Spain boasts a comprehensive gastronomy that reflects its rich geographical variety and extensive resources. Recipes are handed down through the generations and have interesting and curious stories surrounding their origins.
Bomba (paella) rice, chicken, rabbit, butter beans, tomatoes, green beans, and snails
Valencia is a coastal region, but Valencian paella does not contain any fish or seafood. Its ingredients are associated with the countryside: chicken, rabbit, snails, and vegetables such as the butter bean, a legume similar to the fava bean used in many traditional Valencian dishes.
A Festival of Rice
Paella has always been associated with festive occasions such as family gatherings and parties with friends. It can be prepared in the kitchen or outdoors, in which case ideally it would be cooked over a wood fire.
In Valencia, it is traditionally eaten right from the "paella" itself—the pan in which it is made, and which gives its name to the dish—placed in the center of the table.
The rice variety favored by experts is known as "bomba," and is widely cultivated in the region. A round grain that's fairly small in size, it absorbs more liquid than other varieties and holds flavor.
A good-quality thread of saffron should be used, and it's important not to let it burn.
When done, the paella should be covered and left to rest before serving.
Chickpeas, beef shank, chorizo, bacon, chicken, ham bones, black pudding, potatoes, and vegetables
As with most stews, this dish takes time and patience. The chickpeas must be soaked for 12 hours, and then cooked with the vegetables and some of the meat.
Some recipes specify that the chorizo, black pudding, and cabbage are cooked separately.
The soup is served with noodles, and accompanied by a "pelota" (ball), a dumpling made from chickpeas, breadcrumbs, garlic, and parsley.
Method of Serving in Madrid
In Madrid, tradition dictates that the stew is served in 3 "vuelcos" (emptying or tipping out); the pot is emptied 3 times to separate the ingredients for serving.
In the first "vuelco" the broth is eaten with noodles, and in the second the chickpeas are accompanied by potatoes and vegetables. Finally, the meat is consumed.
It is prepared and served differently in each region of Spain, and perhaps even in every house.
Clean white suckling pig, coarse salt, lard, and water
The recipe is simple: place the suckling pig in an oval, earthenware pot or on a baking tray, with the ribs facing up. Care must be taken so that the skin does not touch the base, using boards or some laurel branches. It is salted and a half liter of water is added to the tray, plus a little between the ribs.
The oven is heated to 400 or 410ºF, and the piglet is roasted for between an hour and an hour and a half, needing constant supervision.
Suckling Pig in the Land of Lamb
According to Eduardo Juárez Valero, historian and chronicler of the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, there may be 2 reasons why the suckling pig became popular in Segovia, the traditional land of lamb.
Firstly, to distinguish the old Christians from the converts (Jews who converted to Christianity during the time of the Inquisition), and secondly, because the nobles wanted to differentiate themselves from the peasants and commoners—who ate lamb—by eating suckling pig.
What is "pepitoria"?
This recipe is thought to be of Arab origin. It appears in 16th-century cookbooks and in the "New Art of Cooking," an important 18th-century culinary treatise by the monk who published under the pseudonym "Juan de Altamiras."
Originally it would have been made using the carcass of the poultry, although over time it was cooked with hen, and these days also with chicken. Ground almonds are also added to enrich the flavor.
According to historian Almudena Villegas, it is a "typical Cordoban recipe that originated in the area around the Plaza de la Corredera, where bulls were killed, and their carcasses cut up to be eaten later."
It is a stew enriched with wine from Montilla-Moriles and spiced with cloves and black pepper. These days it is very popular, and has become one of the city's most iconic dishes.
Text: María García Muriel, in collaboration with Ismael Diaz Yubero, Spain’s representative at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food Advisor for the Spanish Embassy in Rome, member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy, and also with María Llamas (Alambique Cookware Store).
Image: David de Luis (photography), Sandra Jimenez Sorio (food styling), María Eugenia Pérez-Blanco (recipe preparation), Alambique Cookware Store (production).
Acknowledgements: Rafael Ansón, president of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy; Elena Rodríguez, director of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy; María García and Caroline Verhille, contributors to the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.
This exhibition is part of the Spanish Gastronomy project jointly coordinated by Google Arts & Culture and the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.