Food & cuisine from the North of Spain
The Moors played an important part in Spain's culinary heritage bringing with them such lasting delights as almonds, saffron, cinnamon and nutmeg which helped to shape the flavours in Spanish cuisine we are familira with today.
Here, you are more likely to find rabbit on a restaurant menu instead of chicken. From the Basques, so famous for their gastronomical societies and fine cuisine, to the Asturias with its abundance of fish and vegetables, Northern Spain cuisine ranks amongst some of the most sophisticated Spain and indeed Europe. The restaurants of San Sebastian (Right), for example, bear more Michelin stars than Paris.
Food and cuisine from the Basque Country (Pais Vasco)
Traditional Basque cooking uses few spices instead employing ultra fresh ingredients, garlic, olive oil and salt. The secret of Basque cuisine lies in cooking everything exactly to 'its point' and they are masters at it.
In San Sebastian, excellent food can be found at the stalls of the La Brecha market including exotic cheeses, cured Bayonne ham sliced paper thin and an array of fruits and vegetables. Most of life in San Sebastian revolves around food but in the Basque Country, on the Northern Coast the rituals surrounding eating border on obsession.
The Basque Country curves around the Bay of Biscay and these waters provide many varieties of fish and shellfish that commonly find their way onto the Basque dinner table.
For example, crab, hake, tuna, cod, mussels, oysters, lobsters, sea barnacles and baby-eels or angulas and an elegant fan-shaped sea scallop (Right) that the Galacians call vieira. The shells of these creatures are kept as proof of their journey through the rocky coastlines.
Octopus that inhabit the deep waters of the bay also find their way to the table as pulpo gallega.
Home to fat cows and mountain ranges full of forests, Asturias and Cantabria is cheese and apple country. Arroz con leche is a simple rice pudding made with its famous rich and creamy milk. Also, milk that is not bottled is used instead to produce some of the best cheeses in Spain. Cow, sheep and goats milk is used to make a soft creamy cheese that is wrapped in chestnut leaves and stored in humid caves. Light green-blue veins develop and intensify its taste and aroma.
In the Basque Country tapas are better known as pintxos. There are two accepted periods for eating pintxos, one is the aperitivo from 11 to 2 and the other is the txikiteo, which is the early evening walk about town and a glass of wine or beer (txikito) and a pintxo.
On the bar you may find tiny rolls filled with ham, grilled eggplant, red peppers, fresh anchovies, as well as croquettes and towering creations of potato salad, egg, mayonnaise and shrimp supported by a toothpick and topped by an olive.
Literally translated it means 'the spur' but really it means 'the last one'. As soon as you suggest that you will be going home, la espuela is insisted upon and it is quite rude to refuse. It is intended to bring fresh life to someone who perhaps is ready for bed. However, if the desired effect arrives you might find yourself out until the early morning.