Chapter 36 the cooking of spain and portugal

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Food Production, Culinary practice and food preparation

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Chapter 36 the cooking of spain and portugal

  1. 1. CHAPTER 36: THE COOKING OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL. Like the people of the Iberian Peninsula the cooking of this region is a blend of many ingredients. The blend is complex at times, but the ingredients are not disguised and never spiced to alter basically simple tastes. The strength of Iberian cooking is natural and its subtlety is derived from the combinations of ingredients. Iberian food is easily recognizable. It is usually plain looking and attractively appetizing in simplest possible way. It is rarely over decorated; it is fresh and it is more concerned with good quality ingredients and their proper combination. One of the false accusations made of Spanish cooking is that it is “hot and highly spiced”. The truth is exactly opposite – Spaniards tend to shy away from spicy food. It is one of Spain's paradoxes that a country largely responsible for providing pepper and other spices to the western world should have produced a cuisine that uses so little spice. Portugal on the other hand does make use of a myriad of spices and it is here that the difference between the two cuisines lies. Portugal is the land of explorers and of the explorers’ kitchen. The use of spice and butter and cream in traditional Portuguese cooking not only makes it spicier but also richer than its neighbour. New flavours brought back from Angola, Mozambique, India and Brazil (all once Portuguese colonies) have been incorporated into the national cuisine. In short, Portuguese food may seem a florid, exotic art that has made use of its many conquests to import and experiment with unknown tastes and which at times may even seem gaudy! THE REGIONS Continental Spain is divided into 13 regions whose boundaries are roughly those of its ancient kingdoms and ethnic regions. The regions are divided into provinces. The regions of Spain include Galicia, Asturias, Basque and Navarre in the north. Catalonia Valencia and Murcia in the East, Andulosia in the South with Aragon, new and old Castile, Extremadura and Leon in the center. Portugal is divided regionally by geography into the mountainous sometimes-humid north and drier more gentle south. These two regions are divided into 11 provinces, which include Minho, Tras-os-montes, Douro Litoral, Beira Litoral, Beira Alta, Beira Baixa, Estremadura, Ribatejo, Alto Baixo Alentejo and Algarve. But do all these regions really differ from each other as far as culinary customs go? And for that matter does Portugal in any way consider itself related to Spain? It is in their kitchens that some of these answers lie. These people share the uses of ingredients such as olive oil, garlic and parsley, almonds appear frequently both raw and in cooking. Egg and egg yolk sweets are often seen. The range of fresh fish and shellfish from the waters of two seas (Mediterranean and Atlantic) is tremendous and cooking methods such as slow simmering in earthen ware dishes are shared by all. But the differences are as important as ate similarities. The central region of Spain is the zone of roasting and the hunt. Andalusia is the zone of frying
  2. 2. and has also produced the excellent cold soup the Gazpacho. The eastern seaboard is the region of rice; above it, the zone of sauces; in the north the zone of fish (from the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic ocean). THE TAPAS In the evenings, Madrilenos like to stop in at bars and cafes to enjoy a drink, usually sherry and a choice of tempting snacks called ‘Tapas’. The word tapa literally means lid, and the first tapas were pieces of bread used to cover wine glasses to keep out the flies! Today tapas are appetizers but of a variety that is unknown in other countries and range from eels to omlettes. These snacks are so popular, that at tapa time, the bars and cafés in Madrid (and other cities where the custom has spread) are filled with customers and some of them spend the whole evening nibbling, skipping the evening meal altogether. A sample of tapas served at a Madrid café would include - Ham chunks garnished with red peppers - Roast pork with a sauce of olive oil, garlic, vinegar and spices - Kidney beans, parsley, onions and peppers in a vinegar sauce - Boiled baby potatoes with garlic, parsley and mayonnaise - Broad beans with ham and sausage - Potato omelette - Mushrooms garnished with garlic and parsley butter - Fish and crabmeat in brandy sauce with carrot - Kidneys sautéed in white wine sauce with onions and peas - Shrimp in hot olive oil with garlic and parsley - Chicken livers in meat sauce with egg slices - Salt cod with red peppers - Meatballs in gravy with peas - Black olives marinated with onions and oregano - Croutons of fried bread - Stewed salt cod with garlic and cayenne - Tuna fish pies - Fried green peppers and sausage - Pickled cauliflower - Stewed quail - Tripe stew - Snails in hot sauce - Pickled beets - Pigs feet with tomato, olive oil, garlic and onion - Stuffed green peppers with chopped veal in meat sauce - Sautéed stripes of baby eel - Clams with parsley - Small squid in their ink - Stewed chicken with boiled potatoes and mushrooms - Stewed partridge
  3. 3. PAELLA The colorful paella, the Spanish culinary triumph best known outside the country, is from the eastern coast of Spain. The dish draws on a number of possible ingredients, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, chorizo, sausages, chicken, rabbit, beans, tomato peas and peppers (red, green and yellow). However only rice, olive oil and saffron are always used and the paella will appear in various guises and forms depending on the supplementary ingredients that are used. The first paellas were always cooked outdoors over small fires and most Spaniards believe this is still the best way to cook paella. The home of the Paella is the east coast of Spain starting in the south at Cabo de Gat and winding northward along the warm Mediterranean waters. Although it has many other names, the region is traditionally known as the Levante (Levantae in Spanish means to rise – the sun rises in the east). This region is called the Land of Rice and rice plays an important role not only in the preparation of Paella but in a number of dishes in the region. Paella is the most important Levantine dish as well as the most famous like many dishes, Paella is a poor man’s food that has become a rich man’s treat. The original Paella came into being near La Albufera close to the city of Valencia. From this simple beginning there is now a myriad of Paellas. It is said if you ask 100 Spaniards what goes into a Paella, you will get a hundred different answers. But if you ask the same question to 100 Levantinus, you’ll probably get 300 different answers (each man giving one for himself, one for his wife and one for his grandmother). But the true answer to what goes into paella is Rice, Saffron and Olive oil. Plus whatever is available local and fresh and cheap in the market, far from being complicated, paella is actually easy to prepare. It needs no special equipment except for a skillet type pan and an open fire. GAZPACHO Gazpacho is a traditional Spanish soup from the Andalusian region in the south of Spain. It is made of chilled vegetables, wine vinegar, olive oil, ice, garlic and a tinge of bread. The term gazpacho is a derivative of the Arabic term which means soaked bread. Many people add various other ingredients ranging from fried croutons to pitted cherries. As a rule, different parts of the country make this dish in different ways. In Jerez de la frontera chopped raw onions are used, in Sanlucar de Barrameda, mayonnaise is added and in Malaga it is called ajo blanco con uvas (white garlic with grapes) and has a base of almonds. There is even a hot winter gazpacho from the region of Cadiz. But it is the city of Seville that has made the plain, summer version of gazpacho famous throughout the world by keeping the simplest and lightest formula.
  4. 4. PORTUGAL In the southwestern corner of Europe lies Portugal, 260 miles long and 140 miles wide. It is isolated from the rest of the continent by Spain and is isolated from Spain by rugged mountains. To its west it lies totally exposed to the harsh Atlantic Ocean. Portugal stands alone – related to Spain but separate from it. It is important to understand that Portuguese cooking is not Spanish cooking. It is rather another type of Iberian cooking. Like all Iberian food it’s basically simple and a food of the people. Spices and herbs are more widely used here and taste combinations used here would be astonishing to most Spanish palates are common in Portugal. From North to South, the kitchens of Portugal share a wide variety of ingredients, fresh herbs like coriander as well as preserved foods such as salt cod are often found. Fresh lemon juice, traditionally used with fish is squeezed onto meat over here. Fresh and dried figs, nuts, rice egg yolks, vanilla and even curry powder are used through the country. More noticeable is the number of ways in which ingredients are used. The diversity of taste combinations is what makes Portuguese cooking most special. The three northern provinces – Minho, tras-os-montes and Douro contain some of the poorest and most ragged land as well as some of the finest cooking in Portugal. Minho’s Caldo Verde is to Portugal what onion soup is to France. It has become a kind of national dish. The river waters of the region provide Lamprey for the traditional deep yellow gravied Lamprey stew. This often tastes and smells of curry, an ingredient brought back from India by Vasco da Gama in 1947. Curry is used as a flavour rather than a spice and it blends well with the dark, almost meaty flavour of the river Lamprey. Minho also produces a variety of fine rice dishes, combining rice with rabbit, duck or partridge a short distance from minho down the coast is Porto, the capital Duoro Litoral famous the world over for Port wine. Porto is equally fomous as the place to eat Tripe. The citizens, in fact are known as Tripe eaters in the rest of the country. There are several legends to explain this, the most famous being prince Henry the Navigator in 14th slaughtered all the cattle of the region to feed the troops of his crusader fleet leaving only the tripe for the citizens of Porto. The region is also famous for its yolk and sugar sweets. The most famous of which is jelly like confection called Sao Goncalo. There are literally thousands of egg yolk sweets in Portugal offset by a glass of ruby port. In the South of Portugal lies its capital Lisbon, one of the loveliest and most conveniently forgotten capitals. Here, one can find the finest coffees from Angola, Mozambique and other Portuguese missions overseas. Also from Brazil, Colombia and the Orient. The national sweet Pudim Flan is a rich caramel custard, very popular in Lisbon and is the perfect accompaniment to coffee. It is creamer, heavier and sweeter than the one found in Spain and often is Portugal is flavoured with a liqueur.
  5. 5. Vernon Coelho Ihm mumbai 2008-09
  6. 6. Vernon Coelho Ihm mumbai 2008-09

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