Tasting the Regional Cuisinse of Spain
Ask any tourist what Spain’s cuisine is centred on and they will probably say paella, fresh fish and tasty tapas. These tend to be the staples found throughout Spain’s eclectic regions, but each of Spain’s 19 regions has their own particularly local culinary delicacy, depending on what grows, the availability of fresh seafood or meat and other cultural factors.
Spain’s culinary heritage is a rich blend of mixes from its former rulers. When the Moors arrived, they introduced Eastern spices and new flavours such as honey and cumin to the standard fare. Later, the conquistadors brought back tomatoes, potatoes, vanilla, chocolate, beans and peppers. They were mixed with the existing local produce such as olives, rice and citrus fruits to create a wealth of diverse tastes. Generally Spanish cuisine is hearty home cooking, often made in a big pot with an assortment of locally reared meats.
The regions have each developed their own style and culinary identity. In the far northwest of Spain, Galicia shows its Celtic heritage with meat and fish pies, scallops and fine veal. A little further along the coast at Asturias the legendary bean dish “fabada” is a firm favourite along with the strong blue cheese “Queso Cabrales”. With the apple orchards, cider is the most common local drink. Sauces and seafood are also widely enjoyed in this coastal area.
The Basque country, on Spain’s northern coastline close to the French border, has cuisine which features fish and seafood. Tasty fish soup, baby eels, squid and dried cod are the staples.
In Catalunia, on the northeasterly Mediterranean coast, the local fruits are used to flavour mixed seafood dishes such as zarzuela, along with local meats and poultry. The region’s cuisine includes hearty casseroles and cazuelas are on every menu.
On the central east Mediterranean coast, Valencia, with its tidal flatlands has a rice-based cuisine, including paella, a firm favourite. A little further south in Murcia local sausages and cheese, clams and squid are all used in tasty tapas. Local dishes such as zarangollo or michirones are enjoyed and vegetable stews, rice and rabbit, snails, bean omelette, rabbit with garlic and tortillas are all hearty country fare away from the coast. The locals rarely drink beer, preferring their local wines. Locally grown figs are used for sweet desserts and the typical Murcian dessert called paparajote is made with fresh lemons, flour, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Around the fertile Valley of Ricote, fresh apricots, olives, oranges, lemons and peaches in season are hard to beat in this “Garden of Europe”.
In the extreme south of Spain the arid areas of Andalusia are where the grapes thrive along with olive trees. In this area, fried fish abounds and no drink is consumed without a tiny platter of assorted tapas.
Wherever you choose to enjoy a holiday home rental in Spain, do sample the local delicacies as part of your cultural travel experience. It is what makes international travel such fun.