FLAVOURS OF ANDALUCIA
& COOKING ARTICLE
is the largest region of Spain, situated in the south
of the country it stretches along the coast from Almeria
through Granada, Malaga and as far as Gibraltar. Inland
Andalucia reaches as far as Cordoba and Jaen.
represents the most famous images of Spain; the romance
and passion that stems from gypsies, flamenco and bull
fights, flowered patios and ancient Moorish palaces.
The region is so vast that a journey throughout Andalucia
will take you to golden beaches, white washed hillside
villages, beautiful coastlines and rugged mountainous
landscapes. Andalucia is a land of extremes, bitterly
cold, dry winters high up in the hills, to hot sultry
summers close to the coast.
this diverse landscape, comes a variety of cultural
experiences affecting every aspect of life and especially
the food. You can experience everything from freshly
caught sardines cooked on the beach, to the famous Serrano
or mountain ham, traditionally cured in caves high above
only is the food here so special, but in Andalucia offers
a unique way of eating. Andalucia is the birthplace
of the tapa and the region of Granada is the only place
in Spain where tapas are still served free with your
drink. In most other places you will generally be asked
if you want a tapa with your drink and if you do, then
you will be charged a little extra. "Ir de tapas"
means bar hopping but it is totally different from what
the British call "a pub crawl!" The Andalucians
eat later than people of other Spanish regions and it
is not unusual to have lunch at 4 o'clock or dinner
at midnight. Because of this the tapas are an important
way of life for the people of Andalucia, they are very
social people and they can indulge their love of mixing
with friends over a drink without getting drunk! Having
small portions of food throughout the day also keeps
them going until the main meal at home.
This culture of eating a variety of different small
dishes extends into the home as well. Since being in
Andalucia, I have gradually started to adapt to this
way of eating and instead of a plate piled high with
meat and two veg, separate little dishes are brought
out which is the tradition in Spanish homes. This gastronomic
culture means the conversation flows during eating as
everyone is not tucking in to a huge plate of food at
the same time. Of course this also means that meal times
last longer; another feature of Andalucian eating habits.
Andalucia is made up of eight different regions and
each region brings to the table its own speciality that
makes Andalucian cuisine so far reaching and diverse.
famous as the location for many spaghetti westerns
is a region dominated by dry, barren, rocky and almost
lunar landscapes. However, littering the area are
pockets of paradise, lush oasis providing year round
fruits and vegetables. Being on the coast means Almeria
has an abundance of fresh seafood which is brought
in to more inland regions.
is the next region along the coast and is blessed
with a variety of landscapes and architecture. It
is home to the famous Alhambra Palace in its capital
city but also offers beautiful beaches, the snow-capped
Sierra Nevada Mountains, and is home to a unique area
of cave dwellings situated in a prehistoric basin,
which can be visited when passing through the villages
of Orce, Galera and Castillejar. It is in this region
where the Serrano Ham is most famously produced. High
above sea level where low humidity and cold dry winters
provide the ideal conditions for curing this gastronomic
cornerstone of Spanish cuisine. At its best just served
in wafer thin slices, the Serrano ham is also the
ideal accompaniment to melon and almonds. A local
speciality in many tapas bars is "habas con jamon"
broad beans with ham.
is the gateway to the Costa del Sol which is the part
of Andalucia best known to foreign visitors. It has
a thriving port and is home to the old and new with
modern palm tree lined avenues and ruins of roman
theatres in its old town. Among local specialities
celebrated here is the "fritura malagueña"
which is a selection of deep fried fish, the fish
can be whitebait, anchovies, squid rings or small
pieces of larger fish. Malaga is also famous for its
sweet dessert wines which are made from the moscatel
province of Cadiz it the southern most tip of Spain
and indeed Europe. It is home to the coastlines of
both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. As a consequence,
the seafood in Cadiz is some of the best in Andalucia.
Specialities of this area include "urta a la
roteña" which is bream cooked with peppers
and tomatoes. A fish stew packed with the best specimens
of the area known as "abaja de pescado",
is a must when visiting the capital city.
in the province of Cadiz, is the town of Jerez de
la Frontera famous for its sherry, indeed it is from
this town that the name sherry originates. As a consequence,
many recipes from this area are cooked using this
local brew such as "riñones al Jerez"
which is kidneys in sherry sauce and "rabo de
toro al jerez" oxtail in sherry.
Cadiz to the north is Seville, whose main city is
the capital and cosmopolitan heart of Andalucia. Seville
is famous for its "ferias" and the atmosphere
here is exotic and colourful. So too is the food here
with the Moorish influence especially strong in sweet
dishes such as "yemas" sweet eggs. There
is a traditional dessert or type of confectionery
for almost every fiesta which are made following recipes
almost unchanged throughout centuries. The famous
"manzanilla" olives originate from Seville
and are very popular in salads or added to other dishes
such as "pato a la sevillana" which is duck
with olives. A very popular local dish here is "huevos
a la flamenco" which is a baked egg dish with
chorizo, peppers, peas and asparagus.
on the coast bordering Seville and Cadiz is mountainous
and has lovely coastlines and a thriving fishing port.
The shrimps from this area are very famous and continue
to command high prices throughout Spain. Not surprising
then that here as with many other Andalucian regions
seafood is of a very high quality and used in many
local dishes. Amongst the most popular are "raya
al pimiento" skate in a pimento sauce and "atun
con tomate" fresh tuna cooked in a tomato sauce.
makes up the northern most region in Andalucia and
was once the seat of the Moorish Kingdom. One if this
regions most famous speciality resulting from these
times is "cordero a la miel" lamb or kid
cooked in a honey sauce. The wines of this region
which are similar to sherry are used in many game
dishes such as "conejo en salmorejo" which
is rabbit in a wine marinade. These types of dishes
still testament to the Moors love of combining sweet
with savoury flavours.
is surrounded by vast olive groves and its backdrop
is a range of beautiful mountains. It is situated
on a steep hill with narrow streets leading up to
a very imposing cathedral. The land in this area is
for grazing and there are many wheat fields. A surprising
food from this region is partridge pate and the locals
here serve up a delicious dish of potatoes in a garlic
sauce known as "ajoharina."
region has its own culinary specialities which are derived
from the produce and traditions specific to that area
but Andalucia as a whole offers many famous dishes well
known throughout Spain and other parts of the world.
Probably the most popular is the "Gazpacho Andaluz"
which is a cold tomato soup made with garlic, peppers,
olive oil and cucumber. Blended together and served
as a starter, this dish is available from about May
is the ideal refreshment on a hot afternoon.
fish in batter is something the Andalucian people do
very well and varieties of this dish can be found throughout
all regions. The result is a light crispy batter with
a fresh succulent fish inside.
and olive oil are very important ingredients in Spanish
cooking, almost all dishes are cooked in olive oil and
most recipes require garlic.
important feature of Andalucian dishes is that vegetables
are rarely served as a side dish to main meals. They
are eaten separately and often served as dishes in their
own right for example spinach cooked with chick peas
or baby asparagus stewed with onions, coriander and
lemon juice. If vegetables are to be served as a side
dish, they will usually be presented in salads or a
very popular dish is sautéed potatoes with green
reasons unknown, Andalucians have in the past been criticised
for their poor eating habits and for producing food
that is either bland or drowning in oil. Above is just
a taster of how the people here combine local ingredients
and traditions to create a mouth watering variety of
exquisite food which is often surprising. The only way
to discover this gastronomic delight is to do as the
Spanish do and frequent the tapas bars to truly experience
the true flavours of this beautiful and diverse region.
you would like to buy the real thing . . . your
own Serrano Ham direct from Spain then look no
further than www.orceserranohams.com
article has been written by Gayle Hartley with factual
information courtesy of Andalucía by Michael
more exciting recipes from Andalucia go to: www.tapas-recipes-andalucia.blogspot.com
courtesy of www.orceserranohams.com
15 September 2006
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