It’s funny. In Seville, the so-called home of tapas, bar goers enjoy a series of snacks as a prelude to their dinner. Years ago this this “tiny ration” idea took off in Australia, but we missed the memo that an actual meal should follow. The miscommunication left many Aussies thinking tapas was insubstantial and exxy, but in Spain, that’s just not the case. Tapas often comes gratis upon ordering a drink, and may include salt cod croquettes, Catalan-style meatballs, sweet ‘n’ salty chorizo or the dish all tapas bars are judged on: tortilla de patatas (potato tortilla).
Moving on to meatier fare, Spain is known for its top-shelf cured hams. In fact, the melt-in-your-mouth jamón ibérico is considered one of the world’s best. The cured sausage chorizo is another popular meat, while bread, beans and potatoes form the base of most meals. Coastal regions specialise in seafood recipes, while inland Spaniards favour local vegetables, poultry and meat.
Roman and Greek influences can be seen in the country’s vineyards and olive trees, while Moor and Arab rule introduced gazpachos, almonds and clever irrigation systems. Spanish conquistadors also shaped the cuisine, bringing potatoes, tomatoes and cocoa back from the Americas. (And if it weren’t for cocoa, this 17th century hot chocolate wouldn’t exist.)
This roast garlic and bread soup is a delicious ‘peasant dish’ made from pantry staples, including sherry, paprika and garlic cloves. Ensure you have potatoes, eggs and calasparra rice, plus saffron and Spanish olive oil for flavour (fruitier than the Italian). As for your fridge, grab Manchego (hard sheep’s milk cheese), quince paste and the best jamón you can afford.
1. Extra flavour: Paella is traditionally cooked in a steel or cast iron pan called a paellera. The trick? Don’t clean it completely after cooking. A patina will form, boosting flavour for next time.
2. On the daily: Bread (pan) is often eaten with every meal in Spain. Day-old bread is used to make stuffing, croquette batter or to pad out soup like this one.
3. Special spice: Saffron (azafrán) is the most expensive spice in the world. To enhance its colour and flavour in cooking, grind the threads with salt until it forms a fine powder.
4. The nicest rice: Calasparra, a low-strach, short-grain rice, is best for making paella. It absorbs three times its quantity in liquid.
5. Sweet or smoky: Paprika (pimentón) is a dried, ground spice made from capsicum. Use the smoked Spanish variety in paella and the sweet Hungarian-style for goulash.
View our Spanish recipe collection here.
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This is a simplified version of the famed fishermen’s stew from the Catalan region of Spain. There, cooks use a variety of fish and thicken the stew with picada, a sauce-base made using dried chillies, garlic, fried bread, olive oil and pounded toasted nuts (hazelnuts or almonds). Use a mix of your favorite firm white fish – snapper, barramundi, bream, blue eye or bream, for example – or just one type, as we've done here.
This Spanish hot chocolate dates back to the 17th century, where it was served at banquets, known as agasajos.
This Catalan dish is often served as a tapas, but can easily morph into a main course with the addition of some steamed potatoes and a green salad. “Albondigas” comes from the Arab word for ball and versions of this meatball dish are wildly popular all over Spain. Spanish food expert Penelope Casas in her fantastic book 'Delicioso' says some cookbooks in Spain devote entire chapters to their preparation. Make these with beef, veal or even chicken mince if you prefer.
Originating in Valencia on the east coast of Spain, paella is traditionally cooked in a paellera, a large, flat-bottomed pan designed to ensure even cooking. A large variety of ingredients can be used to make paella, along with calasparra or bomba rice, found in Spanish delis, for its superior ability to absorb liquid and flavour. To cook paella for large groups, calculate 80 g rice per person and 2 cups of stock for every cup of rice.