Spanish Cuisine For Beginners

anneliese kiely
Anneliese Kiely, Masterchef finalist

Guru for August is Anneliese Kiely.  A Masterchef finalist in 2011, Anneliese runs La Cala Catering, based in Romsey, Hampshire. She is half spanish and is focusing for this month’s guru post on Spanish cuisine.

Food in Spain

Spanish food is essentially locally sourced and seasonal. Although this is something in vogue at the moment it has always been the way in Spain. In the central regions of Spain you will find a bounty of game meat. Galicia is renowned for its shellfish and stews and savoury pastries (empanadas), the South for its little fried fish and strong Muslim influence. The north has wonderful meat and fish and a generally high level of gastronomy. However, there are many dishes that you will find all over the country, albeit with regional variations, such as ‘cocido’ (the closest we have to this is the Irish boiled bacon with cabbage but this dish is much more elaborate and sophisticated in Spain). The versions from Madrid and Galicia are the most famous but in my opinion the Andaluz is most delicious. Rice dishes also vary in the seasoning used, quantity of stock and basic ingredients depending on the region.

Paella is a typical Sunday Lunch meal, weather permitting it can be cooked on the barbeque over firewood for extra flavour. Spanish omelette (tortilla de patatas) is cooked all over the country and is a typical supper dish. It is said that if accompanied by a tuna salad and some bread it contains all the food groups.

tortilla de patatas
tortilla de patatas – together with tuna salad and bread covers all food types

The Spanish don’t like to drink alcohol without eating, which is why tapas are so popular (tapas are known by different names in different areas). The origins are disputed, some say the tapa (literally meaning to cover up) came along as the bars and taverns would place a chuck of bread or a piece of ham over the glass to stop the flies and dust getting in. In more recent years, post civil war, it is thought that these little morsels of food were used to keep hunger at bay. Whichever way, to ‘tapear’ (go out and have a few tapas and drinks) is a very Spanish thing to do and in some areas (particularly in the south) complimentary food will be served with your drink as a matter of course.

pintxo – a catalan tapas

Meal times are respected by all ages in Spain. Families eat together at 2pm. A typical meal consists of a salad, soup or vegetable dish to start and a main of fish, meat or a pulse stew (Including Lentejas, Alubias, Fabadas to name just a few). A typical pudding is fruit or a homemade milk dessert, such as rice pudding or a variation of custard. There is always bread and water on the table.

It is a varied diet and the gastronomic capabilities in a typical household are high. Food in Spain is a very important part of life for people of all ages. Although many young people are unable to cook as well as their parents they still expect a certain standard in bars and restaurants and as there is so much competition the standards and traditions are bound to be maintained.


entremés of empanadilla, salmorejo, and flamenquin

for four

For the pastry:
• 300g/10 oz plain flour
• 100 ml/3½ fl oz/7 tbsp olive oil
• 1 egg, beaten
• 3 tbsp dry white wine
• 3 tbsp cold water
• pinch of salt

For the empanadilla:
• 2 onions, finely sliced
• 1 green pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
• 1 red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
• 4 tbsp of olive oil
• 150g/5½ oz chorizo – skinned
• 175g/6 oz pork loin steak, finely chopped
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• 1 tbsp tomato purée
• 100 ml/3½ fl oz/7 tbsp red wine
• pinch saffron
• freshly ground black pepper
• 1 egg, beaten

For the salmorejo:
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• 500g/1 lb 2 oz fresh plum tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 75g/2½ oz stale bread, torn into chunks
• generous pinch of salt
• 2 slices of Serrano ham, shredded (even better would be cubed Serrano ham, or Iberico ham if easy to find)
• ½ cucumber, finely diced
• 3 spring onions, finely chopped
• 1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped

For the flamenquin:
• 2 pork loin steaks, 200g/7 oz each, trimmed of fat and beaten until thin (ask your butcher)
• 4 slices of Serrano ham
• 75g/2½ oz plain flour
• 1 egg, beaten
• 75g/2½ oz breadcrumbs
• 4 tbsp olive oil

1. For the pastry, put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture tarts to form a dough. Kneed gently on a floured surface until smooth. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for one hour.
2. Make the filling for the empanadillas. Fry the onion and peppers in olive oil until soft. Transfer to a bowl. Add the chorizo to the pan and fry gently for five minutes, breaking up the meat as it fries. Drain off excess oil, then add the chorizo to the vegetables.
3. Add a little olive oil to the pan and fry the pork and garlic for five minutes until just cooked. Return the chorizo mixture to the pan. Add the tomato purée, red wine and saffron. Simmer for ten minutes until thick. Season to taste. Leave to cool.
4. For the salmorejo, put the garlic, tomatoes, oil, and bread into a blender with a good pinch of salt and blitz until smooth. Pour into a jug and chill.
5. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out two-thirds of the pastry thinly (3mm/⅛ inch) and use it to line four 8-10 cm/3½-4 inch tartlet tins. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut four circles for lids. Spoon the cooled filling into the tins. Brush the pastry edges with water, place the lids on top, and press well together to seal. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove the tarts from the oven and brush the tops with the beaten egg. Prick the pastry with a skewer and return to the oven for a further five minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for five minutes on a wire rack.
6. For the flamenquin, beat the pork steaks with a meat mallet (or rolling pin) until thin. Cut each piece in half to make four long pieces of pork. Top each one with a slice of Serrano ham and roll up tightly (you may need to secure the rolls with cocktail sticks). Dip each parcel in the flour, shake off the excess then dip into the beaten egg. Finally coat each piece in breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, shallow fry the flamenquin until crisp and golden, then transfer to the oven for eight – ten minutes to cook through. Drain on kitchen paper.
7. To assemble the dish divide the salmorejo between four small bowls and top with the Serrano ham pieces, cucumber, spring onion and egg. Serve with the flamenquin and empanadilla.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

A little about Mencía grapes and a review of the 2015 Valderroa

“As elsewhere in Spain, the sleeping giant of plots of badly managed but well-established old vines has been woken by young Turks who are making…
Read More

Basic Facts About Taleggio Cheese

I first came across Taleggio cheese when I was making regular visits to Brescia, in Lombardy, but its production is much more widespread than that.
Read More

Zhoggiu sauce – best of all worlds between the Italian north and the Middle East

I have a wonderful daughter who plies me with the most inspired foodie treats. Last year I was given a day-long course with Diana Henry,…
Read More

Sign up to our Saucy Newsletter

subscribe today for monthly highlights of foodie events, new restaurant at home menus, recipe ideas and our latest blog posts