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Madrid, Spain

Phone: (+34) 913 205 911
Fax: (+34) 913 205 911

Spanish Cuisine

Spain is a country that truly enjoys it's food. There's really no such thing as "typical" Spanish cooking. Food in Spain is as varied as its climate, cultures and geography. Most regional dishes are based on quality local ingredients and a relatively simple preparation. Little by little I'll be adding local recipes to this section for you to try.

The best known "tourist dish" is probably paella, a rice dish which comes from the Mediterranean area around Valencia. If you want genuine paella, you'll find it in Valencia, or (sometimes) in a specialty restaurant in Madrid or Barcelona. The typical tourist paella bears little (or no) resemblance to the real thing.

In the big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, you'll find every type of regional cuisine and some great restaurants. Despite it's distance from the sea, Madrid (for example) has some of the best fish restaurants in all of Europe.

For those who really like to eat, the Basque country is a must. In Bilbao, San Sebastian and Pamplona, you'll find some of the best food anywhere. Go with a good appetite, and try the "merluza" (hake) or the "bacalao" (cod).

When in doubt in most parts of Spain, the lamb is almost always a good option. And (whatever you do) don't forget to wash down the local specialties with the local wine :)

Other comments:

Remember that Spaniards are accustomed to dine in several courses:

Apetizer:	Cured ham, oysters, shrimp, etc.
Starter:	Soup, salad or vegetable dish
Main course:	Meat or fish
Dessert:	fruit, sweet or cheese
Coffee:		Normally expresso type coffee

This "cuisine page" is still in its infancy, but for starters let's look
at a basic list of the most typical regional dishes:

- Valencia (Mediterranean)		"paella" and other rice dishes

- Galicia (Northwest)			shellfish, fish and good beef

- Asturias (Northwest)			"fabada" bean stew

- Andalucia (South)			"gazpacho" and fried fish

- Central plateau			great baby lamb

- Cataluña (NE Mediterranean)		fish, shellfish and "butifarra"
- Basque country (North)		everything's good

Some Recipes to Get Started

Amelia's Pressure-Cooker Paella

From the start, I'll say the is not a "real" paella - but is certainly a practical subsitute for home use. This is designed for a pressure-cooker, but can be cooked in a normal pan - cooking time is longer.


  • 1/2 Chicken cut in medium-sized chunks
  • Shrimp or prawns
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste (or puree)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • A pinch of saffron (or: paprika or yellow food coloring)
  • 1 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 3/4 cups hot "shrimp water"
  • Green beans and/or lima beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Lightly cook green beans (or limas) in salted water. Peel shrimp. Boil the shells (only the shells) in salted water to make the "shrimp water".
  • Brown chicken pieces and garlic in hot olive oil; Add tomato paste, cook over high heat until it begins to stick.
  • Reduce heat, add rice, green beans, saffron, and shrimp. Mix well, add "shrimp water".
  • Cover pressure-cooker and raise to high heat. When pressure is up, reduce to low heat, and cook for exactly 8 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, leave in cooker for 10-12 minutes, uncover and serve with a nice Spanish wine.
Notes and comments:
  • Don't scrimp on olive oil or salt - both are important for the right taste.
  • Don't over cook - the rice should be "al dente" (but not too hard)
  • You can use a variety of meats (or fish) as alternatives. Possible vegetables include peas and artichokes - which can blacken the rice, but are just great.
  • If you don't use shrimp, substitute vegetable water for "shrimp water".

Pollo al Cava

This is a family favorite, juicy pieces of chicken breast fried to a golden brown and sauteed in Spain's special bubbly - Cava. It's easy to prepare and a great way to use up that bottle of Cava which has lost its fizz. It makes it's own delicious sauce, with no extra effort.


  • 2 Chicken breasts, sliced 1/4" thick and cut in medium-sized pieces
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Flour
  • 1/4 cup Cava
  • Salt and pepper chicken pieces
  • Dredge in flour (or shake pieces in a plastic bag with the flour)
  • Heat olive oil in frying pan
  • Brown chicken on both sides
  • Add cava and lemon juice over chicken
  • Simmer 10-12 minutes, move pan & turn pieces to mix and make the sauce
  • Add more cava or a little water as needed to make a nice thick sauce
  • Serve with boiled potatoes or white rice
  • Don't skrimp on the oil, it gives flavor and browns nicely
  • You can also use boned chicken thighs
  • Use your favorite spices - like chile or curry
  • Any white wine will be OK, sherry also works well

Stuffed peppers - Rioja style

This is in fact a typical dish in the north of Spain: especially Rioja and the Basque regions.

The preparation is in 3 phases: 1. Sauce, 2. Stuffing, 3. Cooking and Presentation. The recipe I have is main course for 6 people and uses a type of small red pepper - "pimiento del piquillo" - which is often canned. They're sweet peppers, but have just a touch of "hot". You'll probably need to use sweet red peppers as a substitute - they're bigger so you'll only need 4 or 5 for this quantity of stuffing.

Important: If the peppers are fresh, they'll need to be oven roasted and have the skin removed before you start with this recipe. If you use the canned variety, you can use them straight out of the can.

(For those who are not used to metric recipes, 0.5 kilo is about 1 lb, and 0.1 liter is just under 4 fluid ounces.)

1. The sauce


  • 0.1 lt. of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 spoonfull of flour (tablespoon)
  • 0.5 kilo of ripe tomato
  • 0.2 lt. of white wine
  • 1 small spoonfull paprika (teaspoon)
  • 0.25 kilo onion
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • salt

Lightly brown chopped garlic in hot oil; add chopped onion and cook over low heat for 15 min. Add flour, paprika and stir; add diced tomato, laurel, wine and a little salt. Cook slowly for 15 min., stirring from time to time; strain sauce and set aside.

2. The stuffing


  • 2 spoonfulls of breadcrumbs (tablespoon)
  • 1 egg
  • 0.5 kilo finely ground pork
  • 2 spoonfulls of chopped parsley (tablespoon)
  • 0.25 kilos onion
  • 1 cup of cognac or brandy
  • 2 spoonfulls of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Slowly cook finely chopped onion in oil, until soft and slightly golden color. Let cool.
  • Mix cooled onion, meat, breadcrumbs, egg, cognac, parsley, salt and pepper into a compact mass. Divide into portions for each pepper; and fill peppers with stuffing.
Cooking and Presentation:
  • A. Dredge stuffed peppers in flour, then in beaten egg. Fry in a small amount of olive oil at low heat until golden brown.

  • B. Place fried stuffed peppers in caserole, cover with sauce and cook in oven at medium temperature for about 15 minutes. Serve hot.
It sounds a little complicated, but it's not so bad. This can be prepared ahead and you only need to do step "B" just before serving.

This is in fact the basis for many other typical Spanish dishes - the sauce made from onion, garlic, tomato, etc. is seen in many other recipes. The battered and fried vegetables are also typical of northern Spanish cooking.

Fritada - Rioja's own sauce

Throughout Spain, you'll find a variety of dishes "A La Riojana". The key to these tasty dishes is the Rioja style sauce known as "fritada". Fritada is easy to prepare and adds a nice touch to meat, fish and vegetable recipes.

  • Green pepper
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Finely chop two or three cloves of Garlic and Onion
  • Dice Green Pepper
  • Peel and dice Tomato
  • Cover the bottom of frying pan with a thick layer of oil, fry garlic and onion on med-high heat until golden brown.
  • Add Green Pepper and cook 5 mins or so
  • Reduce heat, add Tomato, cook 'til tomato is done (stirring often so it doesn't stick)
  • Add Salt to taste
That's it. It's easy enough and you can use it on meat, fish, or vegetable dishes. For example - brown pork chops in oil, add "fritada" and simmer for a few minutes. Once again, don't skrimp on the olive oil!

Crema Catalana - a great dessert

Crema Catalana is typical of Catalonia, but found in good restaurants all over Spain. It's essentially a light custard, caramelized on top. It's easy enough to make and a real treat.

  • 1 liter milk
  • 8 egg yokes
  • 10 soup spoons sugar
    (6 for the Crema, 4 to burn)
  • Peel of a lemon
  • 1 1/2 to 2 soup spoons corn starch
  • Put milk on to boil with 4 spoons sugar and lemon peel.
  • Meanwhile, beat egg yokes, 2 spoons sugar and corn starch in a bowl until smooth.
  • When milk just reaches a boil, spoon hot milk and slowly over the egg-sugar-corn starch mixture. Once this is done, return mixture to the saucepan and cook slowly for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
  • Once cooked, strain into individual servings and chill.
  • Once chilled, sprinkle with sugar and caramelize with a red-hot iron.
Note: In Spain you can find round patterned flat irons with a handle, especially made for the task of caramelizing (burning) the sugar on top. While these make a prettier pattern, any hot piece of iron (poker, etc.) will do the job.


Jens Riis {13 Nov 1997}