Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spanish Food

What is real Spanish food?

Sitting on the Iberian Peninsula and with the Mediterranean coast to the East, Spain has been blessed with a geographical position that results in some of the world's best produce. Sun ripened vegetables, a wealth of seafood from the coast and plenty of land for sheep and pigs to roam on, mean that every corner is blessed with fantastic ingredients. While there are a few central ingredients - chorizo sausages, rice, tomatoes, onions and garlic - each region interprets them in unique ways, so there are plenty of regional specialities.
Seafood is loved throughout the country and is treated with the utmost respect. Heading inland to the heart of the country, you'll come across classic jamon (cured ham) and a range of hearty stews.
Spain loves its traditional dishes, but it is also leading the way in new cooking methods and several of the country's restaurants are continually voted among the world's best. It is this combination of old and new, of looking to the past while embracing the future, that characterises Spanish food and makes it one of the world's most exciting cuisines.

Iconic dishes

Spanish cooking is known for a whole host of fantastic dishes. Here's some of the best:


This range of dishes is not only a way of eating, but a central part of Spanish culture. Believed to have begun in a bar when a small plate of food was used to cover - or tapar - drinks to keep the flies out, it has been embraced by the entire country, with each region adding its own interpretations to the spread. Consisting of anything from a few slices of jamon or a wedge of tortilla española to a plate of sizzling garlic prawns or stuffed piquillo peppers, this is the way to eat when visiting Spain!


Hailing from Valencia, the paella is Spain's most famous dish. These large rice dishes are traditionally cooked outside for special occasions, and were once only cooked by men. While there are hundreds of paella recipes around, the two traditional ones are the valenciana and the marinera. The valenciana is made from rice, chicken, rabbit, tomatoes, capsicums, beans, olive oil, saffron, and occasionally artichokes and peas. The marinera, the most well known paella, contains rice, fish, shellfish, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and saffron.

Tortilla española

Roughly translated as a Spanish omelette, this simple dish combines thinly sliced potatoes with eggs, to create a thick potato cake that is served throughout the country. Eaten both hot or cold, as part of a meal or as a tapa, the tortilla española is a central part of Spanish gastronomy. While it is usually kept to a simple mix of potatoes and eggs, you can sometimes find other vegetables or even crispy chorizo added to the mix.


This cold tomato and bread soup has its origins in peasant fare, but is now a much-loved classic throughout the country. Traditionally made from a mix of tomatoes, garlic, capsicum and cucumber, it is occasionally garnished with hard-boiled egg or wafer thin slices of jamon.

Pollo al ajillo

This comforting dish sees chicken cooked in garlic -al ajillo - to create one of the country's most loved classics. Served with fried potatoes and a salad, it is a satisfying meal found throughout Spain.

Churros con chocolate

This pairing sees churros, the long fried Spanish doughnuts, served up with a mug of thick hot chocolate, for a sugar-loaded breakfast or for an evening snack. The only rules to this pairing are that the churros must be eaten pipping hot and that they should be dunked into the chocolate.


The Spanish version of crème caramel, this caramel-topped vanilla egg custard is a popular dessert. Made in ramekins or a baking dish and removed just before serving, this classic dessert is the perfect end to any meal.

Crema catalan

Similar to the French crème brulee except with the addition of cinnamon and citrus peel, this dessert is loved throughout the country. Unlike the French version, this Spanish custard requires no cooking, and is instead set in the fridge. Served in shallow terracotta dishes, it is adorned by a crispy burnt sugar topping, which makes a great textural difference to the spiced custard below.

Arroz con leche

This delicious creamed rice dessert is a classic item on any Spanish menu. Made from rice simmered in a mix of milk, sugar, citrus peel and cinnamon, it is enjoyed warm in winter and cold in summer. Before serving it is dusted with a little ground cinnamon to add a final spicy note.
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