Heavily influenced by a history that has shaped the local culture, the climate and geography of Spain also play a huge part in the ingredients that are available and the cooking methods that are used when preparing Spanish cuisine. Most importantly, Spanish food is renowned all over the world as being full of flavour and character. Which is why you need to indulge! Here are our top 10 favourite Spanish dishes.
#1 – Gazpacho
Hailing from Spain’s most southerly region, Andalucia, gazpacho is one of those iconic Spanish dishes that the locals eat pretty much every day in summer. Essentially it’s a chilled soup that’s a perfectly healthy example of a dish from the Mediterranean diet, and it’s so easy to make yourself.
Simply combine garlic, onion, cucumber, tomato and capsicum with salt, water, olive oil and wine vinegar in a mortar and pestle and blend until silky smooth. Then chill, pour into glasses or bowls and enjoy!
#2 – Tortilla Española
More commonly known as a Spanish omelette, this is one of the more popular Spanish meals that contains eggs, potatoes and onions. Some say if you add onion it’s not genuine, whereas others believe it adds to the flavour. Regardless, it’s delicious.
To make, slow-fry the potatoes and onions in olive oil then mix in the beaten eggs. And … it’s as simple as that! If you want to go completely off-recipe, add ham, chorizo, spinach and/or zucchini (or any suitable leftovers from the fridge) and you have yourself a tasty meal out of practically nothing!
#3 – Gambas al ajillo
An easy entrée for the seafood lovers, this is one of the Spanish dishes you might find if you’re visiting a tapas bar anywhere around this beautiful country. To recreate yourself, fry some green chilli and sliced garlic in olive oil, throw in some prawns, cook for a few minutes and then add some parsley. Serve in an earthenware dish (just to keep some authenticity), and dig in!
#4 – Patatas bravas
While on the subject of tapas and continuing on with the theme of Spanish dishes with potato, there are a variety of versions of patatas bravas depending on where you are in the country. But they’re all equally as tasty! Generally not so keen on spicy food, Spaniards consider this an exception, to the extent that it’s pretty much a nation-wide favourite.
To make the Madrid version, peel, cube and fry some potatoes, then make up a bravas sauce with olive oil, flour, stock and sweet and spicy pimentón (Spanish paprika). Some people also add garlic, others a dash of fino sherry (the driest and palest of the traditional varieties), and others add their own secret ingredients to give it a bit of individuality.
#5 – Cod ‘al pil-pil’
The Basque Country of Spain is famous for its outstanding fish, which is why the region has so many amazing seafood recipes like this one, fashioned from cod. The fish is soaked for 36 hours, the scales and bones removed and then it’s patted dry. It’s then cooked over a low flame in an earthenware dish in the oil that’s previously browned finely sliced garlic.
Another earthenware dish is then placed over a flame along with the oil from the cooked cod. When it’s warm, the slices of fish are introduced, the remaining oil added slowly and once cooked, the fish is garnished with the browned garlic and some sliced chillies. Sensational!
#6 – Cocido madrileño
In simple terms, this is a chickpea casserole – healthy, warming and totally comforting. There are many forms of this Spanish dish, however cocido madrileño is eaten in a traditional way involving two to three courses. Once the chickpeas, pasta noodles, vegetables and meats (traditionally veal, ham, bacon and chorizo) have been cooked, the broth is separated and used to make soup, which is served as the first course.
The rest of the ingredients are then often served in two rounds as a ‘main’ – firstly, the chickpeas and veges and then the stewed-to-perfection meat. Blood sausage (known as morcilla) can also be added … if you’re adventurous enough!
#7 – Roasted lechazo
This Spanish dish is typical of the cuisine from Castile-León, a region of northwestern Spain, and it’s considered a highly esteemed delicacy. Milk fed lamb (lechazo) is seasoned with sea salt and roasted in a wood-burning oven in an earthenware dish, skin side down.
The lamb is then turned, brushed with a mixture of lard and olive oil and then roasted further. The juices from the cooking process are then strained, seasoned and served with the divinely golden brown meat.
#8 – Pollo al ajillo
Any Spaniard will tell you that the best chicken dish they’ve ever eaten is the one their grandmother makes, and of course the recipe is often changed-up according to family tradition. But the basic method for this popular Spanish meal involves frying unpeeled cloves of garlic in olive oil, which are removed before the chicken is added and cooked until golden brown.
The garlic is then put back in with thyme, rosemary and some white wine or dry sherry (others simply add garlic, lemon juice and some saffron), and it’s then cooked until the meat is divinely tender.
#9 – Paella
In terms of famous Spanish food that’s often replicated here in Australia, paella has many adaptions however a genuine version can be found in Valencia. Named after the shallow flat pan in which it’s cooked, the dish is composed of short-grain rice, an aromatic base (called ‘sofrito’), seafood or meat stock often imbued with saffron, and any number of proteins and vegetables.
Traditionally, chicken, rabbit, snails, garlic, tomato, ground capsicum, saffron, olive oil, salt and garrafó (white beans), tabella (broad beans) and ferradura (green beans) are used. But of course, the all-important element is the rice – ideally bomba or one of the Calasparra varieties that are grown on Spain’s east coast. They are considered the best because they are wonderful at absorbing all the flavours!
#10 – Churros
A famous Spanish food that’s eaten as a snack or at breakfast, churros are essentially a fried-dough pastry (often choux pastry). Versions of these wonderfully indulgent treats can be found outside of the country, however in Spain they are either thin (and sometimes knotted) or in some regions, thick and long in which case they’re known as porras.
They are normally sprinkled with sugar and dipped in hot chocolate before being quickly devoured. What a way to start the day!
Keen to try some authentic Spanish food? It’s our specialty! Make a booking at Moda Restaurant today!