For many of us, when we think of European cuisine, the food giants of French and Italy immediately spring to mind. These countries are renowned for their exquisite delicacies, and rightly so. However there is another contender perched quietly on the edge of the Mediterranean – Spain.
The different regions of the country each offer tasty traditional dishes. These are, however, sadly overlooked. Many are familiar with the classic paella, a rice dish usually with seafood, saffron, and other spices. In more recent years, adding meat such as chicken and chorizo, has increased the popularity of the dish amongst non-Spanish speaking countries.
However, there is much more to Spain than paella. If you venture away from the tourist hot-spots along Costa Brava and Costa del Sol, and head towards the rural country, you’ll experience the true taste of Spain.
A personal favourite are churros; a fried choux pastry that can be either be thin or thick, these are also popular in other European countries. Covered in sugar and then chocolate sauce (I used to dip mine into hot chocolate or coffee!), I haven’t yet met anyone who doesn’t enjoy them.
Something that still remains a staple dish of southern Spain, is gazpacho. Simply put, it’s cold soup, made with raw vegetables. Originating in Andalusia, my Grandmother used to make this by the gallon, for friends, family, and everybody else who would stroll through her front door.
Other highlights include calamari (not the deep fried kind, but gently fried in sauce – much healthier), the potato and onion Spanish omelette, and obviously tapas – although these are very different when in Spain and actually not eaten as much as you may think.
As is the case with most countries, the best way to experience ‘proper’ Spanish food is to go off the beaten track a little when you do visit. Visit smaller restaurants, and try things unique to that region. Finally, wash it all down with a bottle of their famous beer – Estrella if in the Cataluña region, Mahou if you’re nearer Madrid.