• Cider-glazed chorizo. (Brett Stevens)Source: Brett Stevens
With its very different regions – the long coastline, rugged mountains, baking plains and rich farming land – Spain is home to a vast range of dishes, but they all have a few things in common: they're simple, unpretentious, and use beautifully fresh seasonal ingredients.
1 Jul 2008 - 9:00 AM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2021 - 11:27 AM

Spanish food is incredibly varied, the first recipes were written in the fourteenth century and the cuisine was in turns enriched by the Moors, Arabs, Sephardic Jews, French and Italians, as well as the voyages of discovery to the New World, which resulted in a huge range of new ingredients. These things, combined with the differences across the country in terms of geography, culture and climate, have led to a diverse cuisine that is hard to generalize about too much. There are literally thousands of recipes and flavours to experience. Besides such well-known dishes as tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), paella and the legendary Jamon and Serrano (cured hams),  various stews, sausages, cheeses, beans and breads all form a key part of the Spanish diet. Spanish desserts and cakes include flans, custards, rice puddings, and the dangerously delicious churros (fried doughnuts dipped in hot chocolate sauce).

Eating is more than simply looking after hunger pangs for the Spanish – food is savoured and enjoyed communally and many traditions have evolved over the years including the famous tapas – the series of small snacks eaten with a drink as the prelude to a meal.

In Australia we're familiar with some of the main culinary exports, such as tapas, paella, and sangria, but we’re still coming up to speed with the lesser known zarzuela (seafood stew) and fino – the dry sherry that makes for a great aperitif and goes so well with the strong flavours of some of the tapas dishes. It’s worth seeking out the best ingredients – a good Spanish paprika, saffron, olive oil, being generous with garlic and wine and having a go at making some of the simple Spanish recipes here. Enjoy.


View our Spanish recipe collection here.

Here's the lowdown on this iconic dish.

Spanish Food Safari recipes
Jamón-wrapped pork schnitzel (san jacobo)

This lovely pork dish is meltingly wonderful, with molten cheese inside and a crisp breadcrumb coating. 

Roasted capsicum salsa (asadillo de pimientos)

A simple summer salad of roasted capsicum, onion and garlic with tomato and cumin. Use the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.

Garlic prawns (gambas al pil pil)

Buy a terracotta cazuela dish to cook this classic prawn dish in and master the recipe. You’ll look great and friends will never come down with colds!

Cooking anything in a cazuela will give it that special Spanish "something". The smaller clay dishes can be used on the stove to make recipes such as this, the larger ones to bake meat on the bone until it is really tender or to gently cook vegetable dishes.

Gazpacho andaluz

Hailing from the Andalucian region of Southern Spain, gazpacho is traditionally served in summer, when the tomatoes are at their best and chilled soups offer welcome relief from the heat. The mixture can be refrigerated overnight, then pureed just before serving.

Rice pudding (arroz con leche)

I’m sure my family have clocked their one-hundredth round on this recipe – we love it and make it all the time. Although using the condensed milk might be cheating a little bit, it makes a creamy, luscious and very indulgent dessert – thank you Rosalia! In case you’re wondering, Rosalia says this definitely can’t be made with skim milk – "You use full-cream then go for a run!"

Potato omelette (tortilla de patatas)

This Spanish omelette is simplicity itself – as well as being creamy and delicious. It is great to add to your repertoire of tapas recipes, to take to a picnic, or as part of a Mediterranean spread.

Food Safari's paella

Traditionally, paella is made on a Sunday and because women need a day off from cooking it is usually made by the men. I have bought a paella pan and gas ring so my family are always enjoying this lovely dish. Calasparra is a low-starch, short-grain rice and when cooked it is fluffy with separate grains. It is the best rice to use for paella; it can absorb heaps of liquid so it bursts with flavour. To increase the quantities and serve more people (although you will need a giant paella dish), allow about 80 g of rice per person.

Spanish essentials
Tips: Spanish
These expert tips will help you achieve the perfect balance of flavours.
Utensils: Spanish
Find out which special utensils you’ll need on hand during cooking.
Key ingredients: Spanish
Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these essential ingredients.
Featured businesses: Spanish
Contact the businesses featured in the Spanish episode of Food Safari.