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Regional cuisine of Spain, basic ingredients, wines, famous dishes ...
Spain occupies the gratest part of the Iberian Peninsula and it faces the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. Besides
its territory is very varied and so it has a lot of products.
Spain is the result of the influence of the populations that have dominated it in the course of the history: the Iberians, the Celts, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the barbarian tribes and the Arabs. Its cuisine, as well as all the other cultural manifestations, has been influenced by these dominations.
That being stated, you can understand the great variety of ingredients and recipes that are typical of the Spanish cuisine. Ingredients and recipes that remember Mediterranean cuisine
and particularly Italian cuisine.
You can find a great difference among the recipes of the Spanish regions as you can read below
- » Basque cuisine. It is based on delicious fish recipes (hake, cod, cuttlefish ...) garnished with coloured sauces. But its beef or veal chops are unforgettable too!
- » Galician cuisine. It's based on fish and fishfood recipes. Other typical dishes are: the leg of lamb, empanadas and game.
- » Catalan cuisine. Its cuisine is simple but rich in fish and meat dishes; they are served with typical sauces: sofrito, samfaina, picada and alioli.
- » Castilian cuisine. It's the kingdom of the roast meats, local cured meats, particular fish, soups and a great variety of salt and sweet bread used for the migas. In the region of Old Castilia the most famous dishes are: tostòn or lechòn, a little pork that must not be older than three weeks and that is baked or grilled; stewed tongues of little lambs; partridges, Segovia-style; salads with pork ears; Tormes and Tiétar trouts; cangrejos de rio, delicious pan fried crayfish; choritozos, delicious local cured meats. In the region of Leòn we remember chorizo and butillo, made with pork meat in which paprika and some bones are also added. Cuisine in Madrid is famous for: cocido, Madrid-style (a rich variety of boiled meats); tripe, Madrid-style; sopa de ajo, very famous garlic soup; judas blancas, white beans; churros, a sort of fritters with a long shape and many other dishes with a definite flavour. In the region called New Castilia we must remember migas canas, little pies made with sultanas and bread, and chicken with apples.
- » Andalusia cuisine. Andalusia is the region that was more influenced by the domination of the Arabs than any other part of Spain. Its most traditional dishes are: gazpacho and, particularly, fish and seafood for the most part floured and fried (pescaitos). In Andalusia cooks can fry fish better than in other places in Spain and accompany their masterpieces with sherry. But its most delicious product is its mountain ham (jamòn serrano) made with a particular species of pork. Other specialities are: berza andaluza, based on pork meat and assorted vegetables; angler fish flavoured with Pedro Ximenez; tortillas de camarones, a sort of prawn omelettes; eggs, flamenco style; the tails of bulls.
The basic ingredients and much more ...
You can read below the list of the most typical ingredients in Spanish cuisine; in the same list we have also introduced notes about the most famous dishes. Besides we suggest how to substitute some ingredients that we don't find easily in our countries.
- - Vinegar: it's made with white or red wine and it's essential in many dishes, included soups.
- - Garlic: it's a fundamental ingredient. It is very often used fresh and it's prepared in this way: peel the garlic clove and place it on the cutting board; sprinkle with salt and crush it with the end of a knife. You obtain a paste.
- - Alioli: mayonnaise in which garlic is added. You can vary the dose of eggs or garlic according to your taste in order to modify its taste. You can combine it with meat or fish (particularly salt cod).
- - Bocadillo: it's the classic roll filled with salami, cheese, meat, fish ot typical Spanish omelettes. It can substitute a complete meal.
- - Chick peas: typical pulses of the Mediterranean area. You can use dried chick peas or canned ones.
- - Chorizo: it's a spicy, coarse-grained salami well known all over the Spain. If you don't find it you can susbstitute it with an Italian salami with the same characteristics.
- - Onions: another typical ingredient. In Spain the red variety is prefered because it's sweet and it can eaten raw in the salads.
- - Aromatic herbs: they are used fresh or dried frequently. The most common are the herbs cultivated in the Mediterranean area: rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, parsley and mint.
- - Cabrales cheese: typical cheese of the region of Asturie; it's prepared mixing three different milks (cow, ewe and goat). Then it is placed in the characteristic, calcareous caves of the region to get the typical blue mould. You can susbstitute it with another fermented cheese (such as Italian Gorgonzola or French Roquefort).
- - Almonds: they are used very much in Spanish cuisine, in the sweet as well as in the salt dishes. They are often powdered and used as a flour.
- - Aubergines: in Spain this vegetable is filled with meat or other ingredients.
- - Olive oil: it's a typical Mediterranean ingredient. The Spain is one of the first producer in the world together with Italy.
- - Paella: it's one of the most famous dish of Spanish cuisine in the world together with gazpacho. It's rice flavoured with saffron or paprika or cucrcuma and cooked with a great variety of seasonal products.
- - Paellera: it's the typical pan used for cooking paella. It isn't deep. You can substitute it with a non-stick frying pan or a saucepan not too deep.
- - Paprika: it's very used in Spanish dishes. It derives from a particular variety of sweet peppers cultivated all over Europe. You can find sweet or spicy paprika.
- - Peppers: they are essential in samfaina, gazpacho, paella and in many other dishes. You can use them raw or peeled after grilling them.
- - Pine nuts: another dried fruit very used in Spanish dishes. They are the seeds of the pine-cone, the fruit of the comon pine tree, widespread in the Mediterranean area.
- - Tomatoes: they are the basic ingredient of a lot of Spanish dishes. You can use them raw or cooked. If you don't find fresh tomatoes, you can substitute them with canned peeled tomatoes.
- - Rice: it is cooked in a great variety of ways. It is very often served as a side dish. It's the basic ingredient of paella.
- - Sherry: it's one of the most famous oenological products of Spain in the world. There are sweet and dry sherry varieties.
- - Tapas: they are the typical Spanish appetizers. You have to eat them slowly and with other people. They can start a meal or substitute a meal when they are a lot. Their name goes back to the nineteenth century when the innkeepers in Andalusia had the habit to serve the glass full of wine and covered with a slice of salami. This trick had two aims: avoiding that some insects could fall into the wine and stimulating the thirst. The idea of serving little plates full of appetizers was born from this trick. In the long run this habit spread everywhere in Spain and so the first tapas based on pork meat, seafood, bread and olive oil have been enriched with the Basque pinchos. You can prepare a Basque pincho placing on a bread slice a miniaturized plate of high cuisine with a toothpick. So every customer numbers the toothpicks before paying his bill. The most famous tapas are: tortilla pincho (a little piece of potato tortilla placed on a bread slice with a toothpick), tripe, fried little fish, clam or seafood soups, meatballs, rice croquettes, Russian salad, cured meats, marinated anchovies, dressed olives, fried squids, salt almonds, chocos (cuttlefish, grilled and dressed with garlic, salt, olive oil and parsley) ...
- - Saffron: it's very used in many dishes. It's very expensive and can be substituted with paprika or turmeric.
The most famous Spanish wines are cultivated in the southwest of Andalusia (Merco de Jerez) and in the region of Rioja.
The first region is famous for its white fresh grapes: fine palomino or listán, palonimo de Jerez, Pedro
Ximénez and moscatel. The second region distinguishes itself for its red wines. They derive from these grape
varieties: tempranillo, garnacha, viura.
You can find more details in the pages dedicated to Spanish recipes where we suggest how to combine the wines with the dishes.