Spanish food is for most foreigners only paella and sangria.
But Spanish cuisine is far more than the food served in restaurants on different tourist destinations in Spain. To try the authentic Spanish dishes and traditional Spanish cooking you should you look for the small local restaurants and bars. Even better if they offer a menu! Just dare to try something new: Walk in to a local bar and just order the menu and discover the real and authentic Spanish cuisine!
Spanish cooking is primarily based on the rich variety of fresh vegetables that the Mediterranean orchards supplies together with a wide selection of dried beans and lentils that traditionally are cooked as a stew and eaten with spoon. Chicken, meat, fish, seafood, shellfish, squid, mussels, clams and rice are also very common in many Spanish dishes.
The traditional starter in Spain is almost always a fresh salad. A typical Spanish salad is quite simple: Lettuce, tomato, onion and maybe some olives or tuna. That is after the olives and the bread that should be on the table only seconds after sitting down!
Olive oil is very important in Spanish cooking. The olive oil is used to season salads and vegetables, to fry and even instead of butter on bread or toasts. Garlic, peppers, tomatoes and parsley are also important ingredients in most Spanish dishes. Wine is also often used in Spanish cooking.
Spanish Food - Spanish food and Tapas are popular all around the world. The most famous Spanish dish is probably Paella, often if served on the beach, with a refreshing can of Sangria with fresh fruit but Spanish Tapas are also very trendy and very popular everywhere as well as the delicious Spanish ham: Jamon Serrano.
What is more unknown in other countries is Spanish Cheese: Forget about all other cheeses you know, if you just once try a real Manchego cheese you will never find something alike. Never mind if you like mild taste or if you prefer stronger cheeses: The creamy and at the same time spicy Spanish Manchego cheese is superior to all the rest!
Now, to buy a good Manchego cheese you need to know the difference between the different varieties: Queso tierno, semicurado, curado and viejo. That is from the mildest to the most mature variety. There is also a big difference depending on the kind of milk that has been used to produce the cheese: Goat, cheep or kow. Sometimes the milks are mixed but the very best Spanish Manchego cheese is made of pure goat milk. Second best from cheep. Of course that is if you like cheese with a strong taste.
Queso tierno is a quite fresh cheese. It is very creamy with a soft taste. It is perfect for breakfast and desert. If you serve it with fresh sweet green grapes and red wine your guests will really love you. In Spain we use to say: "Uvas con queso saben a beso". That means: Grapes with cheese tastes like kiss. An that is true!
Malaga tops in Andalusia in the Michelin Guide
The most discerning palates know that some of the best Spanish kitchens are to be found in Malaga. A good yardstick for measuring them is the yearly edition of the Michelin Guide, which gives and takes away the stars in the haute cuisine firmament. In Malaga the Michelin stars from the previous edition have been retained, a testament to the good health of Malaga gastronomy. Five of the eight most important standards of reference of Andalusian cuisine are in Malaga. The prestigious Michelin Guide has singled out for distinction, among others, the classic Café de París in Malaga and Tragabuches in Ronda, as well as its most recent additions: The restaurants El Lago, Calima and Skina in Marbella, which continue in the top ranking Michelin Guide.
The stars in the new edition of the Michelin Guide pertain to the Malaga residents Dani García - the restaurant Calima in Marbella; Benito Gómez - restaurant Tragabuches in Ronda, Celia Jiménez - restaurant El Lago in Marbella, José Carlos García - restaurant Café de París in Malaga - and to the Skina restaurant which is headed up by Daniel Rosado and Victor Trochi.
This award places them in the company of such great figures of Spanish cuisine as Ferrán Adriá, Martín Berasategui, Santi Santamaría, Carmen Ruscalleda, Pedro Subijana and José María Arzak. The distinctions that Michelin had previously awarded to the southern restaurants, a total of four, are retained in the Michelin Guide in 2009, with another now added in the heart of Marbella, making that city on Costa del Sol, with its three stars in this year’s guidebook, an absolute standard of gastronomic excellence.
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Spanish Paella (Valencia)
The real recipe of Spanish Paella. Paella is a recipe from the Valencia region and here goes the original recipe. Do not hesitate to change some of the ingredients if you wish. Paella can be prepared with almost any meats, fish, shellfish or seafood.
1 cup of olive oil. 1 chicken (diced). 1 rabbit (diced). 300 grams of fresh beans. Artichokes (peeled, cleaned and diced). 1 medium size tomato. 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika. Saffron. 6 cups of water. 200 grams of garrofón beans. (Big, flat beans). 12 to 16 snails properly cleaned. 3 cups of white short-grain rice. Salt to taste. Sprigs of rosemary and lemon slices.
Heat the olive oil in the paella dish or a wide, shallow frying pan. Sauté the chicken and rabbit for about 5 minutes. Add the beans, artichokes and tomato. Fry lightly for a few minutes. Add the paprika and let the mixture fry for one minute on very low heat. Dissolve the saffron in water and add this water to the paella dish/frying pan immediately. Add the garrafón beans and salt. Increase the heat and let everything boil for about 15 minutes. Add the snails and boil for another 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and spread it through the mixture in the frying pan. Let it boil for about 15 minutes and taste the broth. Add salt to taste if required. Add the rosemary during the last 7-8 minutes and let it cook in the paella for about 5 minutes before removing it. The paella is ready when the water has evaporated but the paella is not completely dry.
To make “socarrat” (when the base of the paella is slightly burned), allow the paella to cook longer.