Spanish food is delicious:
Put very simply, Spanish food is delicious! It’s tasty, spicy, vibrant in colour and a has a great mix of fresh ingredients.
In this sun-drenched country, grains, beans, fruits and vegetables all grow very well and there is also an abundance of meats, seafood and cheeses, not to mention wines and sherries.
We are all very familiar with signature dishes like paella and tortillas, the tapas style of food and famous Spanish products like chorizo, Jamon Serrano, Manchego cheese, anchovies, olives and olive oil. But, there are heaps more to Spanish food and all the regional specialties than would be possible to mention here.
Brief outline of Regional specialties
Northern Spain has an abundance of everything. It has the best of fish and other seafood from the Atlantic, it produces some of the countries best cheeses and its vast mountain ranges also provide for plentiful game. Lots of hams and cured sausages are produced here as well, which together with beans make for hearty stews. Beans are an important ingredient in northern cooking and the Asturias produce the expensive La Granja beans which can cost twice as much as lamb.
Each of the provinces in the north have their own special provincial dishes. The Asturias have Fabada Asturiana which is a savoury stew prepared with dried white beans called ‘fabes’, chorizo, black pudding (morcilla), cured pork shoulder (tocino), potatoes and anything else that the chef feels like throwing in. The Galicians have Lacon con grelos which is a dish of cured pork shoulder with turnip tops and sausage. A specialty from Navarra is Chilindron de Cordero, a rich spicy lamb stewed with dried or fresh peppers.
Central Spain takes its specialties from every Spanish region. Castilla-Leon is best known for its roast suckling pig and lamb. Castile-la-Mancha produces Spain’s greatest Manchego cheese, one of my favorites. Also traditional in La Mancha is Pisto or La Mancha Ratatouille. Sopa de ajo is also good here as cumin and garlic are spices used in this region.
Eastern Spain does Mediterranean cuisine which has been influenced by the Romans and the Moors. The internationally renowned dish paella is a Valencian specialty. Valencia is of course famous for its oranges and Valencia and Alicante together are the biggest orange exporters in the world. A traditional Catalan dish is Butifarra amb mongetes which is grilled black sausage with dried white beans. Catalan is famous for its sausages and many varieties are produced here.
Southern Spain’s cuisine has a strong Arab influence. Rice, olives, vines, lemons and oranges are all used in cooking. Southern Spain is famous for grilled fish such as sardines, calamari and tripe or chickpea stews are common food in the mountain regions. The world famous Tapas was an Andalusian creation and other favorite provincial dishes include Fritura de pescado a typical seafood dish from Malaga and Ternera con alcachofas a dish from Cordoba, made from veal and artichoke hearts in a wine sauce.
The South also grows every type of fruit and vegetable. Figs that we pay a lot of money for when in season, grow wild here. I still remember eating these straight off the tree in our friends’ backyard. They were sweet! Another lasting memory is of eating tomatoes in the little town of Órgiva in the Alpujarras. The tomatoes will never win any beauty contests, but the flavour was exquisite.
Fresh and good quality produce are the essence of Spanish cooking and with the abundance of seafood, varieties of meat, cured hams and sausages as well as fruit and vegetable, everyone can be assured of eating well in Spain. And, if you decide to go to the Balearic Islands, they have their specialty dishes too.