Discover Spanish Cuisine
Influenced both by Spanish cultural diversity and by the conquests of the Kingdom of Spain in South America, Asia and North Africa, Spanish gastronomy has been enriched with spices and numerous foods brought back from the colonies.
In addition to tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, vanilla, chocolate… brought back from the New World, a large number of spices, almonds and citrus fruits have been added to the Spanish Mediterranean diet, with a constant in the preparation of its dishes: olive oil.
Of course, Spain has a long maritime tradition and has also developed a cuisine in which fish and shellfish find a place of honour.
As unavoidable as seafood, Spanish charcuterie with its Iberian hams, or Serrano, its chorizo, is proudly displayed on the menus of the best restaurants.
Introduced by the Phoenicians and the Greeks then structured by the Romans, Spanish viticulture produces great vintages among which the wines of Xérès, La Rioja, the Catalan vintages of Priorat, the Basque txakoli or the vintages of Ribera del Duero.
Many cooked wines (Malaga, Moscatel), liqueurs (Manzana), the famous sangria as well as macerated wines or beers accompany this gastronomy pleasantly.
The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet, whose health benefits have been noted, is a set of culinary know-how, knowledge, practices and traditions common to Spain, Greece, Italy and Morocco.
“The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a nutritional model that has remained constant in time and space and whose main ingredients are olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruits and vegetables, a limited proportion of fish, dairy products and meat, and many condiments and spices, all accompanied by wine or infusion, always in respect of the beliefs of each community”, declaration of UNESCO which has inscribed it on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Spanish gastronomic specialities
Tapas and pintxos
Tapas are appetizers that alone summarize Spanish gastronomy in miniature. An integral part of Spanish culinary culture, tapas are dishes served in small portions, ración. Making conversation easy, they are served with beer or wine.
A regional variant of tapas, pintxos consist of a slice of bread on which a portion of food is placed: meat, poison, vegetables, rice, eggs… Pintxos can be found in Basque, Navarre or Rioja bars, accompanied by a drink. Many culinary competitions of pintxos are organized between districts, villages, bars…
Iberian pig and ham ‘Dehesa de Extramadura’
The Iberian pig, a native breed from Extremadura in southwest Spain, is one of the last breeds of pigs raised in the open air and in total freedom in the dehesas.
Very widespread in Extremadura, the dehesas are scattered undergrowth, among other things, of holm oaks used as pastures for the Iberian pigs which are made the ham of Dehesa de Extramadura appellation of origin.
Iberian pigs feed on herbs, aromatic plants, acorns and cereals. Besides the famous Iberian ham, it is used to make chorizo, lomo (fresh or salted pork loin) and morcilla (black pudding).
Jamón serrano, one of the jewels of Spanish gastronomy, comes from pigs logically reared in high pastures. The term serrano comes from sierra meaning mountain. Some regions are distinguished from others by the particularity of their Serrano ham, matured from 6 to 24 months.
For example, the Serrano de Trevélez, a high altitude village in the Granada region, is not very salty and very tasty. As for the Serrano from Teruel, it is renowned as being the best and most expensive of all…
The pata negra ham comes from Iberian pigs with black skin and legs. They feed on acorns of oaks in a natural environment.
They will be matured for 30 to 48 months. Rich in vitamins B and E, as well as iron and magnesium, pata negra does not increase cholesterol…
This exceptional ham is only produced in 4 regions: Andalusia, Extremadura, Huelva and the province of Salamanca.
Paella, comes from the Valencian meaning’frying pan’. Paella, certainly the most famous dish of Spanish cuisine, was born in the 18th century in the region called Horta de Valencia when the farmers of the region accommodated the rice of the nearby Albuerta lagoon in their own way.
For the little story: it was after the Spanish Civil War, when to develop tourism we were looking for an emblematic national dish, Franco chose paella.
For this, several reasons in the eyes of the dictator: the low cost of rice, the apparent ease of its preparation and especially the colors of the dish: the red of the pepper and tomato which associated with the yellow of saffron rice, take again the colors of the Spanish flag.
Very widespread in Andalusia, gazpacho is a cold soup made with mixed vegetables. Composed of tomatoes, we can also add bread crumbs or cucumbers, peppers, onions. The gazpacho is seasoned with garlic, salt and olive oil.
Empanada is a slipper stuffed with different ingredients: meat, fish, egg, potatoes depending on the region. Once made from bread dough, empanadas are now made with puff pastry. They are served hot, as hors d’oeuvres or as appetizers.
Churros are small fried fritters rolled in sugar. They are usually accompanied by a thick hot chocolate.
The Romans brought the cultivation of wheat and vines and taught the Andalusians how to make garum, a condiment made from fish fermented in salt. The Berbers, for their part, introduced orchard crops, irrigation and improved olive tree cultivation and oil production.
Bathed by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Andalusia uses a great diversity of fish and shellfish in its cuisine. The most common: tuna, prawns and shrimps, langoustines, shellfish, anemones, soles, bass, hake or other mullet.
Salmojero is a cream made from breadcrumbs to which garlic, olive oil, salt and tomato are added. Served cold, usually with raw ham shavings, croutons or hard-boiled egg crumbs. Salmojero can also be used as a sauce with fried foods.
Also called aceite torta, it is a crispy puff pastry dessert flavoured with aniseed and traditionally made in Seville. Light and crunchy, tortas are made with wheat flour, olive oil, sesame and anise seeds.
Basque cuisine is a local cuisine par excellence, with a wide range of these products: cheeses, lamb, chillies, wines, ham, fish and shellfish, not forgetting various pastries, are the basis with a wide use of the plancha. In Basque bars, pintxos, a regional variant of tapas, accompany all outings and aperitif discussions.
Lamb and pork are the meats most consumed in Euskadi. In the Southern Basque Country, lamb is served with piperade, a dish made with tomatoes, peppers and onions.
The pig meat comes from the pig-pie, an animal reared in semi-freedom and fed on acorns.
Land of sailors, the Basque Country is fond of ocean products. In all Basque markets, you will find anchovies, sea bream, tuna, cod, crabs, sea spiders, squid. Cod is cooked Biscayenne style with tomatoes and peppers.
Cuttlefish cooked in their ink, fried or à la plancha.
Typical Basque dish made with hake, mussels and clams, asparagus and small weights.
There are four appellations of origin: A.O.C. Iregouly in the Northern Basque Country, D.O. Getariako Txakolina, white wines produced around Getaria, D.O.Ca. Rioja produces in the provinces of Alava and Navarre and the D.O. Navarra for white and rosé wines from southern Navarre.
Izarra and Patxaran are the Basque liqueurs by excellence.
Do not forget Sydre, sagardoa in Basque, because it would be Basque sailors who made their Norman colleagues discover cider.
Catalan cuisine is above all Mediterranean, with starch, fresh vegetables, fruit, olive oil, seafood and meat.
Catalans are said to have borrowed dried vegetables from Roman soldiers, techniques and products from Arabs and Jews, vegetables and chocolate from South America.
Catalan culinary culture has five daily meals: a breakfast, a coffee break with snacks around 11 am, then lunch around 1 pm. A snack is recommended around 5 pm to wait for dinner, which is often taken after 8 pm.
The typical Catalan meal consists of two dishes: the flat primer is composed of soup, salad or vegetables. The flat segment is made from protein: meat, fish, eggs, accompanied by vegetables.
Among the specialities: the calçot, a variety of tender and sweet Catalan onions resembling cive is tasted daily as a dish or during the calçotades, convivial festivals which take place at the beginning of the year between close relations.
As for the Catalan cockles, coca in the singular, they are a common way of cooking around the Mediterranean. It is a sweet or savoury paste.
Salted, it can be garnished with anchovies, sardines, tuna crumbs, cheese or charcuterie depending on the place and always decorated with olive oil. Sweet, it can be made with fresh or candied fruits, cream, pine nuts.
Catalans like snails, small local grey snails, which they eat in sauce, in the oven, in cassole or in dishes made with rice.
Wines and cava
Whether red, rosé or white, Catalonia has a wide range of wines with an excellent price/quality ratio. Among the main A.O.C : Priorat, Montsant, Penedès or Empordà.
Cava is the sparkling wine produced in Catalonia.
Galician cuisine has in common with the rest of Spain the use of tapas and olive oil as well as some specialties common with the north of neighbouring Portugal. Galician cuisine is famous for its tonic and hearty dishes made from meat and vegetables.
With a vast Atlantic coastline, the region has become a speciality of seafood which is one of the most important elements of Galician gastronomy, especially with the pousse-pied, pierbe, and scallop, will live.
Arrived after the discovery of the Americas, the potato, called cachelo or pataca gradually replaced the chestnut as a staple food in the composition of many dishes.
In Galicia, tapas are called petiscos. Here too, a showcase for regional gastronomy, they are served with wine or beer in bars.
Among the maritime recipes, among others, the caldeirada, a fish soup resembling the Marseillaise bouillabaisse.
As for the Padrón peppers, famous throughout Spain, cooked and sprinkled with coarse salt, they are served as tapas or as a side dish.
Several Galician wines decorate this kitchen: Rías Baixas, Ribeiro, Albariño… Aguardiente exists in several versions: white, with herbs. Galicia has a regional blond beer: Estrella Galicia.
This traditional cuisine represents the gastronomy of the autonomous communities of Madrid, Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha. With its’central’ geographical position, Castilian cuisine has enjoyed as much Cantabrian influence in the north as Andalusian influence in the south.
A dish from Castilla y León, it is a stew that traditionally constituted the only meal farmers ate during their working day. Originating from Margatería in León, cocido maragato is composed of a thick soup completed with cabbage and chickpeas to which are added seven meats.
Cooked over a low heat, it is served in a special way, first meat, then vegetables and finally thick soup, tablecloth meat and vegetables.
Similar to ham, other meats than pork are used for its design. Most often it will be beef but horse meat, goat meat or, more rarely, rabbit meat are also used.
The cecina produced in the province of León has had the name Denominación de Origen Protegida:’Cecina de León’ since 1994.
A stew of small game and white meat, it is accompanied by wheat cakes called tortas de gazpacho. A shepherd’s dish from the Channel and also from Murcia, the Manchois gazpacho is a dish that is eaten hot and has nothing to do with the cold soup that bears the same name.
Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese of Manche breed produced in Castilla-La Mancha. The cheese has had a designation of origin since 1984 and has been made in the region since the Bronze Age.