Top 10 Spanish Food – and some to be avoided!
We have lived in Spain now for just over 17 years. Its had its ups and downs but we wouldn’t go back to the ‘old country’ unless I had to. We have nothing against the UK, we just love it living here.
Things were strange at first, the language for a start. I had gone to night school at Barrow 6th Form to take basic Spanish lessons. It was all pointless as the class was so big, everyone had a question to ask and time just got wasted.
Instead, I bought myself a do-it-yourself BBC Spanish lessons called ‘España Viva!’. I would listen with headphones on whilst following the lessons in the book. This was much better and a lot easier than the Bedlam in the classrooms.
Still, by the time I got to Spain, my Spanish wasn’t that good and the problem was compounded by the local dialect. They knock ‘S’ off most words, cut and join others, don’t pronounce the double’R’ sound and generally babble in the Spanish equivalent of Glaswegian!
Spanish Food Andalucia Style
The same could also be said about the food. I’m a bit of a dab-hand in the kitchen and I would often have a go at Spanish dishes, such as Paella, Bulls Tail and so on. What we were not prepared for was some of the more traditional local dishes and the methods used to cook them.
Our friend a neighbour, Javier, decided to show us around the Malaga area where we lived and to point out a few landmarks. One of the places we stopped off was a small town which had no more than a few streets, a church and 3 bars/restaurants, this was Salinas.
At the bar, we got a drink and Javier asked the barman for a tapas of ‘Callos’. We were given a small dish which contained something looking like Oxtail stew. Javier saw we were a bit suspicious of this offering and asked us to at least try it. To our amazement, this ‘Callos’ tasted great, it really did taste like oxtail stew.
Hower; when he told us what it was made from, we went a tad green about the gills. Tripe! ‘Callos’ is Spanish Tripe! and, just in case you don’t know what tripe is, it is a type of edible lining from the stomachs of various farm animals. Most tripe is from cattle and sheep but Javier said it was also all the other bits and pieces, like the pig’s snout, ears and arse! That was, as they say, our starter for 10.
I also saw a guy in one of the main restaurants eating what looked for all the world like a goats head, split in two and bunged under the grill. As it turns out, that is exactly what it was! He was chowing down on goats head, brains and all.
The Matanza: Slaughter
About March time the ‘Matanza’ takes place. This is a bad time to be a pig around our area, its the time they get made into sausages, pork chops and all sorts of other things (Callos, for instance). In the old days, as we were told, the people would do their own slaughtering and butchery. Sausages and other meats would be cut and stored.
It’s around about the Matanza time that you should be careful about the tapas. One such tapa is called ‘Sesos’. This delightful morsel of Andalucian culinary art looks like a fillet of chicken in breadcrumbs. It is, in reality, sliced brains, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried.
Again, I was caught out when I asked what it was. I was told it was a fillet that was deep fried and it was delicious and I should try it. How I laughed when they explained what it really was!
Since then, I have had a go at most things that were on offer. Pigs cheeks (beautiful when slow cooked in the oven) bulls tail, Octopus, Squid, Rabbit, goat and more.
Some things I just can’t eat, such as the Chorizo sausage in lard! JIbia (Cuttlefish) and the boiled Octopus, Criadillas (the testicles of Pigs etc) Porra Fria (cold stew-looking gunk with egg). There are more but I would rather concentrate on the good stuff.
So, my top ten Spanish foods are as followed
- Bulls / Ox Tail (Rabo de Toro) Oxtail is the culinary name for the tail of cattle. Formerly, it referred only to the tail of a steer. An oxtail typically weighs 7 to 8 lbs. and is skinned and cut into short lengths for sale. Oxtail is gelatin-rich meat, which is usually slow-cooked as a stew or braised. It is a traditional stock base for a soup.
- Cheeks (Carrillada) Whether beef cheeks or Iberian pork cheeks, carrillada is a star of Spanish cuisine. The relatively lean, moist cut of meat that comes from the cheek of the animal is a fantastic cut that is usually served braised in a variety of delicious sauces all around Spain
- Trout (Trucha) At our local, El Cortijuelo Restaurant, they serve fresh trout in herbs. It really is fantastic.
- Chivo con Ajo (Kid Goat in Garlic) This is a fantastic dish. If you have never eaten goat then you really should try this dish. here it is served as a tapas or main meal. Just like lamb but less fatty.
- Spit Roasted Ham (Jamon Asado). Again, from our local, there is always a spit-roasted ham on the go. It is always available as a tapas or main meal. Coated in spices and piping hot.
- BBQ’d Bream (Dorada) This fish dish is second to none. You will find this in most restaurants and definitely at any Chringuito (beach restaurant). Done on the BBQ and served with some salad and bread. Pure heaven on a plate.
- Paella (Rice). Paella is actually the name of the pan the dish is cooked in. Rice is the correct name, although, even in Spain, ‘Paella’ is used to describe the food. There are many different versions of paella, in our area, the countryside, you will find rabbit and chicken in the paella. Here, the guest of honour gets the head of the rabbit. (As my father-in-law found out!). The best paella is reputedly at Ayo’s Chiringuito in Nerja.
- Suckling Pig (Cochinillo) Done in a wood-burning oven, this is a beautiful dish for a celebration. Around the festive season, you will find the supermarkets have plenty of little piggies in stock.
- Iberican Pork (Secreto de Iberico) This is a beautiful cut of pork that is fantastic on the BBQ. It has wonderful marbling of fat. On the BBQ and with some chips.
- Aubergine with Honey (Berenjenas con Miel) Deep fried aubergines with honey. This is a fantastic starter to share with friends. Piping hot and very sweet.
Everyone has their own favourite Spanish Food
That is my top 10 Spanish dishes, maybe! There are so many great dishes out there that it would be an impossible task to say for definite.
I know the pigs brain or his goolies are not in the top 10, I can say that with some conviction. If you do pass by Villanueva del Trabuco, please, do call into one of the many great places to eat and give the local dishes a try. You’ll be happy you did.