Delicious, fresh, and healthy, although with some high-calories snacks. Spanish cuisine, especially the tradition of eating tapas, is considered the essence of the Mediterranean dishes. We present a subjective guide to the flavours of the Iberian Peninsula – a culinary paradise.
The main dish of Spanish cuisine is tapas. These snacks, served hot or cold, can be eaten in every part of the country. As inseparable condiments to wine or beer, they are served in bars, restaurants, as well as during meetings with friends and family. Tortilla with potatoes and eggs, patatas bravas – deep fried potatoes served with sauce; pimientos de Padrón – chili pepper lightly fried in olive oil and sprinkled abundantly with coarse salt; olives; chorizo in wine or cider; anchovies in vinegar; or sheep cheese from La Mancha are just some of the dishes from the rich culinary list of the Kingdom of Spain.
The Iberian Peninsula is also rich in sweets with the most traditional baked good being churros. This delicacy is made from wheat flour, sugar and oil, and similarly to Polish donuts, is deep fried. Finally, it is sprinkled with a thick layer of powdered sugar or served with a cup of hot chocolate. The best churros can be found at Chocolatería de San Ginés in Madrid, which has been operating since 1894. This popular chocolate shop is famous for not only the flavour of its pastries, but also the ubiquitous smell of chocolate.
SEAFOOD FOR CONNOISSEURS
The motto of Andalusia is “Andalusia by herself, for Spain and for Humankind” (Andalucía por sí, para España y la humanidad). The region has given flamenco, magnificent architecture, sandy beaches and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This one of the largest autonomous communities is also, and perhaps most of all, famous for its extremely tasty and simple cuisine. The culinary art in the south of Spain is based mainly on fish and seafood. Sardinas fritas, i.e. sardines fried in delicate batter, sprinkled with lemon or lime juice, are very popular here. Fresh anchovies, calamari, octopus or spiny lobsters are also prepared in a similar way.
On the other hand, the western part of Andalusia, e.g. in Huelva province, is responsible for production of Iberian ham. The rich taste and aroma of jamón ibérico is the effect of the diet of pure Iberian pigs. These animals live on pastures, and spend their time mainly on searching for acorns, grasses, herbs and plant shoots. Their meat is considered extremely valuable – tapas and dishes made of pig ears, intestines and even tails are made there. Another Andalusian dish that is known worldwide is gazpacho – a cold soup made of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread and oil. Equally tasty, and still undiscovered by many, is salmorejo – the soup is also served cold and is sprinkled with a sliced hard-boiled egg and Iberian ham.
THE GIFTS OF THE MOUNTAINS AND THE SEA
The extraordinary richness of flavours, resulting primarily from the geographical location, can be discovered in the cuisine of Catalonia. The dishes are based on products from both the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains. Popular ingredients of traditional dishes are fish and seafood, mushrooms, snails, meat, among others venison and lamb, as well as vegetables and fruits (mainly tomatoes, garlic and eggplant). Paella fans will surely like arroz negro (literally “black rice”). Black paella is made of seafood, rice and squid ink, which makes the rice dark.
JUST IN TIME FOR LUNCH
If you want to taste a traditional Catalan dinner, try Catalan roasted chicken (pollo asado a la catalana). Its typical taste comes from dried fruit, e.g. plums, as well as raisins, pine nuts, cinnamon and brandy. Cataluña also abounds in light salads – escalivada delights the senses with vegetables grilled or roasted in the ashes, while esqueixada tempts with dried cod. It is impossible not to mention crema catalana dessert made of fat milk, egg yolks, sugar and lemon peel. The recipe for this sweet dessert appeared in the 14th-century manuscript Llibre de Sent Soví. To put it simply, in Barcelona, you can literally taste tradition.