January 15, 2020

Begoña Rodrigo turns roots and tubers into the protagonists of her dishes in La Salita. 

In order to understand Begoña Rodrigo’s cuisine one has to understand her, and this is no easy task when you listen to the passion she conveys when she speaks. “I don’t like to get bored in a restaurant and this happens to me a lot”, she reveals with a certain defiant tone with regards to the comfort in which some chefs seem to be anchored in. “I’m bored that they place no value in what the put on the dish and that’s what I try to interpret in La Salita”, where roots and tubers become the protagonists and abandon their traditional supporting role in the kitchen. A noble, different and primitive product that as well as providing flavour, Begoña demonstrates “has a long shelf life”.

A restaurant in which a turnip or a parsnip become main dishes as La Salita’s recent Michelin star chef demonstrates without any shame at all. As an example, potatoes, capable of becoming the queen of a salad with radishes, crosne and carrots. Free of complexes and flavour, which is what matters in a dish. The same is true with another of Begoña’s favourites, a purple carrot with which she has managed to achieve “a taste which simulates a Caesar salad”. It’s cured in salt and baked in the oven where it acquires a touch of acidity. Then it’s accompanied with a caper, pickles and sheets of purple “carlota” carrots. We have to change our mindset. We associate many of these tubers to a sweet flavour and we eat them in purées, but can be salty if they’re well treated”, the chef points out.

Because if something is quite clear in Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión is that tubers and roots are versatile and tasty. Just like the taste of salsify, the skin of which acts as a papillote of itself with a more powerful taste of nuts and earth. Filled with peas and butter and presented to the diner to be eaten scraping off the root. And all of a sudden, turnips appear on the scene and whose life in the kitchen goes beyond just accompanying a stew. They turn into a spaghetti bathed in a pesto sauce with sheep’s cheese and kimchi to give them a bit of spice. “The dish has such an intense flavour that people think there’s meat in it”, Begoña tells us before sprinkling a little nutmeg on top.

But if there’s a tuber the owner of La Salita has grown fond of, it’s the sweet potato, with which she was bold enough to make a sort of maki. After maturing it with salmon to absorb flavour and the kick of the fish turn it into an exquisite morsel. Another star of her cuisine is the Jerusalem artichoke, after baking it, she accompanies it with mushrooms cooked in a vacuum bag with chicken stock and rounded off with a mushroom sauce, truffle and an egg yolk. The beetroot has also found its place and turns into meat. “Everyone who tastes it can’t believe it contains no meat”, Begoña remarks after explaining its preparation in which the cooking, maturation and smoky notes participate. And she finishes this carrousel of flavours with the parsnip, that if well treated enables you to present an explosion of flavour in the dish culminated with coriander and a peanut sauce. 

But what’s triggered this chef’s fascination working with roots and tubers, are desserts. In this section the chervil, with its elegant flat leaf, has a place of honour and turns into a refreshing ice cream or a piece of fried confit, marked with brown sugar and topped off with a liquorice infusion and a dairy cream. However, if we talk about desserts and tubers, the pumpkin is the queen. A pumpkin pie and parmesan cheese cream topped with sugared pumpkin seeds and pumpkin crunchies. Only for people with a genuine sweet tooth.