Understand how the Spanish cuisine fits in to the rhythms of the day, and find out about the most famous dishes of the country…
Breakfast: A cup of strong black coffee and something sweet like a cookie or ensaimada, a yeasted sweet bread from Majorca, is the norm. A magdalena, a type of cupcake, has dunkability, while croissants have also found their way to the breakfast table.
Lunch: La comida remains the main meal of the Spanish day and rarely takes place before 14:00, or even later at weekends. Plan to be in it for the long haul with multiple courses: a typical lunch menu involves soup (vegetable or seafood), a fish or meat course, salad and dessert (pastry or fresh fruit), followed by coffee and perhaps even a brandy.
Evening meal: La cena is usually a lighter affair – think soup or tapas – and normally starts around 21:00, often stretching through until midnight.
- Boquerones fritos: Fried anchovies; the tiny ones are eaten whole
- Escalivada: Marinated vegetable mix featuring aubergine and red pepper
- Gambas: Prawns sautéed in the likes of garlic, peppercorn or chilli sauce
- Champiñones al ajillo: Mushrooms fried in olive oil with garlic and parsley
- Chorizo: The famous sausage served unadulterated in chunks or cooked slowly in wine (al vino)
- Albóndigas con salsa de tomate: Meatballs in tomato sauce: a classic
Five Famous Spanish Cheeses
- Cabrales: A blue veined stinker matured for up to half a year in the caves of the Picos de Europa. Careful, it’s powerful. Has its own DO.
- Mahón: Named after its hometown on Minorca, Mahón is a hard, salty cow’s milk cheese that develops an orange rind after being rubbed with paprika.
- Idiazábal: A smoky character from the Basque Country made, like most Spanish cheese, from sheep’s milk.
- Manchego: The “big cheese” of Spanish cheese, with its suggestion of salty piquancy, has a deserved DO. Often served marinated in olive oil as a tapas dish.
- Afuega’l pitu: An Asturian DO cheese, fed with a little salt before being matured on wooden planks. The name derives from a tendency to glue itself to the roof of the mouth.
Christmas: The main meal is served for supper on Nochebuena, December 24th. Traditionalists dine on roast capon or turkey, stuffed with chestnuts in Galicia, apples in Asturias and a mixture of plums, raisins and pine nuts in Catalonia. Artichokes are served with a béchamel or almond sauce. Suckling pig is growing in popularity as an alternative. Turrón, the Andalusian nougat, is a Christmas favourite.
Epiphany: Children tuck into tortell de reis, the cake of kings. The ring-shaped cake contains a coin or a bean and the one who finds the prize gets to wears a crown for the day. In Valencia, children leave a tray with turrón, sugared almonds and sweet sherry to fortify the three Magi on their return journey to the East.
Easter: Roast suckling pig, kid and lamb are traditional. Catalonians tuck into doughnuts on Good Friday, followed by mona de Pasqua, a yeasted cake, on Easter Monday.
- La Festa do Chourizo de Vila de Cruces: Celebrating the humble chorizo sausage in Vila de Cruces, Galicia: February
- Fiesta del Bollo: In honour of pastry, Avilés, Asturias: Easter Sunday and Monday
- Feria de Tabaco y el Pimiento: It’s all about tobacco and paprika in Jaraíz de La Vera, Extremadura: August
- Fiesta del Pulpo: Eight legs are better than two at the octopus festival in Carballiño, Galicia: August
- Las Jornadas del Olivar y Aceite: Olive and olive oil festival in Baena, Andalusia: November
- Fiesta de la Castaña Pujerra: Andalusia says hoorah for the chestnut: November