Spanish cuisine is one of the most popular in the world. Moreover, it is extremely multifaceted, including the characteristics of different regions. The nuances of geographic location, climate, and historical influence are intertwined in cooking. One and the same dish can have more than a hundred cooking options, which led to the main feature of the Spanish cuisine – its heterogeneity.
General characteristics of the Spanish national cuisine
Dishes in Spain are prepared from meat, fish, seafood, rice. Olive oil, onions, garlic and spices are actively used. Close attention is paid to the freshness of the food: it is not customary to freeze vegetables and meat here. In almost every, even the smallest, store you can always find fresh tomatoes, chicken, beef, herbs and herbs. Almost all food is simple and quick to prepare, and for many treats, the recipe has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
Spanish dishes are mainly prepared with meat and seafood.
Traditions and customs
The main method of cooking meat and vegetables in Spain is braising, often with the addition of wine. The Spaniards love foods baked with cheese. A large number of treats from beef, pork, venison, fish, seafood, mushrooms are grilled. Garlic is added to almost all dishes, sometimes even unsweetened ones. Frying takes place in olive oil, although historically the Spaniards preferred to use animal fats for this.
A small life hack that will allow you to get acquainted with the cuisine of Spain and save money: menú del día – a fixed price menu that consists of 2 main courses and a dessert. It is served on weekdays at lunchtime.
The Spanish daily diet is considered one of the most balanced and healthy. It contains fresh vegetables, seafood, meat, legumes, fish and spices.
Eating fresh vegetables rich in vitamins, fiber and antioxidants helps fight aging, citrus fruits – to reduce obesity.
Fish and seafood, which form the basis of the Spanish diet, provide the body with “good” cholesterol and are responsible for brain function.
Red wine helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Olive oil helps prevent cancer, such as colon or breast cancer, and maintains normal blood pressure.
The beginning of the formation of Spanish cuisine dates back to the period when Carthage and Phenicia ruled the Iberian Peninsula. Then animal husbandry and agriculture began to develop. The first crops cultivated by the Spaniards were legumes and grains. At the same time, a love for wine and olives was laid.
The period of the Roman Empire had a significant impact on the national cuisine, when onions and garlic, cabbage and lentils appeared in the diet. Animal fat for frying was replaced by olive oil, which has since become indispensable in Spanish cuisine. The first preparation of food for the future belongs to this period: the Spaniards began to salt, pickle and dry vegetables, mushrooms, meat.
The Middle Ages were marked by strong influences from Muslim, Christian and Jewish traditions. Thanks to the Arab influence, rice, citrus fruits, artichokes, and spices appeared on the Spanish table. Judaism gave the Spaniards many recipes for marmalade, jams and preserves, and not only from berries and fruits, but also from vegetables, such as eggplant. Thanks to Jewish traditions, dishes began to be prepared with the addition of garlic. And dry bread is still part of Spanish dinners today.
The flourishing of the national cuisine came at a time after the discovery of America, when previously unknown potatoes, corn, cocoa, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers were included in the diet.
The heterogeneity of Spanish cuisine determines its flavor. There is a joke that Spain has not one national cuisine, but as many as seventeen, as well as regions.
Each dish has its own calories.
Each of them is distinguished by unique culinary traditions:
- Galicia, which belongs to the northern region. Most often, fish and seafood are prepared here. The most popular dish is the octopus seasoned with salt and paprika, combined with boiled potatoes. Galicia is famous for its empanada, a large pie filled with minced meat, fish, seafood or vegetables.
- Castile. One of the most sophisticated cuisines in Spain. The food most often includes meat, such as roast pork or lamb. Salamanca, a roast of veal tail, is worth trying here.
- Andalusia. Southerners’ cuisine was influenced by the Arab era. The famous cold soup gazpacho can be found here in any tapas bar. It is recommended to try products that are deep-fried, previously doused in flour or batter.
- Basque lands. This is a refined and sophisticated cuisine with a French influence. In establishments, you can find treats prepared according to old French and Spanish recipes. The main ingredients from which the basques are prepared are chicken, beef, and legumes.
- Catalonia. The eastern part of Spain was influenced by the culinary schools of Italy and France. It is considered the birthplace of the famous Spanish sofrito sauces (a mixture of tomatoes with onions, garlic, peppers and herbs), samfaina (eggplant, peppers, tomatoes combined with spices), ali-oli (olive oil with garlic) and picada (fried almonds, tomatoes, etc. garlic).
- Valencia also belongs to the eastern part of Spain, where fried sausages stuffed with white beans are popular. Fermented milk products and sheep’s cheese are especially popular. The Spaniards pay tribute to France with such a dish as meat cooked in a pot with vegetables.
- Madrid. The culinary specialty is thick pea soup – kosido.
- Toledo is a paradise for those with a sweet tooth. Marzipans are prepared here: a dessert made from almond flour and sugar. Unusual Spanish sweetness – peaches in wine – can also be tasted here.
The Spaniards love greens, vegetables, seafood, meat and fish, rice, spices. Almost no dish is complete without olive oil, walnuts, and garlic.
Must-sees in Spain: popular dishes
Spanish cuisine captivates with an incredible combination of flavors, savory desserts, snacks and meat treats. It includes several dishes that are popular outside the country. They are worth trying.
Cold tomato soup is the hallmark of Spain. Traditionally, the soup contains onions, garlic, olive oil, cucumbers. Gazpacho can be served as a separate dish in a deep plate, or as an appetizer: in a glass decorated with a celery branch. In the summertime, you can enjoy the soup in any tapas bar: it perfectly relieves fatigue and refreshes.
The traditional Spanish dish is puree soup.
Slowing food for a long time in a flat skillet gives them a deep, rich taste, revealing all the notes of the ingredients. The basis of paella is rice combined with rabbit meat or seafood. There are more than 300 recipes for this dish, each region prepares it in its own way. Paella with squid deserves special attention, whose juice gives the rice a deep blue-black color. When preparing paella, wine is used, so do not treat children to the dish.
Hearty breakfast of potatoes and omelet. Traditionally, the finished tortilla is cut into pieces like a pizza. Like many other Spanish dishes, tortilla has variations: onions, white beans, and peppers can be added to it. Moreover, there is controversy over the onion: some Spaniards put it in a tortilla, others consider it a gastronomic crime. Cooking is quite simple and does not take much time: potatoes are simmered in oil, and then poured with beaten eggs.
Small fried potato wedges with hot sauce. Different sauces are used for patatas bravas. It can be garlic-tomato or a mixture of olive oil with broth and several types of pepper. It is distinguished by its sharpness, which is reflected in the name: in translation, patatas bravas means “brave potato”. The dish is served as an appetizer.
A hearty, moderately fatty dish that the Spaniards prefer to eat in winter: for the summer sun, this is a rather heavy food. It consists of a stew, beans, or beans. Most often, sausages, bacon, chorizo are added to it.
Only in Spain is the meat of a pig so tender that they use not a knife, but an earthenware plate for cutting. They bake it in the oven. You can try the dish in several regions of Spain, but Segovia is traditional.
Another popular breakfast in Spain. It consists of stewed vegetables: eggplant, peppers, onions, zucchini, spiced tomatoes. It can be used as a filling for a pie, a garnish for fish, or as an independent dish. It is most often served warm, with bread and scrambled eggs.
An integral part of family dinners is a delicate dessert with a caramelized crispy crust. It consists of egg yolks, milk and sugar. After cooking, it is subjected to high temperatures to seal the outer layer. Previously, the cream was served on March 19 – St. Joseph’s Day, but today it is also prepared on other holidays, such as Father’s Day.
The traditional sweetness of Galician cuisine is almond cake. It is named after the patron saint of Spain, the Apostle Santiago. For its preparation, use almonds, eggs, butter, flour, cinnamon, sherry, powdered sugar. Since 2006, the dish has been protected by the national trademark.
A traditional Spanish dessert named after the patron saint.
Deep-fried choux pastry dessert. It can be in the form of thick tubes with a filling or a thin empty loop. The Spaniards prefer to dip their treats in hot chocolate.
A thick, rich chowder of beans or beans with meat and vegetables in a pot. It is difficult to attribute it to soups or main courses (rather, it is two in one). The dish is simmered for a long time on the fire, be sure to supplement with sausages and paprika. In Madrid restaurants, they are served at the same time, but at a home dinner, they will be served in stages: first, broth, then stewed vegetables, and finally meat.
The dish is made from Asturian large white beans with the addition of compango meat set: blood sausages, smoked bacon and Asturian chorizos.
The meat “king” of Spain, a national delicacy. The cooking process takes a long time. First, the pork leg is salted. This can take over a year, depending on the climate. The process begins in early spring so that a gradual increase in temperature makes the salting process more natural. It is then moved to a cool place where it is dried, which gives the meat its special flavor, aroma and texture.
Cutting ham into thin strips takes a special place. This is done by a trained master with the help of a special device – a jamoner. The slicing process is subject to strict rules and has many nuances.
Spanish cuisine cannot be imagined without the tapas ritual: serving small snacks to alcoholic beverages. The versions of the emergence of this tradition vary. According to one of them, in the XIII century. the monarch ordered wine and bread to be served. It was covered with a piece of cups with intoxicating drinks, hence the name – “lid”. According to another version, in a Seville bar, a glass of alcohol was covered with a piece of ham. It was originally a free add-on.
Nowadays, tapas includes not only bread or ham: they are full-fledged snacks, which can include olives, fried shrimp, squid sandwiches, rolls with various fillings.
Its characteristic is incredible softness. Classic recipes suggest hitting the floor 33 times. At a later time, advice appeared to beat off the meat with a wooden mallet or pre-freeze it for 24 hours and let it thaw at room temperature. The “scare the octopus” procedure also helps to achieve softness: dip only its head in boiling water several times, and then send it to boil. The classic Galician octopus is seasoned with paprika, olive oil and salt, rarely served with potatoes.
Rabo de toro soup
Another Spanish dish, where the tenderness of the meat is obtained due to long simmering. The basis is oxtails, which are stewed with tomatoes, garlic, onions, red wine, seasoning everything with salt, pepper and saffron. Delicate and hearty soup that deserves the attention of Spanish guests.
Merlouse in green sauce
Delicate white fish with virtually no bones. The piquancy is given by the original green sauce, consisting of olive oil, broth, sea clams, garlic and spices.
White fish dish with original green sauce.
Lechazo, or roasted lamb
They use the meat of unbeaten lambs, which still feed on mother’s milk, due to which the taste of the dish is tender, melting in the mouth. It is fried in the oven or in an earthen pan.
Shrimps in garlic
A classic Spanish appetizer. The shrimp are of the highest quality, just like any seafood in Spain. Large shrimps are fried with salt and garlic. Sometimes chili is added to the dish for piquancy.
Roman squid and fried fish
Another type of tapas is squid in batter, which is often used as a street food because it is convenient to eat them on the go. The batter in which the squid is fried is airy due to the addition of carbonated water.
A traditional Spanish delicacy in the form of balls of béchamel sauce with various fillings, including jamon, seafood, and sometimes oxtail.
A thick, rich lamb stew. It is seasoned with garlic, onions, olive oil and paprika, sometimes sausages are added. Another warming winter treat that’s great for satisfying hunger.
The literal translation is “crumbs”. Yesterday’s bread is soaked in water and fried with various ingredients (depending on the region). In Extremadura, garlic, pepper, and pork ribs are added there. In Aragon they put pork sausages and bacon, sometimes grapes. In Andalusia, the dish is served with a stew.
A popular delicacy is pork sausages with smoked paprika, which have a special aroma and piquant taste. They also add garlic, spices, sometimes white wine. Chorizos are used as an ingredient in rich Spanish dishes, but they can also be served on their own.
An alcoholic drink based on red wine with the addition of citrus fruits, sugar and carbonated water.
Spanish drink based on citrus and soda water.
Interesting homemade recipes
The classic Spanish dish is paella. To prepare it you will need:
- 150 g of rice;
- 2-3 cm chili peppers;
- 3-4 tomatoes;
- 2-3 cloves of garlic;
- 1 onion;
- 3 tbsp. l. olive oil;
- 200 g chorizo sausage;
- 1 chicken breast;
- 300 g of white sea fish;
- 200 g shrimp;
- 300 g squid;
- 400 g fresh mussels in shells;
- 300 ml of broth;
- 200 ml of dry white wine;
- turmeric, salt, paprika to taste.
Finely chopped garlic is sent to a saucepan with well-heated oil. Add the onion and fry until the foods are translucent. After that, chopped peeled tomatoes and several chili rings are placed in the container.
With continuous stirring, the chicken fillet cubes are fried, then chorizo, fish and seafood are added. The dish is stewed for 5-8 minutes. Pour in rice. Season everything with salt, turmeric and paprika, stir. Pour in wine and broth. After boiling, the paella is cooked over low heat until the liquid is completely boiled away.
Before serving, it is seasoned with lemon juice.
Ingredients for the tortilla (servings 4):
- olive oil – 50 ml;
- potatoes – 400 g;
- salt to taste;
- bell pepper – 0.5 pcs.;
- freshly ground pepper – to taste;
- large chicken eggs – 4 pcs.
Put the sliced potatoes in a pan with heated oil and stew for about 15 minutes. Beat eggs with salt and pepper in a separate container. Salted potatoes are added to the egg mixture. The whole mass is returned to the pan and fried for several minutes until tender.
Serve upside down on a large flat plate.