Food from the regions of Spain03-02-2014
Bountiful and rich in culture - Spain has a wide variety of decadent dishes for all to try and enjoy.
Boar, mutton, lamb, rabbit, sausages, snails and dried cod exist in a thousand forms; bread is turned into any number of nutritious dishes and candied nuts and fruit, glorious olive oil and wine...the Aragonese kitchen is a place of beauty.
Migas de pastor (stale Spanish bread fried in lard and diced bacon), piernas de cordero con alcachofas (lamb knuckles with artichokes) and roasted suckling lamb are favourite dishes.
Not only did Arab settlers inroduce excellent olive oil, but they were also resonsible for introducing apricots, almonds, sugar, aubergines, ginger and carrots.
The most interesting of all the foods in the region? The mojama - tuna fillets, salted and air dried, like very large strips of biltong. Delicious with Andalusian sherry.
In Asturia, it's all about the sidra (or cider) that's used in almost every dish. Pork especially sausages feature as both a main and centre ingredient in Asturian beef stews.
In sharp contrast to this, sea urchins and wild salmon are enjoyed. For the sweet toothed, the Sobaos Pasiegos (a butter sponge cake) and the tarta de manzana (apple tart) provide the perfect ending to any meal.
BASQUE COUNTRY (PAlS VASCO)
Hake cheeks in a garlic sauce , lobster , tuna, snow crab, blue crab, shrimp, octopus, hard-shell clams, razor-shell clams, oyster and calico sc allops are a fraction of the seafood available in the region.
Beans and mushrooms, especially the alubias de Tolosa (fine black beans) are the Basque favourites, and this is the home of the piperrada (a pepperoni and prosciutto omelette). Today the locals barbecue their meat, fish and vegetables on a parrillada (braai) but hundreds of years ago they used a metal spit known as a burruntzi.
Spiny lobsters that look similar to our own crayfish but with a broader tail, dried skate and squid are the most typical seafoods with quail, lamb and turkey making up the meat menu. Coca (a flat bread), caracoles con sobrasada (snails with the national sausage) and a host of cheeses from the island of Minorca are the typical food of these islands.
Sardines and anchovies play an important role in the cuisine of the region and they are roasted, baked and grilled in many ways. Milk and custard dishes are also popular in the region and this is home to the flan al caramelo (caramel custard), arroz con leche (rice pudding) and leche frita (deep fried custard slices).
CASTILE LA MANCHA
The home of Don Quixote is saffron country and the best garlic in Spain grows here. The most famous of all foods is the Manchego cheese which is made from sheep’s milk.
The cuisine is varied and combining meat and fish is one of the examples of their refusal to adhere to any law or principle of cooking.
Barcelona is the most exciting city in Catalonia. The olive oil from this region is world renowned, their truffles and mushrooms plentiful (like the milk cap) and their desserts, like crema catalana has been incorporated into most dessert menus world wide.
Typical foods are the pan con tamate (tomato bread), calçotada (green onions from the Valls region that are grilled over a braai and eaten on a terracotta roof tile with almond and tomato sauce.
Rape a la marinera (monkfish cooked in garlic, wine, chillies and breadcrumbs, topped with large lightly boiled langoustines), suquet le peix (Catalan fish stew), fresh eels cooked with garlic and peppers, garlic shrimps, patacó tarragoní (tuna and snails), pollo con langosta (chicken and prawns) arròs am conill (rice with rabbit), mató (Catalonian goats milk curd cheese) and Crema catalane (catalan cream).
The Catalan people are proud and cling fiercely to their roots, their language and their culture.
The Castilian cuisine is an eclectic mix of Jewish, Arab and Christian food.
In Segovia, the pigs are cooked whole in wood burning ovens, they are cooked like spatch-cocked chickens, flattened on a large tray. The skin becomes crispy and the flesh, creamy and out-of-this-world delicious. Throughout the region Lechazo asado (roast suckling lamb) are cooked in huge, flat terracotta bowls in wood burning ovens.
Iberian pigs roam free in the Dehesa forests and feed on wild grass and herbs, acorns and olives which gives their meat a unique flavour.
Pimentos thrive here, they are exported but also used in the manufacture of the famous chorizo sausage.
A misty region with strong winds and overcast weather. Fishing is a large industry. Octopus in huge pots can be found at many festivals and is a favourite snack.
Mussels, oysters, a huge variety of scallops and sardines provides sufficient protein and omega 3 oils for a healthy diet. Galician beef is popular throughout Spain and dairy products are plentiful.
This is primarily wine country that also produces great cheese. It is also home to the La Rioja Paella, a rice dish that is made with snails, beans and sherry.
The region has been blessed and almost everything one can think of, grows here. Trout from the rivers, asparagus and artichokes, pimentos, garlic, onions and aubergines thrive and poultry is plentiful with ducks, pigeons and chicken appearing on the menu regularly.
The festival of Pamplona (that includes the Running of the Bulls) is a 9½ day affair that commemorates the life of Firminus who died a martyr’s death. It is also the occasion when Estofado de carne de toro (braised steer) is cooked.
The Navarrans cook their duck with peaches instead of oranges (pato con melocotones) and their partridges in chocolate (perdiz con chocolate).
Madrid is the capital of the country. Famous for bull-fights, churros and hot chocolate for breakfast, a massive variety of bread and the montaditos – Madrid’s answer to the tapas.
Sliced baguette are topped with a variety of meat, fish or cheese and served on little plates at bars or taverns.
The garden of Spain provides the country with everything from artichokes to capers, tomatoes, salads and figs.
Even though oranges and almonds thrive and turron (almond sweets) are made here, the most important product of all is rice. It grows en masse which is probably why this is the home of paella.
By: Tene Sommer
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