Spain is amazing because there is no single national type of cuisine on its territory. Spanish cuisine is a huge number of regional culinary schools, each of which is characterized by its own traditions. At the same time, the culinary preferences of the regions of the country can differ quite noticeably from the generally accepted idea of what Spanish cuisine is.
Spanish cuisine absorbed the Roman and Moorish traditions, the culinary elements of France and Africa, the customs of the Mediterranean cuisine, as well as some trends in the cuisine of the New World. At the same time, the basis of the local Spanish cuisine is incredibly simple: meat, olive oil, spices, herbs and cheese, as well as wine. Practically for the whole territory of Spain, such cooking methods are typical: stewing in wine, baking under sheep's cheese, using the grill. In addition, sage and walnuts, which are added to almost all dishes, remain invariably popular.
Spanish cuisine can rightfully be considered one of the attractions of the country. It was formed and changed over a long time, under the influence of historical events that took place on the territory of today's Spain.
Experts note that the formation of Spanish cooking began at a time when the Iberian Peninsula was ruled by Carthage and Phenicia - as early as the first millennium BC. It was during this period that the active development of animal husbandry began, the locals learned to grow the first grains and legumes, as well as grapes and olives.
The next stage in the development of Spanish cooking is in the period of dominion in the Iberian Peninsula of the Roman Empire. At this time in the diet of the local population appears olive oil, as well as onions, garlic, lentils and cabbage. In addition to meat, fish and seafood appear on the tables, as well as mushrooms. In addition, it was under the influence of the Romans that the locals began to harvest products for the future: to dry, salt and pickle.
The basis of the originality of Spanish cuisine was laid in the Middle Ages under the influence of Arab and Christian traditions, as well as Judaism. The followers of Islam have enriched the national cuisine with citrus, rice, almonds, artichokes, as well as a wide range of spices. The influence of Jewish culture is numerous recipes for marmalades, jams and preserves, not only from fruits, but also from vegetables, as well as the habit of flavoring dishes with lots of garlic. Christian tradition gave Spain a variety of dishes from meat and fish, as well as cereals and legumes.
According to experts, the rise of Spanish cooking accounts for the period following the discovery of America. Very exotic at that time potatoes, cocoa, tomatoes, corn, and sweet peppers began to appear in the country. It is at this stage that the cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula becomes famous in Europe.
Since Spain belongs to the so-called Mediterranean countries, many believe that the basis of its cooking is the "Mediterranean diet", which involves the use of vegetables, rice, greens, cereals and seafood in large quantities. However, in reality, many regional cuisines existing in the country have one thing in common - a huge number of meat dishes, the “king” of which is the notorious ham ham.
Regional culinary traditions
Gourmets often joke that in Spain as many as seventeen national cuisines - just as many regions in the country. And indeed, each of the territories that make up Spain, has its own culinary traditions. Often, the same dish in different regions is cooked in absolutely different ways. An example is paella - there are more than three hundred recipes for its preparation.
So, consider the regional characteristics of Spanish cuisine.
- The title of the most exquisite of the regional Spanish cuisines won cooking Basque. It is a mixture of ancient Spanish and French traditions. The main ingredients are fish, seafood, beef, chicken and beans.
- The cuisine of the northwestern coast of Spain has gained fame for its soups, as well as sauces and fish dishes. So, in Cantabria, fish is fried in batter, baked, cooked on coals, stewed with potatoes. Local pride are anchovies, which are recognized by gourmets as the best in the world. In addition, white tuna is found off the coast of Cantabria. This type of fish differs from the world famous red tuna in a more delicate flavor. White tuna is used to make stew here, add it to salads, scrambled eggs and even vinaigrette.
- The main course of neighboring Galicia is boiled octopus, sprinkled with salt and paprika. Serve it with boiled potatoes. Another feature of local cooking is empanada. This is a big pie stuffed with minced meat, chopped fish, seafood or vegetables.
- The cuisine of the eastern regions was influenced by the French and Italian culinary schools. In Catalonia and Valencia, dishes from pork are popular: stews, fried sausages stuffed with white beans. There are a lot of vegetable dishes in the region, to which cheese or dairy products are often added. In addition, Catalonia is known for its sauces. Four of the most popular are: picada (a combination of garlic, greens and roasted almond kernels), sofrito (tomatoes with onions, garlic, pepper, and greens), samfian (pepper, eggplant, and tomatoes with spices), as well as ali-oli (garlic with olive oil).
- The cuisine of the southern regions, for example, Andalusia, was formed under Arab influence. The main method of cooking here is deep-frying. Products are rolled in flour, and then fried in olive oil. In addition, it is from Andalusia that the famous Spanish gazpacho soup comes from - a cold dish of pureed tomatoes with the addition of onions, garlic and spices.
- Aragon is known primarily for its incredibly delicious desserts. The most popular of these is peaches in wine. In addition, very hot chili sauce is made from tomatoes, onions and peppers.
- Extremadura and Castilla "specialize" in frying. It is made from lamb or pork. And the main delicacy of Salamanca is roast calf tail.
- The "trick" of the cuisine of Madrid is cosido. This is a very thick pea soup, which add meat and smoked meats. In addition, Morcilia, an incredibly tasty black pudding, is made here, which is then used to make soups and paella.
- The Toledo cuisine has won fame thanks to its sweets, primarily marzipan, which is made from almond flour and sugar. In addition, Toledo is very popular dishes from the meat of wild animals - hare, venison, wild boar meat. Here they make famous manchego - cheese from pasteurized sheep milk.
As noted above, many Spanish delicacies are cooked in absolutely different ways in different regions of the country. However, you can highlight a list of main dishes that are characteristic of Spanish cuisine.
The so-called tapas - the basis of Spanish cooking. This name hides snacks that are served on the table either at the beginning of the meal, or as a “snack” between the main dishes, or together with alcohol. Spanish tapas are stuffed olives and olives, fresh wheat bread, jamon, scrambled eggs, dried cod, squid meat, sandwiches, clams cooked in batter, figs bread, tortillas with olive oil and tomato pulp, fried mushrooms or eggplants, and also much more. The list of variations is literally endless.
There are at least two versions of the origin of the tradition of serving tapas. According to one of them, in one of the bars of Seville, when a visitor ordered alcohol, a glass was brought to him, after covering it with a piece of ham. The second theory says that in Spanish taverns, glasses of beer and wine, to protect them from annoying flies, were covered with small plates. At first they were empty, and then the enterprising owners decided to impose various spicy snacks on the plates, so that the visitors were constantly thirsty and they made orders again and again.
Soups are very popular in Spain, especially mashed soups. In the diet of local residents there are pucherus (soup in beef broth with chickpeas, chorizo sausage, ham and vegetables with dumplings), kosido-madrileno (pea soup with small croutons), mashed soups with clams.
We should also mention gazpacho. It is made from mashed raw tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. If desired, you can add cucumbers, onions, vinegar, lemon juice and spices to it.
In Spain, there are many variations of this dish. So, in Jerez, it is prepared with large rings of raw onion, and in Malaga use beef broth and add grapes and almonds.
According to the basic version of the appearance of this dish, gazpacho was originally a meal for mule drivers, who adapted to cook it on the way. All the ingredients were simply mixed in a clay pot, which was then wrapped in wet clothes to cool the soup.
Meat in Spain is often stewed with vegetables or cooked on the grill. One of the highlights of Spanish cuisine is the fact that local chefs often mix meat with fruit or fish as part of a single dish.
Among the most famous Spanish meat dishes should be distinguished chapfaynu (braised beef or pork liver with vegetables), pisto (ham, which is fried with eggplant, onions and tomatoes and served both hot and cold), as well as chorizo sausage from garlic and paprikas.
Poultry dishes are common in all regions of the country. The most popular is chicken, which is roasted on a spit or on a grill, stewed in wine or baked. Often chicken meat is stuffed with seafood or stewed with ham and spicy herbs. In Galicia, one of the main delicacies is capon meat - a specially fattened castrated rooster. It is stuffed with oysters or chestnuts and served with different sauces.
In Navarre, which is located on the border with France, the chefs “borrowed” duck meat recipes from their neighbors. Duck liver is cooked in plum sauce, meat is made from pate or smoked.
Special mention deserves the legendary Spanish jamon. Dried pork ham turned into a cult dish not only in Spain, but also abroad. The history of this gastronomic masterpiece dates back at least two thousand years. In Spain, there are two main types of jamon: "jamon-serrano" ("mountain") and "jamon-iberico". The main difference between them is that they use meat of pigs of different breeds, which are kept on special diets. Today, jamon is produced throughout Spain, with the exception of the coast. At the same time this dish is expensive, and therefore is served mainly to the festive table.
Fish and seafood
Despite the fact that the coast of Spain is quite long, fish and seafood here is not a cheap pleasure. However, Spanish cuisine knows many recipes for fish and shellfish.
Among the most widespread should be distinguished salted and smoked cod, squid dishes and octopus. At the same time, river fish in Spain is more expensive than sea fish. Spanish cooks boil fish, fry, bake in salt, served under various sauces.
Vegetables in the diet of the Spaniards are present as an ingredient in salads, stews, soups and tapas. It is noteworthy that they are not used as a main dish, but as a means to emphasize the taste of the main product, most often meat, cheese or fish.
At the same time, Spaniards mix vegetables with fruits in salads and stews and add dressing from olive oil or dairy products. If vegetables are used as a side dish, it is usually rice, potatoes, legumes or corn, as well as pickled cauliflower.
Benefit for health
Nutritionists note that the cuisine of Southern European countries is traditionally considered one of the most useful and balanced. Spanish cooking is no exception.
Firstly, the Spanish diet is characterized by a harmonious ratio of animal and vegetable proteins. The source of vegetable proteins are legumes, which are very useful for people suffering from diseases of the cardiovascular system, diabetes and metabolic disorders.
Secondly, one of the main ingredients of most local dishes is olive oil, which is a unique source of monounsaturated fatty acids and helps to effectively reduce the level of "harmful" cholesterol.
Thirdly, a mandatory component of the Spanish feast is a dry wine. It helps the body to digest fats and animal proteins, dilutes the blood, preventing the formation of blood clots.
Cooking meatballs in Madrid onion-carrot sauce
To prepare this dish you will need the following ingredients: 30 g of white bread, a third cup of milk, 500 g of ground beef, two cloves of garlic, three onions, one egg, half a cup of dry white wine, two large carrots, olive oil, salt and parsley taste, as well as two tablespoons of wheat flour.
Bread soak in milk. Mix the minced meat with chopped garlic and one chopped onion, mix thoroughly. Add the soaked bread, egg, chopped parsley to the mince, salt and mix again.
Put the minced meat in the fridge and start making the sauce. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a wide saucepan, add two onions, chopped as small as possible, and stew for ten minutes, stirring constantly. Add carrots, sliced, two tablespoons of flour, stir and simmer for another ten minutes.
Add two glasses of water to the pan, add wine, add one and a half teaspoons of salt and leave on the fire for another ten minutes, stirring until the sauce thickens. After that, remove it from the heat and let cool. After that, put the mixture into a blender and chop it until it is completely homogeneous.
Mince balls of the size of a small nut. Roll them in flour. Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan, toss the meatballs there and fry for five minutes, constantly turning them over. After that, put them in a baking dish and pour over the sauce. Place the dish in a preheated oven for a quarter of an hour.
Serve the meatballs hot with chips.
Cooking classic gazpacho
To make a classic Spanish soup, you will need: 450 g of tomatoes, one onion, one canned pepper, one cucumber, three cups of tomato juice, 35 g of cilantro, a third cup of red wine vinegar, a quarter cup of olive oil, tabasco sauce and red pepper to taste.
Cut half of the tomatoes into small pieces. Also, cut in half the cucumber and half a bulb. Send everything to a food processor, add red pepper and chop into puree.
Add tomato juice, chopped cilantro, vinegar, olive oil and a few drops of Tabasco sauce to the mass. Stir thoroughly.
Cut the remaining tomatoes, cucumber and onion into cubes. Add everything to the soup. Salt to taste and refrigerate to cool the dish.