The Little Dish Big on Flavour | Posted: 14 February 2013
Setcases is one of the villages you visit on our self-guided walking holiday in the Pyrenees
Sausages like these feature heavily in the local cuisine, which you can enjoy on a walking holiday in the Pyrenees
Time hasn't changed much about Setcases, one of the villages on our walking holiday in the Pyrenees

In the Catalan Pyrenees, perfecting the hearty mountain stew called platillo is a matter of family pride.

Historically, this area has been remote and largely inaccessible for many centuries; the only way to reach the isolated communities that nestle in the valleys was by rugged tracks and sheep trails. As a result, the people who live and work here are fiercely proud of their local traditions and heritage, whether it’s their unique language, colourful festivals or delicious food.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the small village of Setcases in the heart of the beautiful Ter Valley. Its name derives from the hamlet of just seven (set) houses (cases) that originally stood here, though, today, it is a thriving rural community.

It's also beloved by walkers, whether you’re passing through or staying a few nights at the welcoming Hotel la Coma. The hotel has a long and proud history, which all began in the 1950s, when handsome herdsman, Pere Perpinyà, married local beauty, Paquita Peres, whose family ran the village inn, Can Tiranda.

Pere and Paquita soon decided to go it alone and opened a simple restaurant themselves on the edge of the village. They served traditional dishes based on local recipes, including the famous platillo (literally ‘little dish’), a rich meaty stew comprising beef, mushrooms, chicken, sausages and meatballs. Of course, every village in the region has its own version, though the wily folk of Setcases claim theirs is the best – just don’t let the villagers down the valley know!

Over the years, the number of visitors to this spectacular region slowly increased, with people looking for rewarding walking in the mountains in summer, and somewhere to ski away from the crowds in winter. Indeed, skiing became so popular that a large refuge was built at Ull de Ter in 1908, though this was destroyed by an avalanche in the 1930s. A modern one stands nearby today.

Pere was a real ‘mountain man’ – these were ‘his’ hills and he knew them like the back of his hand. He often guided walkers up to the Ull de Ter, from where they could then ascend the peak of Gra de Fajol or walk further to Roca Colom.

Related Holidays

The Catalan Pyrenees

For the opportunity to try el platillo for yourself, head for the Catalan Pyrenees, where you are likely to spot a variety of flora and fauna as you walk from one stone-built village to the next.

More about our walking holiday in the Pyrenees >

Sadly, Snr Perpinyà has since passed away, but the hotel that has developed from the simple restaurant that he and his wife opened all those years ago has become a firm favourite with walkers. Now run by his daughter, Carmé, the Hotel la Coma is a friendly 3-star hotel with its own little spa and an excellent restaurant – which still serves the best platillo in the valley!

Today, the ingredients for platillo are still sourced locally as much as possible. Wild mushrooms – when in season – are also collected avidly, and the home-made sausages come in two varieties, bull blanco and bull negro, a type of black pudding. For dessert, guests are offered delicious curd and honey, or honey cake, again made with local produce.

Not that La Coma is the only traditional family-run hotel in the area. Not far away, the fourth generation of the Pau-Solà family are busy running Els Caçadors de Ribes, a delightful hotel in Ribes de Freser. The business dates back to 1919 when a café was operated here by some of the women of the village, including the aunts of Ramón Pau, grandfather of the current owner. He (wisely) married Pilar Comas from Olot (she was a great cook!) and together they developed the café into a restaurant. Keen to play his part, Ramón soon joined his wife in the kitchen, and this healthy competition saw standards rise as the couple strove to outdo each other.

Today, the fine reputation of the restaurant is well deserved, the plaudits for their traditional Catalan cuisine, including mar i muntanya – combining the delicious flavours of coast and mountain – fully justified. Now with Antoni (Ramón and Pilar’s son), his wife Carmé and their children (Ramón, Julio, Ana and Neus) at the helm, Els Caçadors is confidently entering a new era.

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