In most of Spain (except in the Canary Islands, which bask in a subtropical climate) the weather is still different in each of the four seasons, and this is reflected in traditional local dishes. Learn some tips to cook in a Spanish way and how to use high quality ingredients from Spain.
Have you already found your favorite Spanish recipe?
Some are healthier than others, some are easier to cook...but all of them are mouth-watering and a great reason to gather friends at home to enjoy a meal with a Spanish touch.
What are garlic soups, also known as "sopas castellanas"?
Garlic soup is one of the stars amongst traditional Spanish recipes, especially on Spain's central plateau. Of very modest origin, today it is considered a gastronomic jewel because of its simple ingredients and special flavor. All you need to make it is some day-old bread, garlic cloves, sweet pimentón (Spanish type of paprika), one egg per person, a little bit of Serrano ham, salt and water. The characteristic flavor comes from the garlic and pimentón, with the egg and ham being later additions. Some of Spain's avant-garde chefs, such as Manolo de la Osa (Restaurante Las Rejas, Castile-La Mancha) and Pepe Rodríguez Rey (Restaurante El Bohío, Castile-La Mancha) have created some very personal versions of this old-style dish.
I live in New York and as I was passing a gourmet food store I noticed some pretty tins of "dulce de membrillo". What is it? What is it used for?
"Dulce de membrillo" is a delicious made in Spain temptation for those of us with a sweet tooth. It's basically a paste with a consistency halfway between jelly and jam, made only from sugar and the flesh of quince, a fruit that's too astringent to eat raw, but when cooked and sweetened it's absolutely irresistible. In Spain, quince paste is traditionally eaten with semi-cured and fresh cheese, usually as a dessert. You can find a recipe here. It can also be eaten as a tapa.
A Spanish exchange student has come to stay with us. He's given us two glass bottles of Spanish extra virgin olive oil. What can we do with it?
Extra virgin olive oil is one of Spain's great contributions to world cuisine. It's ideal for dressing salads, for frying (vegetables, fish and even sweet cakes and fritters), for an energy-packed breakfast (just drizzle a little olive oil over a piece of toasted bread), for making sauces or for preparing cold soups such as gazpacho and Ajoblanco (made using bread, almonds and garlic).
Someone has given me a jar of "pimentón". How can I use it for cooking?
Pimentón (Spanish ground red pepper) is one of the most traditional spices used in Spanish cooking. In fact, it was invented in the 15th century when the very first peppers started arriving in Spain from America. From Spain it spread to the rest of Europe and from there to other parts of the world. Pimentón has a very intense aroma, so it should be used sparingly. For example, you can add a little to a typically Catalan fish broth, or use it to season Galician-style octopus, (once the octopus is cooked and drained, drizzle some olive oil over it, then sprinkle "pimentón" and coarsely-ground salt over the top). Alternatively you can use it to prepare a delicious Romesco sauce (which includes tomatoes, red peppers, almonds and pine nuts).
My husband is Spanish and we want to prepare a traditional Spanish meal for some friends. We're not expert cooks. What menu would you recommend?
You could start the evening by serving some appetizers, such as some bread with tomato and Serrano cured ham, a selection of Spanish cheeses (ranging from a mild one like Tetilla to a very strong one like Cabrales, and including a goat's cheese, Ibores for example, plus a mature Manchego). You could follow this with a Valencia-style paella or shellfish fideuá (similar to paella but with noodles instead of rice) and then Crema catalana (Catalan custard) for dessert. Don't forget to serve Spanish wines with the meal, such as Cava, refreshing white wines, flavor-filled reds or a sweet wine to accompany the dessert.
What ingredients do you need to make a Spanish tortilla (omelet)?
All you need to make this dish, popular all over Spain from Galicia in the north to Andalusia in the south, are potatoes, eggs, salt and olive oil. Onion or other ingredients are optional extras. If you want to know how to make the quintessential Spanish tortilla de patatas, see our Recipes section.
Is there such a thing as a national dish in Spain?
Rather than having one national dish, Spain has a number of typically regional dishes whose fame has spread beyond the country's borders. These are paella, a rice dish from Valencia; gazpacho, the quintessentially Andalusian cold vegetable soup; and Spanish potato omelet Spanish potato omelet, which is eaten all over the country in different guises.
Which Spanish dishes are typically eaten in winter?
In winter, when temperatures drop considerably, it's time for thick, warming soups and stews, such as fabada, (bean stew) in Asturias, potatoes and chorizo stew, in La Rioja, porrusalda (cod, leeks and potato stew) in the Basque Country, escudella i carn d'olla (a stew with meat, vegetables and legumes) in Catalonia, chickpeas with spinach in Andalusia, cocidoin Madrid, and so on.