Spain, a gastronomic privilege
Vegetables and fruits that are a true privilege
Spain, a crossroads where peoples and races meet, a melting pot of cultures, is a place whose gastronomy constitutes one of the richest manifestations of its historical legacy. Rich because of the many civilizations that have left their mark in the Spanish art of cooking and eating, with their traditional flavours and techniques; and also because of the climatic diversity, which makes possible the great variety of products that are the basis of our diet, one of the healthiest in the world, according to nutrition experts. Certainly, Spain does have a privileged gastronomy.
privilege because in Spain it is possible to have fresh fruits and vegetables all year round, which can reach our tables only a few hours after they have been harvested. A privilege because in Spain we grow olive trees, which give the most natural oil, the healthiest and most flavourful, the only one that can be obtained by pressing alone, and which permeates, with its taste, many of our dishes. A privilege because, in Spain, vines thrive and wine is produced, and according to Leonardo da Vinci, it is only in places like this that happiness can really be attained
A fish and seafood paradise
The advantage of having both mediterranenan and atlantic coasts, and of being near the main migratory routes of fish, allows us to have such great number of species that we are the envy of the fish-eaters of the rest of the world. All kinds of tuna, magnificent hake, delicious red bream, delicate sea-bass and gilt-head seabream, juicy sardine and anchovy, bold mackerel, tasty turbot, excellent sole; anglerfish, hake, snapper, white seabream, parrot fish, dentex, swordfish and a many, many more. All of them can be grilled, cooked in a variety of sauces, baked, or fried like nowhere else in the world, it being possible to eat fish every day of the year without ever having the same dish twice. If we add fresh water species like salmon, brown trout, lamprey and trout, among the best known; excellent shellfish including prawns, shrimp, quisquilla (small shrimp), Norway lobster, lobster, crayfish, spider crab, small crab, barnacle, oysters, clams, scallops, cockles, mussels, sea urchin and espardeñas, to name a few, and our really hard to match quality standard, it is easy to understand why Spain is a fish-lover's paradise.
A world of roast meats
Meat specialities revolve around roast dishes, particularly the ones made with light meats fromsuckling animals, full of flavour and very tender, like suckling pig, lamb and goat. Currently, different varieties of beef are being produced, labelled under different Designations of Origin that guarantee their quality.
Acorn-fed Iberian cured ham
Unique in the world, the Iberian pig breed provides the best meat to make salted and cured products, among which we must point out acorn-fed Iberian cured ham, an authentic culinary work or art, the most delicious and aromatic, which is able - with only one small shaving, although it is always advisable to have several - to fill our mouth with unforgettable sensations, very unlike those that we can get from any other ham.
Exceptional of game meats
In Spain there are numerous game species, the best ones from the gastronomic point of view. In addition, we cook their meat using our select ancestral recipes, which are famous in European gastronomy, such as the recipes described to be "a la mode d'Alcantara" and the ones used to prepare other innovative dishes, which will surprise those who try them for the first time.
The best and most varied popular cuisine
Popular cuisine has artfully managed to bring out the best of the local ingredients, making up a cuisine in which simple, yet succulent dishes are the rule, all with excellent nutritional content, like cocido (meat, potato and chickpea stew), fabada (Asturian bean stew), and paella (Spanish rice dish), as well as all the different dishes that take their names from the pots they are cooked in, like marmitas, potes, pucheros and peroles and others like Spanish omelette and gazpacho (a cold vegetable soup), which in spite of their simplicity, are true gems of world cuisine.
Paella , the best known of all Spanish recipes, is different from other rice dishes because to make it all the ingredients are cooked together, allowing the rice to absorb every flavour, so that each grain contains the essence of the dish. There are many different types of paella, yet when it comes to choosing, have either a meat paella (chicken, rabbit, duck) or a seafood one, and avoid the mixed kinds. Unforgettable: arroz a banda.
Gazpacho is a speciality that combines the carbohydrates from bread, the fat from olive oil and the vitamins and minerals from the different vegetables that it contains. The result from this mix is an excellent thirst-quenching drink, very healthy and particularly refreshing. There are many different kinds of gazpacho, all of them highly recommended. You can choose between the classics: salmorejo (a very thick, garlicky kind) and ajoblanco (a white gazpacho, with almonds and garlic), or rather have the more modern recipes made with crustaceans, specially the ones with lobster or shrimp.
A paradise of cheeses
In the map of Spanish cheeses, which is very complete, we will see twenty kinds that are labelled with a Designation of Origin. They can be made with cow, sheep or goat milk, and can be either fresh (unripened) like the Burgos variety; half-ripened, like Pasiego; blue like Cabrales; proteolysed, like Torta del Casar; and historic and literary, like Manchego; plus ninety-six more that will satisfy the most demanding tastes.
Bread and confectionery are often made in the same bakeries, filling the air with delicious smells that are quite frequent all across Spain. It is very easy to find breads and sweets that are fresh out of the oven, a sublime treat that is usually impossible to forget. In many of these products we can recognise the legacy of Arab or Jewish traditions . We have delicious pastries made with almonds, oil, flour, milk, eggs and sugar, sometimes with aromatic seeds that add that special hint, like sesame seed, fennel seed, aniseed, poppy seed, etc.
In Spain every meal is a banquet
Spanish cuisine is closely tied to religious popular festivities in which family, neighbours and friends gather around the table to taste the dishes and sweets that are typical of each occasion. Christmas is the time to have roast lamb and turkey, Spanish nougat, marzipan, shortbread and mantecado (a crumbly shortbread). In Easter Easter it is traditional to have mona (Spanish Easter cake) and chocolate eggs. Other widespread festivities are related to the harvesting of crops, like reaping or grape harvest. Other festivities are celebrated locally and have the purpose of praising a particular product, like the seafood festival, and festivals of lamb, cherry, wine and cider, to name a few. In all of them we can try special dishes that make up an important part of Spanish cuisine, known as "holiday cuisine".
Say "cheers" with some of the finest wines in the world
Spain is the country that devotes the most farming surface to vineyards. There are vineyards in the north, south and centre of the country; at sealevel and up in extreme heights; and on eastern and western mountain slopes. Most of them consist of native varieties, and when they are foreign, they are picked from the world's finest. As a result, there are so many different wines that only France and Italy, the other traditionally oenologist countries, can boast a comparable selection. Each dish has a corresponding wine, and finding it is a thrilling exercise whose reward will be the pleasure of having both food and drink together. Some sixty Designations of Origin for Wine are at your disposal to choose from. To round it off, we recommend you have a little glass of liqueur. In Spain, an enormous variety of liqueurs is produced, of very diverse origin and very pleasant taste. Traditionally, liqueurs are considered to be an effective aid to digestion, so there is really no better way to end a good meal.
Mediterranean diet at its best
Spain is, beyond a doubt, the country where you will find mediterranean diet at its best. That is probably the reason why our country today is a health food mecca. The quality and variety of ingredients, the careful culinary techniques and the contribution of the trendy, imaginative nouvelle cuisine, make it possible to enjoy an exceptional gastronomy.
Popular cuisine and cuisine d'auteur. The restaurants
Spain offers a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. Excellent, varied and of great quality, these restaurants constitute a true bargain for their price. The typical foods from all the different Spanish regions have their own personality, and we recommend that you try them all and compare them. All across Spain, in every Autonomous Community and the cities Ceuta and Melilla, you will find a restaurant that will meet your taste and demands, as well as the local products that are used to make specific recipes. To find help in your gastronomic journey, please check each of the sections provided below.
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