ESSENTIAL SPANISH KITCHEN
& COOKING ARTICLE
the Serrano ham to saffron, all the essential ingredients
for a fully stocked Spanish Kitchen.
average modern day Spanish kitchen is really not that
different to any other modern kitchen, you can find
the microwave, the blender, ready meals and packet mixes.
However, there remains the traditional essentials of
cookware and ingredients which are used daily in Spanish
cooking and are all important to create your own piece
of Spain at home.
Spanish pantry or larder always contains a ready supply
of the most essential everyday ingredients and accessories
from olive oil to onions and the paella
pan to the cazuela.
Spanish are sometimes criticised for the amount of oil
they use in cooking, it is used in almost every recipe
and is even used when frying sweet dishes. Extra
Virgin olive oil, though is the oil of choice due
to its renowned health benefits and unique flavour.
Some people prefer an ordinary virgin olive oil but
very rarely are other types of oil used in Spanish cooking
as they have a blander taste, although they are considered
less expensive. Extra virgin olive oil can be quite
pricey but the use of a good one need not prove expensive.
When using a good quality extra virgin olive oil, remember
that it expands on heating so don't overdo it. Also
the quality is such that it can be reused five or six
times. Once cooled, the oil can be strained and stored
in jars for the next time but always store oil for frying
fish in separate containers.
virgin olive oil is used frequently in marinades and
dressings and, for a milder taste, it can be mixed with
other types of oil. However olive oil for cooking should
never be mixed with other types of oil, as during heating
possible toxins can be released. If you want to create
a traditional Spanish dish, extra virgin olive oil is
essential for that all important 'taste of Spain', there
really is no substitute.
Spanish cooking, always have two or three bulbs of garlic
at hand. Along with extra virgin olive oil, it is probably
the most frequently used ingredient and it can be used
in a variety of ways. Raw garlic is of course at its
most powerful, rub some over a slice of toast with a
drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt for a truly
traditional Spanish style breakfast.
garlic finely chopped is used in marinades or for salad
dressings, the amount used depending on personal taste.
Cooked garlic will lose some of its bite but other ingredients
in the recipe will take on its flavour. Garlic can be
roasted whole, then crushed and added back to the pot,
it can be inserted into meat for roasting or simply
chopped or crushed and added to the pot or pan.
vital partner to garlic is the pestle and mortar.
Use the pestle to squash a garlic clove for easy peeling.
The mortar is essential when preparing small amounts
of garlic and other herbs and spices. When mixing a
variety of ingredients together, start with the smaller,
hard ingredients such as peppercorns or cloves, then
move on to the garlic or saffron for example. The softer
herbs like parsley should be mixed in last. It is important
to add liquid to your mix, whether wine, sherry or water,
use them to form a paste with your ingredients. This
is especially important for saffron as it must be crushed
and blended with liquid before being used as otherwise
your rice dish will not have an even colour.
regularly, although quite expensive and exotic, saffron
is what gives rice dishes, such as the paella, their
lovely golden yellow colour. Saffron is collected by
hand and is a tiny part of the crocus which explains
the high cost. Only a small amount is needed so it is
worthwhile keeping in your store cupboard.
essential Spanish herbs are oregano, thyme,
rosemary and parsley. Parsley is used
so frequently that it is given away free in fish shops
and butchers. Thyme is an excellent accompaniment to
chicken and a sprig of rosemary makes an excellent kebab
stick. All of these herbs can be grown quite easily
in the Spanish kitchen garden.
not used every day, two important Spanish spices are
paprika and cayenne pepper or indeed whole
chillies, dried or fresh. Paprika can be smoked
or not, sweet (dulce) or spicy (picante) and is one
of the most important ingredients when preparing the
traditional chorizo for it's colour and flavour. A spoonful
of paprika will add colour and flavour to any marinade
or cooking sauce and add chopped chillies to any dish
for added bite, such as Gambas al pil-pil.
with saffron, to create the perfect paella, the 'paellero'
or paella pan is a hugely important piece of
Spanish kitchen equipment. This large round shallow
pan has been used for generations to prepare the world
famous Spanish dish of fish or chicken and rabbit with
rice. There are different variations of pan available
but the most important feature is that it must be large
enough to cook a dish for all the family!
earthenware dish or 'cazuela' makes a
regular appearance in the Spanish kitchen. Available
from very small for serving tapas, to the enormous,
they are such a versatile piece of cookware that no
Spanish kitchen is complete without one. They can be
used over an open fire, on the barbecue, in the oven
or over the hob, plus they retain the heat after cooking
- perfect for Gambas al pil-pil, a classic spicy dish
of chilli and garlic prawns. To get the best out of
your cazuela, soak overnight before the first use and
heat to temperature gently.
larger dishes, such as the traditional winter 'cocido'
or stews and soups, the Spanish 'olla' or large
casserole dish which is fat in the middle and narrow
at the top and bottom, is vital in the Spanish kitchen.
Available in a variety of materials, it is great for
cooking over an open fire.
Spanish kitchen or indeed household should be without
the Serrano ham, cured for at least a year high up in
the mountains, the Serrano ham is the cornerstone
of traditional Spanish gastronomy. The Serrano ham is
found in all bars, restaurants and Spanish kitchens
and is kept on display for easy access in its specialist
jamonero or ham stand. The Serrano ham, when
carved in wafer thin slices, using the specialist ham
carving knife, also an essential in the Spanish
kitchen, makes for the perfect tapas or raciones dish.
Simply drizzle with olive oil or serve with almonds,
Manchego cheese or broad beans for a truly authentic
Spanish delight. The best thing though about having
a Serrano ham permanently in your kitchen, is that you
can just carve off a slice whenever the mood takes you.
leftover bone of the ham is used to make a stock or
'caldo' essential for adding flavour to soups and stews.
Spanish classic is the 'Tortilla de Patatas'
or Spanish omelette, which is truly delicious, simple
to make and requires only the most basic of essentials
from the Spanish kitchen. Always keep at least a dozen
eggs in your Spanish kitchen as you will need
at least eight to make a good sized omelette. Potatoes
and onions are also vital in many Spanish dishes
and red onions are often found in salads as they are
sweeter and have less bite.
be without a few fresh, ripe tomatoes as the
Spanish enjoy them almost daily in many different ways.
Fresh juicy chunks are great in salads and one or two
sliced with a drizzle of olive oil are popular to finish
off a meal. Fresh tomatoes are often chopped or blended
then slowly reduced to create a lovely homemade tomato
salsa, used either on its own or added to other dishes
such as spicy chorizo with pasta. For a variation to
your Spanish style breakfast, chop a tomato in half
and rub it over your toast with a drizzle of olive oil
and some slices of Serrano ham - perfect.
'barra' or French style stick of fresh bread
is a daily essential too. It is served with every meal
and many Spanish people just can't eat a meal without
is also an important part of Spanish eating culture
and cooking. Red wine is enjoyed at meal times while
a nice bottle of white always goes down well as an aperitif.
Keep white wine handy for use with chicken dishes or
steamed mussels - a favourite at the table. Rabbit and
beef dishes are enhanced by a drop or two of red wine
so have a bottle in the rack. Spanish wines are among
the best in the world but need not be expensive so you
can enjoy that added extra of Spanish warmth without
breaking the bank.
of these Spanish kitchen essentials are found easily
and are indeed used everyday in other types of cooking,
what makes them special is how they are used. So stock
up, get creative and add a bit of Spanish sunshine to
by Gayle Hartley
Copyright 2007 Orce Serrano Hams - www.orceserranohams.com
17 February 2007
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org