Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Tastes of Spain: Part 1

After another amazing trip to Italy, it was time to make our way back to Glasgow. But first we had to make a quick stop over in Barcelona. This was out first trip to Spain. We were excited about spending the last few days of our trip, eating tapas, drinking sangria and relaxing on the beach. 

As we walked the streets of Barcelona, I couldn’t help but notice the many influences in the food and drinks. Some of the bars and restaurants were very much influenced by Mexico, offering nachos, tortillas, enchiladas along with margaritas. Then I noticed the popularity of Mojitos and Caipirinha’s (Cuban cocktails) throughout many establishments. It’s not what I expected in Spain.  Despite the wide variety of food and drinks, there is one Spanish icon which is sold everywhere you go, Sangria. A Sangria is a mixer of red (or white) wine, fruit juices and chopped fruit pieces. It’s also common to add some herbs and spices to your sangria for extra flavour. If you’re interested in the history of the sangria, I covered it in a previous blog post (“The Sangria”).  

We were both very excited about trying a new cuisine during our time in Spain. No surprise one of the most popular dishes in Barcelona is 'Paella’. Paella is a simple dish which consists of rice, meat and vegetables, all mixed together and cooked in a large pan. In fact, the word “Paella” comes from the latin word ‘patella’ which means pan.  It was first served in Valencia in the mid-19th century, and today it is seen as Spain’s national dish.  Paella is not often cooked for only one person. It’s a dish which is made in large quantities with the idea being that you share your meal with the people you are with. The sharing philosophy is relevant to most of the food and drink in Spain. The sangria is shared amongst the group, as is the tapas and the paella.  

On this occasion, Cara and I decided to order the chicken paella to go with our sangria. But looking at the menu, there seemed to be endless choices of paella. Offerings of rabbit, duck, pork, seafood, vegetarian and even snail paella all seemed to be popular. It came out from the kitchen still sizzling. After our long day, we didn’t waste time waiting for it to cool down, we dug straight in. What we both loved about the paella is the level of flavour from such a simple dish. The chicken was well seasoned and marinated. This helped to also flavour the rice and vegetables. There was also a strong saffron flavour throughout the dish which is common in many paella’s. Coriander and thyme also featured  heavily in our meal.  There was also a nice smokey taste, which comes from cooking over an open fire. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. We knew that it would not be our last paella whilst we were in Spain.

It was a warm night in Barcelona, so after our meal, we walked back to the hotel enjoying a hot summers night, similar to Australia.  On our walk we reflected on the day and looked ahead to the rest of our time in Spain. We both agreed that we needed to seek out some quality spanish tapas before we leave. Many of the places we had passed were of course offering many dishes on their tapas menu, but we found it to be much like Italian anti-pasti. We wanted something different, something that we’d never seen nor tried before. So the search was on.   

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