My experience with the Spanish cuisine started fairly early in my career, in the Balearic Islands of the Mediterranean Sea. As a part of Spain, Mallorca, Manorca, Ibiza and Formentura use the same ingredients and cooking techniques found on the mainland; however, the regional culinary variation found around Spain is certainly found in these Spanish Islands. Each region of Spain has its own typical dishes, while many Spanish dishes can be found throughout the country with local variation. Examples of this include “Tortillas de Patata” (a Potato Omelet), Gazpacho, Paella, Stews, Migas, Sausages, Jambon Serrano and Cheeses.
Over the years I have found myself returning to Spain time and time again, visiting different regions ranging from the coast to the capital of Madrid. The Spanish take great pride in their fresh produce, and that pride is evident in the small village markets. In addition to the abundance of fruit and vegetables, there are distinct ingredients that give Spanish food their unique flavor. Since the days of the Romans (2d Century BCE through the 5th Century) and the Moors (the 8th Century through the 16th Century), the Spanish have incorporated Saffron, Capers, Spicy Peppers, Sausages, Cured Hams, Cheeses and plenty of Olive Oil into their cuisine (did you know that Spain produces 44% of the world’s Olive Oil today and that much of Italy’s Olive Oil is produced from Spanish Olives?). Tapas are a great example of a food found throughout Spain wherever these products are found, and can range from simple (yet delicious) table Olives and Cured Hams to warm, bite-sized masterpieces such as Gambas.
Famous regional foods can be briefly described here with some typical dishes. In the northwest, Galicia displays a more ancient heritage evident in their Meat & Fish Pies, Scallops and fine Veal. In the north they are proud of and known for their famous Jambon Bayonne. Along the east coast they have their legendry bean dishes called Fabada, served with a strong Blue Cheese called “Queso Cabrales”. In the Basque region the cuisine is dominated by incredible fish dishes like Fish Soup, Garlic Baby Eel, Squid and dried Salt Cod Fish.
In my opinion, the Catalana region, which runs along the Mediterranean Coast and reaches inland, is clearly the most inventive and gastronomically developed area of Spain, with dishes such as Seafood Zarzuela (Meat or Poultry typically combined with local Fruit, and sweet and salty sauces) and plenty of Pasta dishes (2nd only to Italy). Valencia, one of the principal cities of Catalana, incorporates plenty of Rice into its dishes and is famous for its Paella. Andalucia to the south is more arid, and is best suited to growing Grape vines and Olive trees. Gazpacho is native to this region.
The Spanish are also famous for such legendary wines as Rioja from the Rioja Region, which rank among the very best of the world (and among my favourites!), as well as Sherry or “Jerez” from the Town of Jerez.
Here is a sample menu, best enjoyed family style, with some typical regional dishes from all over Spain:
Selection of Tapas ( Chefs Choice)
Totillas des Patatas
Paella (Saffron Rice with Chorizo Sausage, Chicken and Mixed Seafood)
Lechazo Asado (Roasted Milk-fed Lamb)
Churrus Con Chocoalte or Flan with Horchata de Almendra (Almond Drink)