Spain is country with a mixed and complex heritage and Spanish cooking reflects this fact. While Spain is a Mediterranean country, and many Spanish dishes owe much to this, Spanish food also includes native foods imported into the country from Spain’s former colonies in the New World such as beans, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. Other Spanish dishes draw on the countries Jewish and Moorish heritage – it was worth remembering that much of Spain was ruled by the Moors for more than seven hundred years. Even the Reconquista (the Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from Muslims) has left its traces in Spanish cuisine – pork is popular in Spanish food, and historically was a political statement of Christian identity because it was not eaten by Jews or Muslims.
The most important ingredient in Spanish cooking is olive oil, which is unsurprising when you consider the fact that Spain produces almost half of the world’s olives. However, in the North of Spain, butter and lard are also used.
Other characteristics of Spanish food, include the widespread use of garlic and onions, the serving of bread and wine with most meals, and the consumption of fruit or dairy products as desserts. One particularly well-known Spanish custom is the serving of small appetizers (“tapas”) with drinks.
Some popular Spanish dishes include:
– Gazpacho – A cold vegetable soup that is particularly popular in hotter areas such as Andalusia. Traditionally gazpacho was made stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and vinegar, but today, bell pepper and tomato are also often added. There is also a variant called &quit;gazpacho manchego&quit; which is served warm, and that includes meat (often rabbit) and mushrooms, and is more like a stew than a soup.
– Paella – A rice dish originally from Valencia. The main ingredients are rice, saffron and olive oil, and the dish is usually garnished with meat or seafood, and vegetables.
– Chorizo – A spicy sausage made from fatty pork seasoned with chili and paprika. There are two varieties: hot (“picante”) and sweet (“dulce”). Most varieties can be eaten cold, although there are some regions of Spain which produce varieties that need further cooking. Chorizo is not only eaten on its own, but is also used as an ingredient in other dishes.
– Jamón serrano – Dry-cured ham.
– Fabada Asturiana – A bean stew that also contains black blood sausage (“morcilla”), chorizo and pork, and which is flavored with saffron and other seasonings.
– Olla Podrida – A rich stew with bacon, poultry or game, ham, meats and vegetables.
– Marmitako – A fish stew made with onions, pimentos, potatoes and tomatoes.
– Calamares – Fried squid.
– Pescaíto Frito – Marinated fish, battered and fried.
– Tortilla de patatas – An onion and potato omelette.
Spanish Recipes and Cuisine