Paquita and Lolita Reixach
Guardians of Catalonian Recipes
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández /©ICEX
Translation: Jenny McDonald /©ICEX
Image: Spanish chef Paquita and Lolita Reixach. Toya Legido and Tomás Zarza/©ICEX
Like all Spanish regions, Catalonia has retained a wealth of interesting recipes and gastronomic traditions. These have served as the starting-point for the work and research done by many chefs belonging to the region's most avant-garde generation, which include Ferran and Albert Adrià, Joan Roca and his brothers, and Ramón Freixa, and many others. Such well-loved dishes, passed on from generation to generation, are still on offer at restaurants that have preferred to maintain a traditional philosophy regarding cuisine.
A good example of such a restaurant is Hispania, in Arenys de Mar (Catalonia). Its history goes back to 1952, and nowadays it is run by two sisters - Paquita and Lolita Rexach who, in 2008, received the Eva Gastronomy Award for a lifetime devoted to quality cuisine.
It all started out when Quimet Rexach and Rosario Surós decided to open up a repair shop, petrol station and bar in this town in the province of Barcelona. They soon started to offer food in the bar, then their daughters, Paquita and Lolita, took up the culinary profession and, years later, took over the management of the establishment. The plan was always to use local products to produce simple dishes that would be enjoyed by their customers.
Little has changed today. The two sisters continue to run the business and, except for some alterations in the dining-room and the award of a Michelin star in 2004, it is true to say that the Hispania customers continue coming for the same reasons as they did decades ago - quality ingredients, friendly service and traditional flavors. Over the years, this has become a necessary port of call for people who love home cooking and the typical Catalonian products. According to Paquita and Lolita, techniques (used with moderation), presentations and cooking times are the keys to the Catalan dishes they produce - salt cod fritters, Llavaneres peas with black butifarra sausage, cuttlefish with potatoes, suquet (a fish stew), a surf and turf dish made of chicken with crayfish, chicken soup with meat balls, country-style chicken, and broad beans Catalan-style. The essence of Catalonia on the table.