Spain

Spain

What is Spanish food?

Most people would say Paella and Tapas! Well, Paella as it happens is a traditional rice dish from Andalucia, in particular Valencia, where rice is traditionally grown and the rest of the ingredients come from around that region. You can of course eat Paella all over Spain, but other regions have rice dishes too, these are usually called “Arroz”, Spanish for rice and although similar they should not be confused with Paella!

And Tapas. What are Tapas?

Well, as the story goes, once again in Andalucia, the word “tapas” derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”. Tapas were traditionally a complementary slice of bread or preserved meat placed on top of a glass of Sherry or Malaga in Andalusian taverns that were used to cover their glasses in between sips to keep flies out.

Of course over the last decade or so Tapas have become something special with Tapas bars and restaurants opening up everywhere and it is sad that not all bars in Spain serve Tapas in the traditional way. Traditionally a Tapa or Pincho would be served with each drink order. Nowadays many places sell you the Tapa as a portion or Racion or 1/2 racion. I remember getting a small Tapas or Pinchos (these are the ones on cocktail sticks) every time a drink was ordered. On my last trip to mainland Spain I visited my parents in Nerja and we would do the Tapas crawl into town which was great. We would stop at a bar and get a small drink, could be a glass of wine, beer, sherry or a cola and then choose which Tapa we wanted to go with it for a cost of around €1.50. Of course by the time we got to the last destination we had probably consumed 5 or 6 drinks, but had also fed ourselves.

Tapas are usually just a small taste of a side dish or even a stew. My favourites being Ensalada Rusa, a salad, Fabada asturiana, often simply known as fabada, which is a bean stew with meat and blood sausage and chorizo another fave is albóndigas, which are Spanish meatballs served in a rich tomato suace with almond and sometimes chopped calamares.

 

Albóndigas - Spanish meatballs
Albóndigas – Meatballs

This great Spanish dish is always on the Tapas menu wherever you go and is one of my favourites but it does vary in style. I have ordered this dish in Spain many times and I don’t think it has ever been the same. Sometimes it comes with chopped pieces of calamari, sometimes the sauce is…

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arroz con pollo - rice with chicken
Arroz con Pollo – Saffron Rice with Chicken

Paella is probably the most well known Spanish dish on the planet and there are also different versions of Paella too, but there are also some outstanding rice dishes…

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Calamares a la Romana
Calamares a la Romana – Fried Calamari

This is a dish that I’m sure we all discovered whilst holidaying somewhere on the Med and I’m sure we’ve all had good and bad experiences! I have had some fantastic Calamari and have also had my fair share of chewy, rubbery squid too, but this is a tapa I order all the time in Spain…

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Coca de Verduras
Coca de Verduras

What is Coca de Verduras you may well ask? Well if you’ve been to Spain, then you have probably had some strange tasting pizza with a funny crust, no cheese and oily fried vegetables on it. Ring a bell! Well that is Coca de Verduras or Coca de Trempo as it is called on the Balearics…

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Ensalada Rusa
Ensalada Russa – Russian Salad

This is probably the most popular of the Spanish salads and is found everywhere from airports to Tapas bars. This salad, Ensalada Rusa was purportedly invented in the 1860s by Belgian Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, one of Moscow’s most celebrated restaurants at the time…

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Estofado de Lomo Cerdo con Verduras
Estofado de Lomo Cerdo con Verduras

Estofado is usually a a hearty Spanish stew made up of meat and vegeatbles, I say vegetables but usually it is tomato, potato and carrot, often beans but not vegetables as in a minestrone! I have eaten many of these in Spain…

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Fabada Asturiana
Fabada Asturiana

All us Brits love our bangers and beans or in fact anything with beans, but we are not alone as there are other European nations that equally love bangers and beans too, although we seem to have speeded up the cooking process! This delicious bean dish comes from the Asturia region of northern Spain…

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gambas-al-ajillo
Gambas al Ajillo – Garlic Prawns

Gambas al Ajillo is definitely in the top five tapas I would order or at least in the top ten, as there are so many tasty tapas to chose from. However, I have been on the end of some over cooked gambas which I can only assume was down to using pre-cooked prawns…

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Garbanzo beans or chickpeas
Garbanzo con Chorizo – Chickpeas with Chorizo Sausage

This traditional dish is a cross between a soup and a stew and is served in homes all over Spain! Apart from hummus, falafels and some Indian dishes I had never been a big chickpea fan, always finding them a bit of a dry bean or a soggy nut…

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Patatas Bravas
Patatas Bravas – Sauteed Potatoes

I just love this potato dish and must say that patatas bravas usually are top on my list when ordering Tapas. Served all over Spain going down well with a chilled vino or a cervesa. The tomato sauce can vary from region to region, can be served with extra topping of chorizo, chistorra, baked chicken or fried fish.

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Spanish Padron Peppers
Pimientos de Padrón – Fried Peppers

For many years I had seen these on menus whilst holidaying in Spain but had never really seen the point in ordering a bowl of fried chillies sprinkled with sea salt, especially at €3 for a tapa or €6 as a portion or ración as it is appropriately named. However, once again Rick Stein to the rescue…

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bacon wrapped dates
Pinchos Jamon con Datil – Bacon Wrapped Dates

Pinchos Jamon con Datil – (bacon wrapped dates) Although on all Tapas menus, this is in fact a pincho! What’s the difference? Well, they are Tapas but when served on a stick they are called Pinchos! I always order a 1/2 ration or as a tapa when eating…

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Sangria
Sangria

If you’ve been to Spain then you would know what Sangria is. For those who have never heard of Sangria, well, it’s commonly a red wine based drink, served by the glass or jug with ice, with slices of apple and orange…

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tortilla espanola or tortilla de patatas
Tortilla Espanola – Spanish Omellette

Tortilla Espanola or Tortilla de Patata which is in fact the Spanish Omelette is one of those Spanish dishes that can be eaten any time of day whether as a tapa or a light snack. You will find it as a side dish at breakfast. It will be served up as a tapa any time of day and it is also served up in a baguette, called a bocadillo…

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