What are your top Spanish dishes?
Filming Rick Stein’s Spain gave me the opportunity to sample the finest Spanish food around. Here are my favourites.
If you find yourself in Seville at lunchtime, then make a bee-line for El Arenal, the most famous food market in this beautiful, romantic city. Saunter past the wonderful displays of vegetables and cheeses, admire the smoked and cured meats and sausages, and maybe taste a sweet, fatty slice of Iberico ham. Next seek out the little restaurant in the heart of the market – it’s called El Pesquero. Order carabineros (massive prawns, nearly the size of a lobster) and a chilled glass of Albariño…. I was going to keep this a secret … Ooops!
Picture Rick enjoying a plate of Carabiñeros in Seville
When I ask someone from Asturias in Northern Spain what fabada asturiana means to them, their voice often becomes thicker and I’m sure I can see tears well up as they think of this evocative dish. This is more than a stew of white beans, chorizo, black pudding, pork and saffron: it’s the stuff of dreams and fabulous lunches - especially with a good glass of tempranillo. To taste the freshest and best while in Asturias, spot the parked lorries by the transport café – the more lorries, the better the fabada.
3. Gambas de Palamós
The prawns from Palamos on the Costa Brava are the finest in the world. We bought them straight off the boats and Rick cooked them in a cast-iron skillet lined with sea salt crystals. Once the salt started to smoke, he gently laid the prawns onto the hot crystals for about a minute or so on each side. They turned from red to pinky gold. We ate them straight from the shells and they were sublime – sweet, slightly salty and firm with a bit of a bite.
Miguel Merino, who looks the spitting image of Danny de Vito, is one of the best wine-makers in Rioja and he made us lunch when we visited: chuletillas - tiny sweet cutlets from milk-fed lamb grilled over vine trimmings, fresh crusty bread and a large glass of his Rioja. We then had to film Miguel and Rick and all the time I was thinking “please Rick don’t eat another, you’ve already had three!” Eventually, when the filming was over, I tasted a chuletilla and can honestly say it was the best barbecued meat I’ve ever had. I wish vine trimmings for barbecues were sold here in the UK. There must be tons of them from wine-producing countries like Spain and France just going to waste.
Rick and Miguel sampling chuletillas
5. Sopa de Ajo
If you ever find yourself near the little town of Las Pedroñeras in Southwest Spain, there’s a restaurant a mile or so outside called Los Angeles (because everyone who works there is called Angel or Angela). Angela, the cook, makes the most fabulous garlic soup of chicken stock infused with garlic and pimenton - that fiery powder made from crushed smoked red chillies. Angela gently lays a slice of stale bread in and then a raw egg, leaving satisfying threads of golden egginess. The bread quickly becomes soft and silky and the soup has to be one of the best recipes in the world.
What are your favourite Spanish dishes? And if you’ve been to Spain, do you have any insider food tips to share?
David Pritchard is the Producer of Rick Stein's Spain.