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The Secrets of Spanish Cuisine

Aug 17, 2007
Spanish cuisine originated in a fascinating country that features a culturally diverse and elaborate history that has evolved over hundreds of years. With literally thousands of recipes and dishes using a variety of ingredients and spices, Spanish cuisine offers something for just about everyone's tastes.

Spain is a rather mountainous region, with several ranges running throughout the country in different directions. These mountains once acted as barriers that inhibited transportation and communication from one area to the next. For this reason, the Spanish people had to be creative with the ingredients they had on hand, making most Spanish cuisine simple, uncomplicated and yet utterly delicious. This is also why Spanish cooking differs so much from one portion of the country to another.

Most Spanish cuisine is actually still prepared today just as it was a few hundred years ago, using the same ingredients and cooking methods. Throughout the years, influences from American and European foods became popular, with a Spanish flair, of course, creating an ever wider variety of tasty dishes. Today in the northern region of the country, meats and foods high in animal fats are a popular part of the diet, while in the southern portion there is more of a Mediterranean influence to the local cooking styles and cuisine.

The components of Spanish cuisine varies widely even today from geographical region to region, however, there are two main ingredients that remain a constant throughout the country; garlic and olive oil. Most Spanish recipes call for the use of olive oil or sometimes lard, but extra virgin olive oil is usually highly recommended.

Spain happens to be one of the world's leading producers of olive oil as olives can be seen growing all over the southern portion of the land. The country is also known all around the world as being famous for its wine and many food festivals and fiestas. It is here that the tasty wine Sangria was first developed as an alternative to the simple grape wine.

Garlic and saffron are perhaps the most commonly used of the herbs and spices, but oregano, thyme and rosemary are also used frequently. Fish and seafood are also a big part of the meals prepared here as the country is surrounded by water on three sides. Local markets and restaurants offer everything from halibut to shrimp or even octopus.

To prepare most Spanish cuisine, you will need several large pots and deep frying pans along with numerous spatulas, tongs and serving spoons. Many recipes call for all of the meats to be cooked together as stews are one of the most prevalent types of dishes of Spanish cuisine. Deep serving dishes with lids will also be needed for Spanish soups. And many chefs will also use a coffee grinder to mix and grind the various spices and herbs that are used.

Stews are such an important part of Spanish cuisine that there are several words used to describe it. Cocido, pote, olla, guiso, estofado or escudella are all terms for stew. La escudella i carn d'olla, which is made from rice, noodles, vegetables and potatoes, and Pilota, a combination of beef, eggs, white beans and bread are other common choices among the local Spanish people.

Butifarra is a type of regional sausage that can be found in some areas along with a specially prepared pie called Empanada Gallega made from vegetables and either meats or fish. Chopped pork, roasted lamb, blood pudding and red beans, known as Ibeas are other common dishes eaten in Spain. And a pork sausage made with paprika called chorizo is a huge favorite among the Spanish people.

Spanish cuisine is also famous for its many sweet and decadent desserts as well. Tarta Compostelana made from almonds is a most popular choice as well as a host of other treats made with almonds such as cookies, cakes and pastries. In addition to wine, Spain is also one of the top producers of nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, and, of course, almonds.
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