It’s funny. In Seville, the so-called homeland of tapas, bar-goers enjoy a series of snacks as a prelude to their dinner. Years ago this “little ration” idea took off in Australia, but we missed the memo that a real meal should follow. The poor communication left many Australians thinking that the tapas were inconsistent and exxy, but in Spain that is simply not the case. Tapas are often free with the order of a drink and can include salted cod croquettes, Catalan-style meatballs, sweet and savory chorizo, or the dish on which all tapas bars are judged: potato tortillas (potato tortilla).
Moving on to more meaty dishes, Spain is known for its premium salted hams. In fact, melting it in your mouth Iberian ham is considered one of the best in the world. Cured sausage chorizo is another popular meat, while bread, beans, and potatoes are the staple of most meals. Coastal regions specialize in seafood recipes, while inland Spaniards favor local vegetables, poultry and meat.
Roman and Greek influences can be seen in the country’s vineyards and olive groves, while Moorish and Arab rule introduced gazpachos, almonds, and smart irrigation systems. The Spanish conquistadors also shaped cuisine, bringing potatoes, tomatoes and cocoa from the Americas. (And without the cocoa, this 17th century hot chocolate wouldn’t exist.)
This roasted garlic and bread soup is a delicious ‘farmer’s dish’ made with pantry staples including sherry, paprika and garlic cloves. Make sure you have potatoes, eggs, and calasparra rice, along with saffron and Spanish olive oil for flavor (more fruity than Italian). As for your fridge, grab some Manchego (hard sheep’s milk cheese), quince paste and the best jamón you can afford.
1. Additional flavor: Paella is traditionally cooked in a steel or cast iron pan called a paellera. The trick? Do not clean it completely after cooking. A patina will form, enhancing the flavor for the next time.
2. On a daily basis: Bread (pan) is often eaten with every meal in Spain. Day bread is used to make stuffing, dough for croquettes or to garnish a soup like this one.
3. Special spice: Saffron (azafrán) is the most expensive spice in the world. To enhance its color and flavor in cooking, grind the threads with salt until it forms a fine powder.
4. The best rice: Calasparra, a short grain rice that is low in rhinestones, is the best for making paella. It absorbs three times its amount in liquid.
5. Sweet or smoked: Paprika (pimentón) is a dried and ground spice made from peppers. Use the smoked Spanish variety in paella and the sweet Hungarian style for goulash.
Check out our collection of Spanish recipes here.
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