Understanding Andalusian Cuisine:
from Desayunos to Tapas
Andalusian cuisine has been influenced by a multitude of flavours, from North African, to Moors, Christians, Jews, and Romans. The history of Andalusia is all within the food served here. A strongly agricultural region Andalusia is deeply influenced by the land and the sea. Most of us have heard of tapas but Andalusian food is so much more than that. The region allows for the harvesting of 5 plantings of most fruit and veg per year, this means that strawberries, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, leeks, and a cornucopia of fruit and veg are available year round. There is also the incredible healthy olives and olive oils, Iberico and Serrano Jamons, almonds, and seafood not seen in Canada and the U.S.A.
There is quite a bit of variation within the cuisine but some dishes remains classics. Usually every restaurant will serve a Menu del Dia which simply means Menu of the Day and will include 3 courses. The majority of restaurants will also serve tapas when you order an alcoholic based drink, for every drink you may get one free tapas or in some cases you can order different tapas for around €1-2 per tapa.
It can be a bit confusing if you are new to the area but the Spanish have a very different way of eating throughout the day with their heaviest meal at what we consider lunchtime. Here is how a typical Andalusian day would go.
Breakfast/Desayuno generally from 7am until 11am
Unlike our heavier North American or United Kingdom style breakfasts the Spanish tend to prefer a much lighter fare and a sweeter one. The Spanish love a freshly squeezed orange juice (naranja) and coffee for breakfast.
Coffee in Andalusia is quite different than coffee elsewhere in Spain there are very distinct differences particularly in the Malaga area as the photo demonstrates.
These are some of the coffee variations to choose from:
Café Solo is a strong, black espresso.
Café Americano basically a shot of espresso with hot water to give a milder cup of coffee.
Café Cortado is an espresso with a splash of milk
Cafe Manchao is a few drops of milk in your coffee
Cafe Nube is just enough coffee to flavour hot milk
Cafe Sombra slightly more coffee than nube contains
Café con Hielo an espresso served with a glass of ice to pour the coffee over..
Café con Leche is equal parts steamed milk and espresso.
Churros & chocolate:
Similar to the donut and coffee breakfast in N.A the Spanish like their churros crispy and served with a sweet hot chocolate drink that tastes like a melted milk chocolate bar. Delicious when you dip your churro into your chocolate or simply sprinkle sugar on the churro and dip into your Cafe con leche.
Tostada con aceite y tomate
A tostada is simply a toasted bun or pitufo that has been drizzled with olive oil, the bun is then topped with pureed fresh tomato and if you want you can add queso (cheese) or jamon (ham). You can order a media which is a half order or a full order. The pitufo is an oblong shaped thin crusty roll that is around 7-8 inches in length.
from 11am until around noon the Spanish take a break to hold them over until dinner. This is usually a snack of a small sandwich or bocadillo but you have to save your appetite for lunch that is the Spanish main meal of the day.
Lunch/Almuerzo also known as La Comida
Lunch usually takes place from around 2pm until 4pm and don’t forget many Spanish areas still have siesta from 2-5pm. This is the main meal of the day, so keep your eyes out for the menú del día or set menu. These are generally a set price from around 8 Euros and up and include a soup or salad, bread, a main meal of fish or meat, a beverage, then coffee and dessert.
I have to say a word or more here about Andalusian cold soups – can I just say from a die hard fan of a hot soup I debated trying the Spanish soups but they are simply amazing. Fresh, light, filled with flavour a wonderful taste treat that you should try immediately.
Gazpacho is a cold soup made from, tomato, onion, cucumber, green peppers, breadcrumbs, salt, oil and vinegar. Additional chopped cucumber, croutons and pepper are added to taste and served on the side so you can help yourself. They add a delicious crunch and fresh burst of flavour.
Salmorejo is a cold, creamy tomato soup, originating in Córdoba, Spain and is Gazpacho’s “cousin.” Made with tomatoes, bread, oil, garlic and vinegar, it is a beautiful deep pink-orange, summer soup that is sure to refresh. Garnish with diced Serrano or Iberico ham and hard-boiled eggs.
Cold white garlic soup or “sopa de ajo blanco” is zesty, but very refreshing. It is easy, quick and healthy. Although very creamy, it contains no dairy! Almonds give this soup its creamy white texture and color. It is served with diced apple and raisins on the side which add a hint of sweet freshness to the soup.
Unlike North Americans or the Brits dinner is not served in Spain until quite late. From 5-7pm is the time is when people go out for their paseo or afternoon stroll around town, and also when folks stop for some people watching and a cold beverage or coffee..
Dinner or La Cena usually takes place from 9pm-midnight. This is a much lighter version of lunch with a set menu as well. Many Spanish however simply go out for raciones or larger versions of Tapas. Similar to ordering Chinese food raciones are simply larger portions of the single tapas. It could be a plate of grilled sardines or anchovies, a platter of honey drizzed eggplant or some deep fried squid rings.
There are four classifications of Jamón Ibérico, made from the Ibérico breed pig. The classifications reflect the breed of pig, the percent of pure Ibérico genetics in the pig and the quantity of acorns they eat (the word “acorns” is translated as “bellota”).
Ibérico de Bellota hams are from Ibérico pigs that are essentially free range and live outdoors most of their lives. In the last three months before they are butchered they spend their time feasting on the acorns in the region of Dehesa. The ham is then cured and left to age for up to 4 years.
The ham that is produced from these pigs is unique in the world: it is a nutty, rich melt in your mouth slice. The ham is deeply marbled with fat which contains healthy mono triglycerides (like olive oil) that melt at room temperature.Jamón Ibérico de Bellota as is known as the “Beluga caviar of hams.”
Durac & Landrace Breed Pigs
Jamón Serrano comes from white pigs of the Duroc or Landrace breeds. These pigs are raised on farms, rather than open ranges, and fed a diet of cereals. They are cured in Spain for 8 months to two years.
Tapa are generally speaking small plates of a variety of appetizers (served all over Spain but highly praised here in Andalusia) that can be ordered direct from the menu in some restaurants or Tapas Bars these usually come at a cost of one Euro or so. Some places offer a small selection of 4 or 5 tapas that are free with a drink.
If you are a total cheesehead like me you will have experienced the Spanish delight called Manchego cheese, with although it is made in the Western part of Spain, it is celebrated all over the country. Manchego is an unpasteurized sheeps cheese that comes in several forms from a soft cheese to a hard cured wheel. You can read all about Alison’s trip to a fantastic cheese festival in Trujillo, on her blog Up&AtEm Travel. Trujillo is in the Western part of Spain if you feel like travelling further afield.
If you really want to explore Andalusian Cuisine then you need to look into some of the awesome food tours that are available. This information is taken from their websites and a fantastic way to really experience the food of this region with experts.
In 2012 I embarked on the biggest challenge of my life thus far. I started a small food tour company called Madrid Food Tour. Starting a business in Spain wasn’t easy, and I’m proud to say that my company has grown to become Devour Tours. We currently offer food, wine and tapas tours in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Malaga, Granada, and Santiago. Our mission is to connect travelers to small, family-run food businesses and show them the depth of local culture. We give our guests an insider’s view of the city, complete with the story of what we’re eating and why. The journey has been both exhilarating and exhausting. If you’re visiting Spain we’d love to have you join us!
We specialize in organizing private culinary tours and activities across Spain for foodie travelers and food professionals willing to experience the authentic taste of Spain.
A Taste of Spain is a boutique travel agency run by a team of Spaniards with extensive experience in promoting the gastronomy and gourmet foods from Spain. We love sharing our knowledge, contacts and passion for the culinary culture of our country, providing a personalized service to grant that each client enjoys the true flavors of Spain at his own pace.
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Want to read more on Spanish cuisine and events click here – lot’s more to come
Read about Semana Santa in Salobrena here
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