Thanks to its diverse origins, Spanish cuisine has a taste and character all of its own. Ancient Greece and then the Roman invasion introduced olive oil and rice into what has come to be known as authentically Spanish food such as Paella and a great red wine to wash it all down of course!
The Moorish influence brought Gazpacho
Then Jewish gastronomic tradition introduced meat and vegetables into stews known as olla.
Meanwhile, it was Christianity that contributed to Spanish ham and pork being extensively used. The Spaniards like to make the most of everything in their cooking, leaving nothing to waste. This is why you might find different types of meat all in the same dish.
The varied climate and terrain throughout Spain also means that a range of vegetables are grown. As a result, each region has a different signature vegetable dish, adding to the country’s rich diversity. Zarangollo with zucchini, onions and potatoes from Murcia in south-east Spain
and Catalonia’s Escalivada, containing eggplant and red pepper, are two treats that you might wish to try when you’re in Spain. Vegetarians will love them.
In the 15th century, America was of course discovered by Spain’s most famous son. This new continent introduced tomatoes and potatoes to the country, the staple ingredients of many Spanish dishes, including Tortilla de patatas.
These outside influences have come to form some of Spain’s most iconic dishes. Not forgetting that the warm seas of the Mediterranean and Bay of Biscay plus the Atlantic are a great source of its many seafood dishes including Suquet (juicy fish stew).
Naturally, you think of Spanish cuisine and tapas also spring to mind, and you’ll be no doubt keen to try them while out and about on your holiday in Spain. The origins of tapas are lost in the misty history of time, but they’re said to have derived from hunks of bread placed over glasses to keep the flies out: “tapas” means cover or lid.
Nowadays, they can contain pretty much anything as there aren’t any particular ingredients that are specific to them. Typical tapas include patatas bravas (potatoes served in tomato and garlic sauce), squid and meatballs. The ingredients are fresh, the flavors robust and the preparation and presentation straight forward. No messing!
Finally, most countries have their signature cheese, and why would Spain be any exception?
Manchego cheese is produced in the La Mancha region, also “home” to its famous knight-errant Don Quixote, and he may well have been munching on it as he traveled round on his adventures! It is made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk. The use of grass mold leave a distinctive and characteristic zigzag pattern on the cheese whilst the rind has an equally distinctive pattern pressed onto it. The older the cheese, the more flavorsome it is.
At three months it is semi curado, supple and moist with a tangy note. At six months it is curado with a caramel and nutty flavor. The cheese that has aged for longer than a year is known as viejo. It acquires a crumbly texture, turns butterscotch in color and develops a sweet, lingering taste. No matter when you eat it though, Manchego is just one of the many fine examples and tastes of Spanish cuisine that await you!
So as they say in Spain, ¡Buen provecho!
Now over to you! Tell us…
Do you like Spanish food?
What was the best meal you ever had and where?
Let us know 🙂