Traditional Cuisine: Past and Present - Meat & Poultry

By Real Academia de Gastronomía

Real Academia de Gastronomía

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.

Valencian PaellaReal Academia de Gastronomía

Valencian Paella

One of the best known dishes in Spanish cuisine began its life in rural Valencia.

Valencian paella ingredientsReal Academia de Gastronomía

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.

Cooking valencian paellaReal Academia de Gastronomía

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.

Valencian PaellaReal Academia de Gastronomía


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.

"Cocido madrileño"Real Academia de Gastronomía

"Cocido Madrileño"

A historical dish in Spanish cuisine associated with winter, there are many versions of "Cocido Madrileño," or Madrilenian Stew, across the country. The most famous comes from Madrid.

"Cocido madrileño" ingredientsReal Academia de Gastronomía

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.

Cooking "cocido madrileño"Real Academia de Gastronomía

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.

"Cocido madrileño"Real Academia de Gastronomía

A Thrifty Recipe

The leftover stew is usually used the next day to prepare a dish known as "vieja ropa" (old clothes): chickpeas, boneless meat, and a little broth are added to sautéed onions and sweet peppers.

It is also common to make croquettes from the leftover meat.

"Cochinillo asado"Real Academia de Gastronomía

"Cochinillo Asado"

This 5-kilo roast suckling pig is a real delicacy with the help of a wood-fired oven and a little water. The most popular recipe comes from the city of Segovia, where the dish has taken on cult status.

"Cochinillo asado" ingredientsReal Academia de Gastronomía

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.

"Cochinillo asado"Real Academia de Gastronomía

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.

"Cochinillo asado"Real Academia de Gastronomía

An Exceptional Roast

A good roasted suckling pig should be juicy and very tender, with crispy skin.

In Segovia, it has become a key tourist attraction, and is also commonly enjoyed at home during family celebrations and festivities.

Chicken in "pepitoria"Real Academia de Gastronomía

Chicken in "Pepitoria"

A recipe with close links to Madrid which became popular in the 19th century and is still a fixture in homes all across the country.

Chicken in "pepitoria" ingredientsReal Academia de Gastronomía

Chicken, almonds, onion, yolk of 2 hard-boiled eggs, oil, salt, pepper, garlic, white wine, saffron, parsley, and bay leaf

The chicken portions are fried, and a sauce is made with the rest of the ingredients, in which the bird is then cooked.

Cooking chicken in "pepitoria"Real Academia de Gastronomía

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.

Chicken in "pepitoria"Real Academia de Gastronomía


The dish is traditionally accompanied by chopped, hard-boiled egg, although it is also usually served with croutons.

The Marquise de Parabère suggests serving it with French fries in her culinary encyclopedia "The Complete Kitchen."

"Rabo de toro"Real Academia de Gastronomía

"Rabo de toro"

"Rabo de toro," or oxtail stew, is dish linked to the Andalusian city of Córdoba that can be found on the menus of restaurants in many cities, especially during festivals in areas with a bullfighting tradition.

"Rabo de toro"Real Academia de Gastronomía

Oxtail, carrot, rosemary, garlic, onion, and tomato

All the ingredients are added to the pot at the same time, and cooked over a low heat. This releases the gelatin from the oxtail, resulting in an unctuous and exquisite flavor.

"Rabo de toro"Real Academia de Gastronomía


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.

"Rabo de toro"Real Academia de Gastronomía

A Dish to Eat the Next Day

It is recommended that it is prepared a day in advance, since resting improves the result and enhances the flavor. French fries are a perfect accompaniment.

Credits: Story

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.

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.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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