Paella de Marisco (seafood paella) may be the most famous of Spain’s dishes but there’s a lot more to Spanish food than first meets the eye. From the icy cool Gazpacho soup served up in the baking plains of Andalucia to Percebas – a special type of barnacle daringly plucked from the treacherous cliffs of Galicia’s Costa do Mort.
The Galician region in north western Spain is famed for its seafood and one of its stars is this tasty Octopus dish. Traditionally cooked in a copper pot, served upon a wooden board and delicately drizzled with olive oil it is usually accompanied by Pimientos de Padron (small spiced peppers also from the region). Pulpo is often hand caught in the Rías (deltas) that characterise the coast of this far flung region of North Western Spain. Just make sure you wash it down with icy cool bottle of Estrella Galicia beer, it kicks the hell out of San Miguel and is probably the best largely produced beer in Spain.
Traditionally regarded as “peasant food”, this mix of beans and cooked meats such as Chorizo (spicy sausage) from Asturias may be regarded as cheap but the flavour is anything but. Usually you’ll find it accompanied by Asturian Sidre (Cider) – it’s definitely a memorable one for the palette.
While they’re not a set dish as such, Pinxtos and Tapas form such an integral part of Spanish food and culture that they simply had to be included in the list. Basque country (in the county’s North) is said to be one of the best places to get tapas and is where the distinct name Pinxtos originates. The beauty of Pinxtos is that although they share a base layer of freshly baked bread (setting them apart from standard tapas), the toppings can vary wildly – from the classic to the borderline bizarre! Nowhere is this more the case than in San Sebastian, a picturesque Basque seaside town close to the French border.
A perfect accompaniment to your mid-morning coffee; Spanish tortilla actually has nothing in common with a fajita wrap. Simple yet effective, it consists principally of egg and potato and is more commonly known by us Brits as a Spanish omelette. This staple food shows up in bars up and down the Iberian Peninsula. While some may think this egg and potato combo sounds a bit bland, we always find a good tortilla to be surprisingly addictive. It’s particularly delicious with a variety of toppings, the most popular being tuna or ham and cheese. However there are no limits to the creativity of tortilla toppings – it’s even been known to work with a glaze of curry sauce! For the very best omelette (in our opinion) food pilgrims should travel to Santander on Spain’s Atlantic coastline, where the locals pride themselves on their tortilla skills.
The Spanish take their ham very seriously; and this is especially true in reference to Jamón Ibérico (Iberian Ham). Usually cut and served in thin slices as an appetiser, strict rules apply to the classification of Jamón Ibérico. To qualify, the ham can only be cut from Iberian black pigs which populate the south and south western regions of Spain. The production of Iberian Ham is a timely process with the meat sometimes being left to cure for an incredible 48 months before being considered ready for sale. As always, the best way to fine wine to compliment this most sacred of Spanish cuisines is with a well matured local wine…
Empanadas or Empanadillas are essentially the Spanish cousin of a Cornish pasty. While being different in appearance and texture a similar principle of preparation applies. They can be prepared with a selection of fillings, but being Galician in origin (where sea food is king) cod and tuna are often the fillings of choice.
The literal translation of this dish effectively as cold tomato soup may not initially sound all that appetising, however a taste of this following a summer afternoon spent in the searing Andalucian sun will quickly change any former perceptions. The classic Gazpacho consists of tomato, stale bread, bell pepper, onion, garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, water and salt and will makes a tasty, refreshing and not to mention cheap addition to your culinary experiences whilst travelling Southern Spain.
Anyone with an affinity for all things sweet will love the very idea of chocolate and churros. Served in specially designated Churrerias (churro cafes), the ingredients are simple but effective. The churros are made of dough which is deep fried until crunchy and then coated with a generous sprinkling of sugar. These are then dipped or dunked, depending on your enthusiasm, into a mug of melted chocolate (yes, you heard right). There’s no holding back here – it’s a perfectly acceptable practice in Spain, and as a tourist it is more or less your duty to oblige… When in Rome!
Percebes are yet another Galician seafood delicacy akin to cockles or barnacles; they are delicious either served steamed or with a drizzle of lemon juice. They are an expensive delicacy not just by virtue of being so incredibly tasty, but also because of the extreme lengths people go to in order to bring them to the dinner table. The Galician northwest coast is known locally as the Costa do Morte – translating as The Coast of Death due to its rough seas. Percebes are gathered from sea cliffs by a few daredevils who have an extremely good climbing ability as well as an impeccable sense of timing, rushing to pluck them from the face of the cliff before the next swell. Therefore when tucking into this tasty morsel you should bear in mind that the phrase “to die for” may sometimes take on a more literal meaning in this particular case.
Despite the title of the article we simply couldn’t leave this dish out. Instead of talking about the typical seafood
Paella which can be found in almost every restaurant from Barcelona to Benidorm, we’re going to delve in to the origins of this culinary classic. Valencia is the home of Paella – and according to the Valencianos nobody does it better. This may be a bold claim, however the traditional mix of succulent chicken or mutton that you’ll find here takes you right back to the origins of the Paella story. Like many Spanish classics, Paella started as a dish of the common people, who couldn’t afford seafood and lived upon a staple of rice, vegetables and some meats. When it’s done right Paella Valenciana carries the essence of rustic Spanish cuisine which simply can’t be matched.