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Article researched and written by Orce Serrano Hams

Rustic Spanish CookingCooking Spanish recipes outdoors conjures up a real flavour of Spain especially during the summer months. In Andalucia outdoor cooking is almost a daily occurrence in the summer with barbeques prepared for “brasa” (a hot layer of coals) ready for kebabs, marinated chicken, fish and a whole range of other delicious dishes. The one thing that differs between Andalucian cooking to that of the UK for example is that out in the campo firewood is gathered to provide fuel for the barbeque, absolutely no commercial charcoal permitted!

Cooking over naked flame is obviously very rustic and traditional considering that in days gone by Spanish workers in the fields would light up a fire to cook the likes of paella for lunch. Wood fired cooking also has its advantages, the main one being that to a large degree you can regulate the heat . . . cooking paella is a good example of this being a dish where there is no need for a roaring fire nor a deep layer of embers – a paella needs to simmer once the stock has been added so adding or removing kindling sticks from below a metal tripod can increase or reduce the flame. This of course needs constant attention but is the better way to cook paella and similar dishes outdoors.

Spanish equipment is very simple and effective. Take the terracotta cazuela which comes in a range of sizes, once soaked the cazuela will sit quite happily on a tripod with flames licking around its rim – a great dish to cook outside in rustic fashion is Spanish chili garlic prawns or "gambas al pil pil", a dish that benefits from an outdoor smokey flavour and can be eaten simply as a starter or as tapas with fresh crusty bread to mop up the infused olive oil. Large round enamel pans are ideally suited to cooking that rustic Spanish dish “migas” which is flour with olive oil, mixed continuously to form a breadcrumb consistency. Migas are traditionally eaten outside in November on the same day as the matanza where pancetta, pork and chorizo are added to create a large meal to serve the whole family, this of course was and still is cooked over an open fire in rural villages.


The Spanish “olla” is a large deep pan with lid which is used to cook stews and fabada Asturiana, the olla lends itself extremely well to open fire cooking and actually performs better than on the gas hob or ring burner. The olla, as with the paella pan can be used on a metal tripod and can also be placed directly on top of the coals if a little more heat is required.

Rustic Spanish Cooking

There is something about rustic Spanish cooking that appeals, its not just about the flavour but the whole event itself. Paella is the prime example being a dish that is cooked for friends and family. From the very collection of the wood to the preparation of ingredients there is a sense of excitement and of course helping your neighbor which will of course be rewarded with a plate or two of something very Spanish and very special. The collection of wood is a neighbourly affair, the more hands the better and the quicker the job gets done.

Tapas are of course all part of cooking the meal, where a brasa is required there is time to kill while the fire does its work to create the burning embers. Tapas, besides from being delicious are very much a social event where friends and family enjoy a few pre meal bites with a glass of beer, wine or fino sherry. Tapas can also be cooked over the fire, stuffed peppers, mushrooms, gambas, anchovies and many more. Probably one of the best examples of Spanish food that must have a wood fire to cook is “escalivada” or char grilled vegetables (onions, peppers and tomatoes). Escalivada can be cooked indoors and finished over the gas hob or with a blow torch but you just cannot beat a real open fire smokey flavour which is, really the whole point!

Rustic Spanish Paella

In the modern day indoor or outdoor kitchen cooking on gas is easy as well as quick but when you need some real rustic flavour the wood fire just cannot be beaten, it simply adds that lovely smokey flavour to Spanish dishes as well as adding atmosphere and getting people involved from collection, to lighting, tending and of course cooking.

Discover a very different rustic “paella page” here without a gas burner in sight and create your own authentic Andalucian flavours and atmosphere next time you plan to cook outdoors.

Serrano Ham direct from Spain : www.orceserranohams.com

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