence an enormous expansion of nomadic herds.

During winter months, sheep graze in southern regions, Estremadura, Cuenca, Albacete, Alicante, Jaen and Andalusia. In the spring, they are driven north to Burgos on trails especially designated for sheep. Almost all sheep coming from the east, west and south have to go through Escalona Pass in the province of Toledo where a toll was paid. As the owner of Escalona Castle collected this, all nobles wanted to own it. In the 15th C, under Juan II and Henry IV, Isabel I’s father and older brother, gave the castle and the pass to their ‘preferred’ or first ministers, Alvaro de Luna and Juan Pacheco, respectively. Too they were the Grand Masters of the Mesta and the Order of Santiago (as the two brotherhoods went hand in hand), which made them very rich. Luna made the castle inhabitable and his principle residence in 1422.

Las Mestas
Photo from Carlos Cabanillas
From Escalona, the sheep continue on to Burgos where they are sheered. The wool is carried on mules from there to the Bay of Biscay for shipment to Flanders. Then the sheep graze in Burgos and León throughout the summer, to be herded south again in the fall.

The sheep paths still exist today. Traditionally, the sheep are herded through Madrid as done in the Middle Ages.

The Mesta was such a lucrative organization that they helped finance the conquest of Granada in 1492, Columbus’ trips to the New World and conquests in America. On a designated day every fall sheep are still herded through the center of Madrid as a reminder of this custom and the continuing existence of the Mesta (now called the Asociación General de Ganaderos), although no longer ruled by the king’s favorite and richest noble in Castile. As a consequence of the tradition of the Mesta, not only was Spanish history changed, but also Spanish cuisine was enriched. See bayada, cordero, caldereta, cecina and salchichas. [ES: “Mesta.” Jun 19, 04; and Gázquez. Cocina. 2002:151-152]



A Really Unique Way to Present Lamb
Photo by: Lord-Williams
1 breast of lamb[1]

1 tbsp vinegar
½ tbsp murri
1 tbsp oil
1 onion
1 fennel stalk
4 citron leaves
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp caraway
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander

For gravy:

½ c water
1 tbsp flour

After the lamb is done:
1 c breadcrumbs
5 eggs

6 egg yolks
½ tsp Duke's powder[1]



Stuffed Lamb with Gravy
A Perfect Dish for Perfect Guests!
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Put ingredients for stuffing into a food processor. When blended stuff the breast with this and sew it up. Place in a roasting pan on a rack. Pour a cup of water over the lamb.

Roast until done. Remove from oven and let sit overnight.

The following day remove the roast from the roasting pan.

Make gravy:

Heat the pan and gradually add 1 tbsp flour and 1/2 c water. Stir until thickens. Pour this gravy into a pot and set aside.


Smear the roasting pan with an egg yolk. Beat the leftover egg white and four other eggs. Pour these over the roast. Roll the roast in breadcrumbs and return to roasting pan.

Reheat the lamb until the eggs are cooked and breadcrumbs are toasted. Remove from heat and place on a serving platter. Dot the pot with hard-boiled yolks,  sprinkle with Duke's powder. Reheat gravy. Sprinkle with Duke's powder and parade the dish through the banquet hall, God the Most High willing.

Turn the roast over to the chief carver to slice and serve.

[1] A boneless foreleg of lamb was used as a breast of lamb was not available. The meat opened and the stuffing spread out over the slab of meat. Then it was rolled up and tied as seen in the photo with the roast on the platter. It was then sliced in rounds keeping the stuffing in the middle. 

Quantities for the ingredients are those for a breast. For a boneless foreleg of lamb, they should be cut in half more less.

[2] See blog titled escúpulo published April 4, 2014 for instructions.


No comments:

Post a Comment