No one can deny that national cuisine in most of the countries is one of the things that might alert tourists’ attention, and Spain is not an exception. As any Mediterranean country it combines features of its neighbors; in particular, it is related to France and Italy, being one of the best in the world for quality and variety of products. In contrast, it is impossible to talk seriously about the existence of ethnic cuisine, but it is more appropriate to consider a number of regional cuisines, each of which was influenced by climatic conditions and lifestyle. In general, Spanish cuisine is likely to use such techniques as quenching in wine (red in the south and west of the country and white in the east), baking with feta cheese and roasting on a lattice (grill). Specific for all regional cuisines is the widespread use of green sage and crushed walnuts. Before starting the checkup of main peculiarities of regional cooking traditions it will be helpful to clarify its common issues and dishes:
1.Paella is a Valencia rice dish, which in its modern form emerged in the mid-19th century. The majority of non-Spaniards consider paella as Spanish national dish in contrast to Spaniards’ conviction that this dish is exclusively Valencia and is believed to be a symbol of the region.
2.Jamon (Hamon) appears to be the Spanish name of ham, delicatessen, jerked pork ham.
3.Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried squid).
4.Spain is a cheese country, where wide distribution is achieved by firm cheeses (Idiazabel, Majon, Manchego), fresh cheeses (Afuega’l pitu, Mato), blue cheeses (Cabrales, Picón Bejes-Tresviso) and cream cheeses.
5.Without any doubt wine is the basic element of all and each of the regional cuisines of Spain. Spain, along with France and Italy, appear to be three of the largest wine producers in the world.
Catalan cuisine has absorbed all that is best in Mediterranean cuisine. Basically, it is amazingly simple, based on maintaining an authentic taste of seasonal products, and traditional in its core. The Catalans are people who think in contrasts. They like to combine the incompatible ingredients and mix a myriad of using all that fresh that appears on the market. The most typical of this area is the cuisine called «Mar i Muntanya», which means «sea and mountain». This is a delicious and unusual way of mixing seafood with meat products. Such combinations include pork and scallops, tuna soup with snails, rabbit and chicken with crayfish. It is also important to note that it is here hot pepper sauce romesco is served, traditional flavored goulash with saffron, seafood, tomatoes and potatoes, which are often sprinkled on top with alioli («ali» means «garlic» and «oli» – olive oil).
Galicia (in the north-west, the Atlantic coast) is a center of fishery industry, which delivers the best seafood, especially scallops, which are known as «a symbol of Santiago.» In the city of Santiago de Compostela there is a tomb of the apostle of Santiago, and a traditional Spanish almond cake originated here, which is always decorated with a sword in the memory of the saint. The king of all dishes, of course, the octopus in Galician or pulpo a la feria, cooked in traditional copper pot, and is served on a wooden stand with potatoes, finely chopped, sprinkled with large sea salt and paprika. One more thing to taste is wines, which include also specific ones; particularly, besides simple fishermen wines, Albarino (Albariño) draws a big attention, being the white one with flavors of apricot, peach, almonds, apples and fresh herbs.
One more rich seafood region is the Basque Country, where the basic principle of cooking is a minimum of hot spices, but fresh products only. In almost every bar you will find tapas and every good restaurant participates in a competition for the best tapas of the year. However,tapas can be replaced by gambas pil pil (prawns fried in olive oil) and champerniogne pil pil (mushrooms, roasted with garlic), which are served in low round ceramic plates. Travelers also may try piperada – soft scrambled eggs with red pepper, tomatoes and garlic. San Sebastian in the Bay of Biscay is a popular fishing port from which the traditional salted cod (balacao) is provided. A special popularity is gained by cod in garlic sauce, fins of the sea pike, huge burgers made from beef on the grill and fry of the eel. There are many truffles and fresh mushrooms in the cuisine, which are fried, baked in casseroles or put in a pie. A big choice of cheeses might be a considerable question for both locals and tourists. It is worth tasting a traditional for this area cheese sort Idiazabalmade from raw sheep’s milk solely and is fermented for at least two months to acquire a delicate creamy taste.
The old and new Castile is a home of many traditional Spanish dishes, where chickpeas (nutes), beans, chorizo and pisto (paste of garlic, herbs and olive oil) are in favor. The distinctive feature of this cuisine is held in Arabic influence; particularly, nutes are imported initially by Carthaginians. Traditional potato tortilla (tortilla) also hails from this area as well as it is worth tasting local roasted suckling pig and lamb steak. The pig must be weighing from three to four pounds, and only 15-20 days old. To cook it an old oven is used, in which meat becomes more tender. Visiters should not forget about the magnificent fish dishes of this area. The most popular ones arebacalao al ajo arriero (cod with garlic sauce),dos y pingada (ham and eggs), arroz a la zamorana (ricein Samoranian) and sopa de ajo (garlic soup). Wine lovers can test local winery achievements of such areas as Ribera-del-Duero (sophisticated and expensive red and rose wines), Rueda (light, fresh and fruity white wines) and Toro (highly concentrated sorts).
Moroccan culture has made a huge impact on the Andalusia cuisine as far as the Moors helped locals to get acquainted with citrus,almond and rice for paella. Cold soup gaspachois bornin Andalusia. Today it is cooked with tomatoes, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and garlic in contrast to those times, when there were no tomatoes in Europe and gaspacho was prepared from white grapes and almonds, frayed along with Moorish mortar and pestle. Andalusia can also both with classic salad of oranges and remojon (salted cod), escabeche (pickled fish) and many tapas snacks.
To sum up, it is appropriate to admit that the whole variety of Spanish cuisine can be met in Madrid’s restaurants, where both mixed and solely regional cuisine might be tasted. As one can see an influence of both Europeans and Arabs is observed, which reflects Spanish history within cuisine boundaries. That is why Spanish cooking traditions are acknowledged as one of the tourist attractions in this country.
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