Spanish Cuisine: Mediterranean

Spain is a beautiful country filled with a strong and rich culture, an amazing landscape, a comfortable climate, and fun people. It’s a really amazing country that is the tourist spot for many people traveling to Europe. Spain had over fourty-six million citizens and consists of about 88% Spaniards with around 12% of immigrants or foreigners. The rich culture that has been thriving in Spain for hundreds of years is fascinating alone, having many influences from ancient Rome and Latin cultures. One big part of the Spanish culture, as with many places, is the cuisine.  While America has” americanized” adaptions of many ethnic foods, once you really taste the actual authentic food, than you’ll never be able to go back to the American versions. Spain has three main divisions of cuisine: Mediterranean, Inner, and Atlantic. All of these kinds have their own special flavour and flair that make them each slightly different.

Mediterranean style of Spanish cuisine is mostly found along the coastal regions of the country, and helps shows the cultural ties to the Mediterranean. This division of the food consists highly of seafood, as it is more common around the coast. The common ingredients for these types of dishes are often things such as olive oil. lentils, chickpeas. and a big emphasis on the vegetables in the meal. There are many good examples and recipes for these sorts of dishes that you can make at home to get the feel for it. One of the most common meals is a delicious soup called Gazpacho. It is a cold soup that is very popular in Spain. On authentic recipe that I found is as follows:

From Papi’s Garden: Authentic Spanish Gazpacho
Prep time
20 mins
Cook time
20 mins
Total time
40 mins
Authentic gazpacho from Spain is silky and smooth not chunky. You can add some crunch with some fresh cut tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and fresh made croutons.
Recipe type: cold soup
Cuisine: Kosher / Spanish
Serves: 16
Ingredients
  • 3 medium red bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 3 large cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 12 medium ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic (optional)
  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp plain bread crumbs
  • Home made croutons
  • 1 large french baguette
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt or to taste
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender (depending on the size of the jar, you may have to do it in several batches). Blend until smooth
  2. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of tomato and pepper skin and cucumber seeds.
  3. Chill for a couple of hours before serving.
  4. Serve with home made croutons
  5. Home made croutons
  6. Dice the baguette and place in a large bowl
  7. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Spread the bread cubes on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil in one single layer
  8. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until golden brown
  9. Serve on top of the gazpacho.
  10. Enjoy! From May I have that recipe

 

Another very popular dish is called, Paella. This is a rice based dish that originates from Valencia. The recipe that I found is said to be very authentic and gives you the taste that you would expect coming straight from Spain itself and has been validated by many people who came from or had relatives from Spain. You can make it by following here:

Mixed Paella – Version II – Paella Mixta – Versión II

Mixed Paella - Version II

The world famous rice dish! Perfect for any gathering.
Makes 6-8 servings.

Prep Time: 1 hr.

Cook Time: 1 hr. 20 min.

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Ingredients:

6 cups very strong chicken broth (bouillon)
1/2 tsp saffron
1/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (Pimentón de la Vera)
small onion, peeled
small chickens, about 2-1/2 lbs each
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 lb of cooking chorizo, in 1/4 inch slices
1/4 lb piece jamón serrano ham, diced
medium onion, chopped
scallions, chopped
4 tbsp chopped garlic
roasted piquillo peppers
1 lb small or medium shrimp, shelled
(Optional) Live lobsters, boiled, split and divided into tail sections and claws (discard or keep the head and small claws); or
(Optional) Lobster tails, split lengthwise;
(Optional) King crab claws; or 
jumbo shrimp, in their shells, preferably heads on
3 cups short grain Spanish rice such as Bomba or Calasparra
5 tbsp chopped parsley
bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 lb fresh or frozen peas
18 clams and/or mussels, scrubbed
Lemon wedges for garnish
Parsley for garnish

Preparation:

Heat the broth with the saffron, pimentón and the whole onion. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove the onion and measure the broth — you need exactly 5-1/2 cups.

Cut the chickens into small serving pieces — the whole breast in 4 parts, each thigh into 2 parts, the bony tip of the leg chopped off, the wing tip discarded, and the rest of the wing separated into 2 parts. Dry the pieces well and sprinkle with salt.

In a metal Paella pan, with about a 15 inch base, heat the oil. Add the chicken pieces and fry over high heat until golden. Remove to a warm platter. Add the chorizo, and jamón to the pan and stir fry about 10 minutes. Add the chopped onion, scallions, garlic, and pimentos and saute until the onion is wilted. Add the shrimp and the lobster and saute about 3 minutes more, or until the shrimp and lobster barely turn pink (the lobster will cook more in the oven.) Remove the shrimp and lobster to the platter with the chicken. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat it well with the oil. Sprinkle in the 5 tablespoons of chopped parsley and the crumbled bay leaves. (You can make in advance up to this point.)

Stir in the chicken broth, boiling hot, the wine, rice, and peas. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat about 10 minutes. Bury the shrimp and the chicken in the rice. Add the clams and the mussels, pushing them into the rice, with the edge that will open facing up. Decorate the paella with the lobster pieces, then bake at 325 F, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit on top of the stove, lightly covered with foil, for about 10 minutes. To serve, decorate with lemon wedges and chopped parsley.

Lobster can be a little expensive, so replace it with a comparable amount of shrimp if you wish!

Another very famous rice based meal is called  arròs negre and originates from Catalonia. This is a very popular and famous dish and I have heard that it is very delicious as well. This recipe may be harder to follow as this dish contains squid. This may be for the more adventurous eaters who are both able and willing to track down the ingredients. So good luck with this one, although you may be able to find more American substitutes it just won’t be as accurate for you. 

  • 125 ml (½ cup)
  • olive oil
  • 200 gm
  • canned whole tomatoes
  • To taste:
  • white sugar
  • 450 gm
  • squid tubes, cleaned and sliced into 1cm rings
  • 1
  • large onion, finely chopped
  • 2
  • red capsicum, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves
  • garlic, finely chopped
  • 300 gm
  • Calasparra rice (see note)
  • 1 tbsp
  • squid ink (see note)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup)
  • white wine
  • 1.5 litres (6 cups)
  • hot fish stock
  • ½ cup (loosely packed)
  • flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • To serve:
  • lemon wedges
  • Alioli
  • 2 cloves
  • garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp
  • sherry vinegar
  • 2
  • egg yolks
  • ¼ tsp
  • Dijon mustard
  • 100 ml
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 100 ml
  • vegetable oil

Method

  • 01
  • For alioli, combine garlic and vinegar in a bowl, add egg yolks and mustard and whisk to combine. Combine oils and gradually add oil mixture a drop at a time to egg yolk mixture, whisking until a thick emulsion forms. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 02
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, add tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and white sugar.
  • 03
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a 40cm-paella pan or large frying pan over high heat, add squid and sauté for 30 seconds or until just starting to colour. Remove and set aside. Add remaining olive oil and cook onion and capsicum for 5 minutes or until starting to colour, reduce heat to medium and cook for another 10 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and cook for another 5 minutes or until garlic is soft. Add rice and stir to coat, add tomato and stir to combine.
  • 04
  • Combine squid ink, wine and stock in a jug and stir to dissolve ink, then add to rice mixture, reduce heat and simmer, without stirring, shaking pan occasionally to loosen rice from base, for 40 minutes or until rice is tender and stock is almost absorbed. Scatter squid over rice and cook for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover with foil and stand for 5 minutes. Scatter with parsley and serve with lemon wedges and alioli to the side.
Note Calasparra rice is grown in the village of the same name in the Murcia region of Spain. The plump, round grain absorbs three times its quantity in liquid but it is not creamy, so grains remain firm. If squid sacs are still intact and there is enough ink (squid tend to release their ink when caught), strain ink through a fine sieve before using. Alternatively, squid ink is available in a jar or sachet from select fishmongers and speciality food stores.

Happy Cooking! Cocinera!

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