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Spanish Cuisine

Flavours of Spain, a country with good taste

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Think of Spain. And now think of Spanish food. Don’t tell us, we can guess: paella, gazpacho, Iberico ham, cocido, fabada… So many recipes which have delighted everybody who visits Spain. But not many people are aware of the hidden but vital elements that Spanish cooks use to create these dishes, the key ingredients that give them that unique flavour.Read on while we dish up the secret, and not so secret, ingredients that go into the famousMediterranean diet and Spain’s culinary culture, making our cuisine one of the best in the world.

Extra virgin olive oil: liquid gold

Let’s start with a classic: olive oil. One of the healthiest fats, and an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is nutritious and flavourful enough for the most exacting consumer. Spain leads the world in the production, processing and sale of olive oil. In Andalusia (although also in Castilla-La Mancha and Catalonia), you can find yourself in a sea of millions of hectares of spectacular olive groves. It’s so nutritious and delicious that many Spaniards regard a bottle of oil and a loaf of good bread as a meal in itself.

Olive oil

Saffron. A secret full of flavour

Although its origins are in India, saffron was quickly adopted by Spanish cooks, enhancing the flavour of rice dishes, stews, meat, and even desserts. It is a very expensive ingredients, which some call red gold, and must be handled very carefully, both when harvesting it (in the early morning to avoid the flower wilting and ensure no loss of quality in the finished product) and in the kitchen. In Spain it is mainly grown in Castilla-La Mancha, and the region boasts a Designation of Origin. A fun fact - to get a kilo of saffron requires picking the stamens out of no fewer than 150,000 saffron crocuses.

Saffron in a glass jar

Ground red pepper from La Vera. With its own Protected Designation of Origin

Paprika, ají, red pepper. This ingredient has different names in different parts of the world. Christopher Columbus brought it to Spain from the Americas, and for centuries it was only produced within the walls of the Monastery of Yuste (Extremadura). Tradition and artisanal methods make this ingredient unique, in part because its production requires smoking by hand over holm oak logs.A spice rich in antioxidants, essential in the creation of other traditional Spanish foods, including chorizo, sobrasada and other sausages.

Red peppers and La Vera paprika

Bomba rice. Because not all rice is the same

There are over two thousand varieties of rice around the world, but just one of them is the original key ingredient of paella, probably Spain’s most famous dish. What makes it so special?The answer may lie in its short, round grain, which usually becomes longer in the cooking process. This means it absorbs liquids very well, holding all their flavours, and sticks less than other varieties.But paella isn’t the only dish it makes more delicious. The baked rice and soupy rice dishes so typical of Spanish cuisine are much tastier when made with bomba rice. This variety is mostly grown in the heritage landscape of La Albufera in Valencia.

Rice paddy in Valencia

Citrus fruit. Sweet or savoury goodness

Spain’s climate, and particularly the Mediterranean climate is ideal for citrus growing. Oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit… not only can you find them growing everywhere, they also feature in hundreds of recipes. Because citrus fruits are not just for dessert - they can be the main ingredient in salads, stews, rice dishes, and other Spanish recipes, both traditional and innovative, always adding fresh flavour. One of the best places to enjoy citrus fruits is on the coast of Castellón, known as the Costa Azahar - the Orange-Blossom Coast.

Oranges

Garlic, tomato, and onion. Ours are unique

Practically everybody around the world cooks with tomatoes, onions, and garlic. But you won’t think of them the same way once you’ve tried the best of the best: these unique Spanish varieties with their own Designations of Origin. They make all the difference. Purple garlic from Las Pedroñeras, (Cuenca), La Cañada tomatoes (Níjar, Almería), Fuentes de Ebro onions (Zaragoza) and potatoes from Galicia are just a few of the vegetables bearing seals of quality: Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication. Garlic, onion and tomato are also the classic ingredients of the sofrito, the starting point for many of our traditional recipes, adding a very special Spanish flavour.

Purple garlic

Bread. It goes with everything

Yes. we know that bread is not actually an ingredient. But in Spain, it’s almost impossible to imagine eating without good bread, whether it’s accompanying a meal, mopping up a sauce or stew, or split and stuffed to make a sandwich or bocadillo.We recommend trying all the different types and local specialities you can find: barra planchada in Toledo, bola in Santiago de Compostela, bollo preñao in Asturias, cabezón in Navarre and the Basque Country, and hogaza in Castilla-León are just a few of the variations you’ll encounter as you travel around Spain.

Bread with tomato
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