Spain has a diverse and mixed heritage and it is indeed reflected in its cuisines. Spain being a Mediterranean country the food and culture has had a strong influence of its origins. Spain has governed a few colonies in its time and not surprisingly many of the common native food of its colonies were brought into Spain You will also find that the Spanish cuisines draw inspiration from its Moorish and Jewish heritage as well as from Reconquista. Pork is extremely well liked in this country and was historically considered to be the mark of christian identity as the Jews and Muslims did not eat it.
Spain is the largest producer of olive oil, in fact half of the world’s olive oil is produced in Spain. Not surprisingly it is used in a lot of Spanish cuisines. Northern Spain also uses lard and butter equally well.
Spanish food has some distinct characteristics in the way its prepared and served. Onions are garlic are used extensively and wine and bread is served along with most meals. There is great variety in desserts and fruits and dairy products are used in them. Desserts are often served with the main course. There is a distinct Spanish custom that involves the serving of appetizers called ‘tapas’ before any drinks.
Lets take a brief look at some of the popular Spanish dishes:
Gazpacho: Gazpacho is a kind of vegetable soup made from garlic, stale bread and olive oil and sometimes tomato and bell paper is also added. This is served both cold and hot. The cold variant is called Gazpacho while the hot variant is called gazpacho manchego and often induces mushrooms and rabbit meat that is less of a soup and more of a stew.
Paella: This is a typical rice mix that is unique to Spain. It is made by mixing saffron and olive oil with rice and is later garnished with seafood or meat and some vegetables.
Chorizo: This is a type of sausage that is made by mashing pork fat and then adding chilli and paprika. There are 2 varieties of chorizo, one that is spicy and the other that is sweet. It can be eaten hot or cold although it is primarily served cold. Chorizo is used as an ingredient in many Spanish dishes but is also eaten by itself.
Jamon Serrano: Ham dish prepared by dry curing the meat.
Fabada Asturiana: This is a type of bean stew that contains pork, chorizo and black sausage or morcillot and is often flavored with seasonings like saffron.
Olla Podrida: This is a thick stew made out of pimentos, tomatoes, onions and potatoes.
Calamares: Squid dish that is fried in olive oil.
Pescaito Frito: Fish that is marinated and fried after battering it into pieces.
Tortilla de patatas: A type of omelette laced with smashed potatoes and seasoned with onions.