• A Catalan special, romesco de peix (fish stew) is spiced with sweet and smoked paprika. (Alan Benson)Source: Alan Benson
After serving Spanish eats in Melbourne for more than a decade, Bar Lourinhã chef and owner Matt McConnell shares top cooking tips for those playing at home.
Matt McConnell

5 Jun 2017 - 10:16 AM  UPDATED 19 Mar 2021 - 1:17 PM

Spice story

During his travels of southern Spain and, particularly, Seville, chef Matt McConnell says he was blown away by the alluring aromas coming from home kitchens. “You’d walk past [a house] and the smell coming out of it was like an Indian curry – that strong and permeating,” he recalls.

So which spices should every kitchen carry?

“Cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, cinnamon and Moorish allspice, play a part in Spanish food,” says Matt. “But probably the most central, all-round and unifying ingredient is pimenton, the smoked or sweet paprika.” 

Essential ingredient

Asked which ingredient he couldn’t live without, Matt’s answer was clear, or rather, amber-coloured: olive oil. “Good olive oil used in pretty much every savoury dish [at Bar Lourinha],” he notes. “It even goes in some desserts.”

“Whenever I’m asked what olive oil to use, I always say, ‘Buy the best one that you can afford’. Don’t buy something you can’t afford, because you can be spending ridiculous amounts.”

Edible education

When it comes expanding your Spanish food knowledge, Jarrod recommends and old-school approach: “Reading is great – [but] steer clear of the internet. Go to a really good bookshop, and grab some of the older style Spanish cookbooks.”   

“The most important thing is go to a Spanish delicatessen or grocery. Have a smell, talk to them, ask them about different things you haven’t tried before – things like pimenton.”


Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? The Chefs' Line airs 6pm weeknights on SBS. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more.

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