& COOKING ARTICLE
Eating well in Spain
Chef Eva of www.finca-altacocina.com
is like several countries rolled into one. Its
more than twice the size of Britain and has seven regional
languages, ranging from Basque and Galician to Catalan,
plus many dialects. And its 50 provinces vary is so
many ways - climate, vegetation, customs, culture .
. . and food.
Spanish enjoy their food, spending more time eating
(and talking) than on any other social activity. Timing
is important when you dine out in Spain. Go to many
restaurants at 9:00pm and you could well be dining on
your own . . . until 10:00pm onwards when the Spaniards
start to pile in.
the cities many locals will have breakfast, mid-morning
- coffee and churros (doughnut-like fritters) with thick,
hot chocolate to dunk them in. Early afternoon aperitivo
and tapas, a mid-afternoon lunch, often the main meal
of the day with three courses, then tapas in the early
evening, followed by a late but light dinner.
Small inexpensive dishes of all manner of goodies
- are a very relaxed and sociable way of eating.
Tapas originated in Andalucia in the sunny south, the
home of the sherry triangle of Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda
and El Puerto de Santa Maria. Unwelcome flies would
have to be swotted away from the glasses of sherry.
Then someone put a small lid (tapa) of some sort on
top of their glass to keep the flies out. Soon this
was changed to a small dish containing appetising morsels
such as olives, almonds, ham or cheese - and
tapas were born.
the Spanish go for a walk (paseo) with friends
in the evening, calling in at different tapas bars for
a few dishes and a drink.
country has superb ingredients on offer. Its pork, especially
from the black-footed Iberian pig which scoffs on acorns,
is superb. And seafood fresh from the Mediterranean
and the Atlantic really is another kettle of fish.
has magnificent sun-ripened vegetables which are a joy
to behold piled up in the markets and shops but
not on your plate in a restaurant. Most dishes are served
without vegetables or just garnished with mixed
veg from a tin!
is a throwback to Francos oppressive days when
the general population had a tough time from day to
day, living close to the breadline. To make what money
they had go further, they lived on vegetables cooked
in many different ways.
Franco died in 1975 things started to improve. Now when
Spaniards go out to dinner they want to make up for
those bad times by having a big piece of meat or fish.
They dont mind if perhaps there are just a few
chips and a token splat of veg on their plate. They
eat fresh vegetables at home. But dinner out means meat
or fish big-time.
Basque country in the north, San Sebastian, the food
capital of Spain with magnificent Michelin-starred restaurants,
has its own style of tapas pinchos which
are individually crafted items and priced per item.
It has more restaurants and bars per square mile than
any other Spanish city. Bilbao also has many superb
the signature dishes in the north are Bacalao al pil-pil
(cod in garlic and olive oil sauce), Marmitako (tuna
and potato stew) and Vieiras de Santiago (scallops in
a brandy sauce).
Basques enjoy a communal way of life that includes cooking
in gastronomic societies. The main thing that matters
to Basque cooks is the absolute freshness and pure flavours
of basic ingredients. The societies meet regularly to
devote themselves to the pleasures of cooking, eating
and drinking together. It is not easy to become a member
of a gastronomic society a vacancy occurs only
when someone dies.
food of Andalucia and Southern Spain
food in Andalucia in southern Spain has been strongly
influenced by the seven hundred years of conflict with
the Moors from just across the sea in northern Africa.
Almond and honey pastries and various spicy dishes were
brought over by the Moors.
Gazpacho soup comes from Andalucia, where it is made
with tomatoes, peppers and cucumber. It is also made
in other parts of Spain using different combinations
of vegetables and various amounts of garlic. Another
favourite dish from Andalucia is Pescadito Frito (mixed
small fried fish).
most well-known Spanish dish is undoubtedly paella.
It is a traditional dish for family gatherings on Sundays.
The main ingredients are rice, saffron and olive oil,
plus vegetables and meat or fish sometimes all
three. Legend has it that the basic dish was created
by servants of Moorish kings, who mixed with rice the
leftovers from royal banquets that they took home.
version of its origin is that shepherds cooked rice
in a flat pan over a fire, adding whatever was available
perhaps snails, rabbit and vegetables.
Moors brought rice cultivation and irrigation systems
to Valencia on Spains east coast and it is generally
agreed that paella was created there. The town has andar
de paella (going for paella), a very social occasion.
Food - top class cuisine to simplicity
up the coast into Catalonia and the cooking in general
has a long and fishy tradition. In the magnificent city
of Barcelona, there are many great restaurants to rival
those in the capital of Madrid. And Barcelona, like
Madrid, has many international restaurants from around
the world. And if you want a gourmet tour of fantastic
ingredients in Barcelona, go to Boqueria, regarded as
the best market in Spain.
culinary culture of Madrid has always been contradictory,
a mixture of simplicity and sophistication. Its most
famous robust dish is Cocido Madrileno (pork, vegetable
and chickpea stew) often served as three separate courses.
Tortilla de Patatas now more traditionally called
Tortilla Espanola was created there.
central Spain in general, the food is very traditional
with wood-roasted meats, hearty stews and soups. As
well as Cocido Madrileno, popular dishes are Salmorejo
(thick cold tomato soup) and Dorada a la Sal (salt-baked
islands also have their own distinctive style. In Mallorca
in the Balearics, the dishes are mainly pork based,
while on neighbouring Menorca lobster rules the waves.
In the Canaries, specialities include Conejo al Salmorejo
(rabbit marinated in oil and herbs), Puchero Canaria
(hotpot) and Sancocho (fish and vegetable stew).
cant go wrong with fish and seafood on the islands
and the costas. If you go along the Torremolinos area
of the Costa del Sol or Benidorm on the Costa Blanca,
its best to ignore the signs proclaiming Roast
beef and two veg . . . head straight for a fish
by Chef Eva
Copyright 2008 www.finca-altacocina.com
13 February 2008
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