By: David Leigh
David has lived in Catalonia for more than a decade, first in Barcelona and now in the forests of la Selva. When not enjoying the food he runs a website specialising in providing FC Barcelona tickets to visitors to Barcelona.
If you think of food in Spain you’ll probably immediately think of the ubiquitous paella, the delicious rice dish that originates from Valencia that in its best known form contains a variety of seafood; your mind may also turn to tapas, those tasty morsels traditionally served on a small plate to accompany a drink and originally used – or so the legend goes – to cover your drink and keep the flies out; “tapa” simply means “cover” in Spanish.
Paella in particular can be quite variable, partially due to the fact that many bars that serve lunchtime fixed price menus serve ready made versions of the dish that bear no resemblance at all to the flavour of one that has been well made. And while many tourist restaurants serve passable versions of the dish, the secret to finding the best paellas is simply to learn where the locals go to eat it.
Standard tapas include “patatas bravas”, which are sautéed potatoes served covered in a spicy sauce, olives, calamari and anchovies, and visitors are also sometimes surprised to find cold cubes of Spanish omelette on the menu. Many tapas bars are Galician and a popular dish you’ll see on the menu is octopus.
Quite different are Basque style tapas, which are served all over the country, they are often served on bread; stuffed peppers, grilled fish and other delights are set on the counter in bars and served with a cocktail stick. Simply grab a plate, choose one of the dishes and keep the stick; your bill at the end of the night will depend on the number and sizes of the sticks left on your plate.
Living in Catalona, as I have done for the last ten years, some of my favourite dishes are local specialities. Three things spring to mind that may appear simple pleasures, but I always look forward to eating.
The first is the botifara, a pork sausage spiced with pepper that is one of the staples of Catalan cooking. While a simple sausage may not seem particularly exciting, they are exceptionally high quality and a big improvement on the standard banger found in UK supermarkets.