Gourmet Delights In Southern Spain

Published on 29/08/2011 in Spanish Lifestyle

Stories abound about first-time visitors to Spain complaining vociferously at being served "cold soup". Their protests often die on their lips at the second taste of gazpacho.

In the heat of an Andalusian summer, no dish so aptly suits the location as this chilled liquid salad, a delicious blend of tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion, olive oil and vinegar, garnished with anything from chopped cucumber to small croutons.

Southern Spain's cuisine has many surprises, most of them agreeable. Andalusia has first-rate produce and an increasingly number of good restaurants serving them in the proper style. An interesting development is the recuperation of dishes created by the Moors.

Seville can offer a wide range of regional dishes as well as the usual international fare, but many specialities are easier to find as snacks in tapas bars than in restaurants. (Tapas are the snacks traditionally served when you order a glass of beer of wine.) There you may get sizzling huevos a la flamenca (baked eggs with asparagus, sausage and peppers). Or callos (veal tripe braised with chick peas).

Then there are pinchitos (marinated pork kebabs), chocos con habas (fried squid and beans), quails' eggs, riñones al Jerez (kidneys in sherry sauce) and other delights.

Chocos con habasAs in the rest of Spain, fresh fish is an obsession. Clams, crayfish, tuna, red mullet, sardines, octopus are trucked in daily to Seville from the Atlantic coast.

An evening of gourmet pleasure in Seville might start with one or two chilled glasses of fino (dry sherry) or manzanilla (a sherry matured in the sea-breezes of Sanlucar de Barrameda).

A good accompaniment would be tapas of plump Seville olives, jamón serrano (cured ham), grilled shrimps, or criadillas (sautéed calves' testicles). This last was a favourite dish of the dictator Primo de Rivera - when he attended bullfights, he would order a plateful from the first bull of the afternoon.

Finally sitting down to business, a sevillano might order gazpacho, followed by a fritura de pescados (a mixture of fried hake, sole, anchovies and squid).

Southern Spain's wines are most famed as aperitifs or after-dinner drinks, but there are some excellent light table whites. They include Viña Verde from Montilla, Odiel from Huelva, and Castillo de San Diego from Cadiz.

Red wine from Rioja or the Ribera del Duero is ideal company for a main course like pato a la sevillana (duck cooked in a casserole with white wine, olives, an orange, onion, carrots and parsley), or rabo de toro a la sevillana (ox tails flamed, braised and spiced).

After this sort of fare, Southern Spain's desserts can prove an anti-climax, although their names promise plenty. Sweet tooths go into ecstasies over tocino del cielo (heavenly bacon), made from egg yolk and sugar, and brazo gitano (gypsy's arm), creamy cake roll.

Finish off with a Malaga wine, an oloroso or a cream sherry. After that come coffee, thick and black, and the brandies of Jerez.

Written by: David Baird

About the author:

David Baird, a British journalist long resident in southern Spain, has written for leading newspapers and magazines around the world. His books include travel, guides, history and fiction. His most recent publications are Typhoon Season (fiction), Don't Miss The Fiesta! (fiction) and Between Two Fires (documentary about a guerrilla war in the Franco era). See http://maromapress.wordpress.com.

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