Spain is famous for many things, its beaches, football, architecture and, of course, sangria; it should also be noted that this rich country is full of flavour! Spanish cuisine is diverse and certainly not limited to just tapas and paella. Take a holiday with Saga Travel and you will find this out for yourself. Generally Spain can be divided into six culinary regions, each with distinct flavours and dishes worth trying.
The North of Spain, particularly Galicia and Asturias, with its higher rainfall and lush green pastures is known for its excellent selection of fresh vegetables and dairy produce. The Atlantic and Cantabrian seas provide the ingredients for their fish and seafood dishes which are usually accompanied by fresh local vegetables. Additionally, hearty soups and stews such as caldo gallego and soft artisan cheeses are very popular.
Cataluña is renowned for tasty sausages such as the butifarra (pork, pine nuts and tripe) and casseroles (cazuelas). Local specialities include delicious fish and seafood stews and classic sauces such as romesco (chillies, red peppers and tomatoes). Local cooks also like to combine the sweet and the savoury in their recipes.
Roast meats and stews dominate the daily diet in Central Spain due to the plentiful supply of game such as pheasant, wild boar and hare. Local dishes in areas like Extremadura include el frite, a delicious dish of fried lamb with garlic, lemon, paprika and onion. Castilla La Mancha is best known for its saffron, introduced by the Moors many centuries ago and found in many of Spain’s traditional recipes. Castilla y León is a traditional farming area where pulses or legumes in particular are produced. Consequently, many local dishes consist of a variety of wholesome, one-pot pulse/legume stews.
The Eastern region of Spain, including the Valencia Community, is the principal rice-growing region and unsurprisingly one of the primary dishes is paella. There are many variations of paella -meat, seafood, chicken, but the main ingredient is always round grain rice with saffron added into the mix to give it a golden yellow colour. This area is where you'll find the well-known Mediterranean diet which is considered to be extremely healthy because it's based on the local foods of fish and seafood, olive oil, plus fresh fruit and vegetables.
Andalucía, in the south of Spain is where tapas was invented and you can sample plenty of delectable dishes in this region. Grilled fish is very popular, in particular calamares (squid) and sardines and tomatoes and peppers are used in many local recipes. Gazpacho, a cold tomato soup also originates here. There are vast olive fields in Andalucía and the region is the third largest exported of olive oil to the rest of Europe.
Warming, hearty meat dishes are typical of the Pyrenees region. These dishes are served in chilindrón sauce which is made with tomatoes, ham, garlic, peppers and wine. Fresh mountain trout is also a firm favourite. No matter what part of Spain you find yourself in, the flavours that surround you will instantly make you feel comfortable, happy and hungry for more. Be sure to try as many different dishes as you possible can.
Images by Juantiagues and Cyclonebill, used under the Creative Commons license.