Friday, April 11, 2014

The Flavour of Spain

Spanish cooking is simple and delicious. It relies on fresh local ingredients for its clean natural flavour. Since Spain is blessed with a temperate climate, rich soil, and a long coastline, Spaniards have an abundance of fine ingredients to choose from.
Tomatoes, potatoes, eggs, rice, wheat, chicken, pork, game, and cheese all find their way into Spanish dishes. But it is olive oil, garlic, and seafood and fish that give Spanish cooking its distinct flavour and make it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Ancient Oil Olive oil has been an essential part of the Spanish diet for centuries. The ancient Phoenicians planted the first olive trees in Spain 3,000 years ago. Today, 262 varieties of olives grow in groves throughout Spain. In fact, the Spanish region of Andalusia (ahn-dah-lou-see-ah)boasts more than 165 million olive trees, more than anywhere else in the world. Many of these trees are at least 100 years old. Although Spaniards eat lots of olives, 90 percent of the olives grown here are used to make olive oil. Spanish olive oil varies in colour and taste depending on the variety of olive it is extracted from. It can be green, pale yellow, or golden and can taste sweet, nutty, fruity, or slightly bitter. For instance, oil made from tiny Arbequina (ar-bay-key-e-nah) olives is yellowish-green and tastes smooth and buttery, while the golden oil made from hojiblanco (ho-hee-blahn-coh) olives has as sweet fruity flavour..Spanish cooks use olive oil in everything from main dishes to desserts, which may be why olive oil is often called the flavour of Spain. As a matter of fact, Spain is the world’s largest consumer of olive oil. Each Spaniard uses about 30 pounds (3.62kg) of the rich oil annually. It is drizzled over cooked vegetables and grilled meat and fish. Cooks fry anything and everything in it. They make sauces and dressings with it. They use it in place of butter in baking. They flavor soups and mashed potatoes with it. They bathe salads in it. They dunk bread in it. In fact, a cruet of olive oil and little dipping bowls are found on almost every Spanish table. “Olive oil is mandatory at every meal in a Spanish home,”1 explains Spanish chef Antonio Diaz. It adds a rich taste
and aroma to Spanish cooking....... Part 2 tomorrow.

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