Note: This is a guest post from Teresa Garcia – she gave us the rundown on Spanish Cuisine – The Beginners Guide. I studied abroad in Italy but visited Spain in my time abroad and loved everything about the Spanish culture.
Spanish cooking strongly relies on olive oil, and the best olive oil is that which is described as “extra virgin”, because it is a natural juice which maintains the taste, aroma and properties of the olive. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the main ingredient in the majority of the dishes in the Mediterranean Diet and it is very healthy. Saffron (azafrán), paprika (pimentón), garlic (ajo), oregano and thyme (tomillo) are also common to season food.
The Regional Cuisine:
In Spain the traveler will discover that customs and dining habits vary considerably from one region to the next, for instance fried dishes as pescaito frito or puntillitas (fried fish) are typical of Andalusia, while the central area is famous for its roast meats: cochinillo o lechazo (suckling pig or young lamb). Then the rice dishes are found along the East Coast -apart from paella, arroz en caldero, arroz negro, arroz con costra o arroz a banda are simply wonderful.
Some dishes from the Spanish recipe book have become internationally famous such as paella (I will not describe it as everybody knows this dish!) or the tortilla de patatas (made of potatoes, eggs, olive oil and onions, so simple ingredients and so wonderfully mixed!). Others, in a more modest way, have also become popular, eg, gazpacho (a cold tomato and pepper soup) or pipirrana (a kind of salad prepared with finely chopped vegetables). However, many really typical and popular recipes have gone unnoticed. Often overlooked is what we might call the national dish par excellence, the only one which can be considered characteristic because it is found in every corner of the country, though each area has its own particular version. We mean the cocido, olla, pote or escudella –in one word, the stew- which has all these different names. The common factor of all the Spanish cocidos is the chickpea which give the Madrid and Andalusian stews their characteristic flavour. The alubias or white beans are the main ingredient of fabada which comes from Asturias and it is so successful that is tinned and exported to all parts of South America.
What are the two typical Spanish products that Spaniards most miss when they are abroad?
Yes, jamón serrano ibérico (cured ham) and queso manchego (cheese from La Mancha). And all kinds of pork products (embutidos): chorizo, lomo, morcilla (black pudding), salchichon, fuet, longaniza, butifarra, sobrasada that they carry inside their suitcases if they can.
A Typical Night Out:
Apart from restaurants, the bars “los bares” play a very important role in Spanish social life, there are lots in every village or town in Spain and they offer an ample selection of tapas such as croquetas, flamenquines (rolls of ham and cheese stuffed meat), ibericos (Iberian pork embutidos), albóndigas (meat balls), calamares a la romana (fried squid), gambas con gabardina (prawns fried in batter), migas (bread crumbs) or tigres (stuffed mussels). In most areas of Andalusia these tapas are included with your drink but in the rest of Spain you have to pay for them.
What do you usually drink in los bares? Wine (Rioja or Ribera de Duero are among the leading varieties although there are many others), beer or sangria (made of wine, lemonade, sugar and fruit). And if you have been out with your friends all night long, before going back home you should have the Spanish typical breakfast: chocolate con churros (hot chocolate with churros) or pan con aceite y tomate (a toast with olive oil and tomato).
Bio:This is a guest post from Teresa García de Zúñiga. She is from Spain and she is currently working in Hamburg (Germany) at Bab.la (http://bab.la/) . She loves to cook and to write about her country, especially since she is abroad.