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Anthony Orjollet, the chef from Le Fooding Guide's "best table" restaurant Elements in Bidart in the South West of France is a taloa pro. Not a day passes by when a meat or vegetarian taloa doesn't feature on his restaurant's a la carte menu.
But would you know what you're ordering when you ask for a taloa? Anthony Orjollet, explains all about the Basque country street food made of corn.
What is a taloa?
A taloa is a Basque-style tortilla that looks like a corn tortilla. Mexicans make them with what they call a "masa" (a corn dough mix) with a different texture, but we use the same Aztec process. To make them, I use water, sometimes Espelette pepper, but especially Basque Grand Roux corn that had disappeared and was found just a few years ago in a monastery before being replanted and redeveloped by different farmers in the area. Personally, I work with Jon Harlouchet corn in Bussunarits near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
Does your secret lie in the quality of this famous corn?
At Elements, yes. We work exclusively with this local corn and we have our own mill to grind the fresh flour. First, we mix the corn, cook it in an alkaline solution and then let it sit in it. All this homemade process is inspired by Nixtamalization and allows us to significantly improve the texture. If we simply mix flour with water, we get a pretty dry result.
Here, we have a very soft taloa with a good taste of corn and sometimes different colours, because we only use one variety of maize but it presents itself in different shades and colours, from blue to violet and light yellow to dark yellow or ochre. Finally, the last advantage of this homemade process is that we keep some of the corn husk and therefore retain some of the nutritional values - amino acids, vitamin B3, phosphorus.
So taloa is gluten-free?
At Elements there is indeed a gluten-free taloa but this is not always the case elsewhere, because places often cut the mix with wheat flour. In the French Basque Country, I don't know of other restaurants that work like us; on the Spanish side, I think we find more taloa that are100% corn but they are often thicker, more rustic ... They look more like bread than a galette.
How do you prepare Taloa at Elements?
We prepare the "masa" every day, adding chilli, salt, pressing and cooking for a minute. Next, we garnish with crispy Ibaiama pork belly, fermented vegetables, cashew nut cheese, fermented pepper, fermented root vinaigrette and fresh vegetables.
There is also vegan taloa with braised vegetables, fresh and fermented vegetables, as well as salad, homemade sauces and condiments. These two taloas are always on the à la carte menu.
Sometimes we add one with octopus or boneless beef tail to the menu depending on the time of year.
Other than at Elements, where can you eat a good taloa?
In Paris, you can go try them at restaurant A.Noste by Julien Duboué. Otherwise, I ate good ones during village festivals in Spain, in San Sebastian and also during the Espelette pepper festival (in October).
Are you able to let us into your secret recipe?
Unfortunately, as we have our own suppliers and our own mill, it's not possible to recreate our taloa recipe at home.
But I do that know restaurant Haraneko Borda (Itxassou) has a recipe in Basque Cuisine cook book - but this recipe doesn't use the same process of nixtamalisation.
Article translated from www.finedininglovers.fr