Spanish cookery...
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                homecookery booksWalking in SpainClimbing TeideLas Bardenas


Spain: regional food -
                gclick on a named areaThe food and cooking of Spain, the regional cuisines and Tapas
A brief guide and glossary of meaning of Spanish food terms in English

Cookery books
Meal times


Asturias & Cantabria
Basque Country
Canary Islands
Castile, Leon, La Mancha, La Rioja, Madrid
Catalonia & Balearics
Navarre & Aragon
Valencia, Levante, Murcia
Cookery, food and wine books

I hope Murcians, Cantabrians & the people of Rioja will not mind that I have blended them into other regions to minimise the number of pages!


As an Englishman visiting Spain 3 or 4 times a year, I have become aware of the many food traditions of the regions of the peninsula. From the fried fish of the south, the paella of the east and the roast meats of the centre to the fabadas of the north.  Here I have tried to briefly describe the flavour of each region accompanied by a few recipes, links and recommended further reading. The recipes are my own interpretations of what I have eaten, I have tried to make them authentic, and have indicated where  I know my recipes deviate from the norm.

buñuelos de bacalao,
                empanadillas,salsa bravas,fabadaTapas
Originally literally a cover for a glass of wine, tapas have developed over the years in to a vast range of "snacks" to be accompanied by a glass of wine, beer or sherry. To experience tapas at its best visit the old quarter in San Sebastian or tour the backstreets of Old Madrid.  In both cities, although more noticeably in Madrid, each tapas bar specializes in its own small range of tapas. One bar in Madrid sells only prawns with sweet red wine, another only ham. Still another is the home of salsa bravas, which arrives at the bar from a tap in the wall, to be served on potatoes or tortilla. When you are served a drink in Spain you may often get a complimentary snack of olives or almonds, in Castile, Galicia or Grenada it may be something even more substantial if you are in a taberna rather than a tapas bar in business to sell you snacks. 
A "tapeo" is the spanish equivalent of a pub crawl, the art of the tapeador consists of a peripatetic peregrination of sips of wine, bites of food and snippets of gossip. Will such sophistication one day rub off on us?
By the way, knives may be considered bad form for eating a tapa, use a fork or nothing. 
ración of hamOne tapas bar in San Sebastian specializes in bread rolls filled with tortilla, peppers and bacalao. All tapas in San Sebastian has to be totally fresh and the highly discerning locals will only eat the freshest items. Here the customer selects what takes their fancy from the counter and pays at the end after eating [see cautionary note]. 
Alternatively visit its source in Andalucia, Seville would be a good bet . 
Barcelona has  "Xampanyeries", bars specializing in cava. However there is a tendency in Catalonia to turn tapas into more of a meal, with several being served on a plate and often eaten seated.
Tapas books
Back to Basque food

Ensalad Rusa (Russian salad)
There are ennumerable atypical recipes for this spanish stalwart on the web, its just boiled cubed potato,peas & carrot in mayonnaise.

Tapas cautionary footnote - A rare problem in friendly San Sebastian.
Generally this rule holds good in San Sebastian. You pay for your "pintxos" by counting the cocktail sticks left on your plate. However, one busy Saturday night in "Bar Aracar" we started browsing as usual. But when we came to pay the staff became awkward and demanded a stupid amount of money. It seems they had introduced a new policy for tourists, against the honour system in evidence elsewhere, and were asking customers to select tapas, then show them to staff before receiving drinks. We had not heard them say this to us, or possibly they had said it in German. Anyway. given that they could easily have kept an eye on how much we ate plus the fact we were volunteering to pay for 12 tapas, (a high number) I felt their attitude was inappropriate and highly untypical of San Sebastian. Anyway, this is something to watch out for which I hope will not spread with the numbers of tourists and backpackers visiting.)

Glossary / Dictionary - Spanish to English translation.
Note: Several words translate as "prawn" (USA shrimp) due to the lack of specific words in English
A la plancha - griddled and dressed with oil, garlic and parsley
A la Sal - fish baked in a block of salt
Abocado - medium sweet
Aceitunas - olives
Adobo - marinaded in vinegar and spice (often cumin)
Ahumado - smoked
Ajo - garlic
ajonjolí - sesame
Albacora - albacore, a small tuna
Albariza - chalky soil that sherry grape grows on
Albondigas - meatballs
Alcachofa - artichoke
Alfajoa - Senegal seabream
Allioli - a "mayonnaise" emulsion of garlic and oil, classically without egg
Alubias - haricot beans
Almuerzo - second breakfast
Amontillado - aged and oxidised dry sheery
Anchoa - anchovy, sometimes sold fresh.
Angelote - monkfish, see also rape.
Angulas - Baby eels, "gulas" are manufactured versions made from Alaskan pollack.
Ajete, Brotas or Ajo tierno - young green garlic shoots
Al Horno - baked in the oven
Arroz a la Marinera - seafood and rice simply cooked together
Arroz - rice or rice dishes on menu
Arroz seco - dry rice dish
Arroz meloso - creamy rice dish (as in rissotto) 
Arroz caldoso - brothy rice dish
Arroz Negro - squid ink rice
Asador - charcoal grill. Asadores - restaurant or chef specializing in roast meat 
Azafran - Saffron
Babilla - the narrowest, leanest part of a ham
Bacalao - Salt cod
Baila - spotted seabass
Banderilla - actually a bullfighting "dart", tapa on a cocktail stick or little sword.
Barbacoa - BBQ - Barbecue
Barraquito -   espresso coffee, condensed milk, alcohol, topped with Cinnamon (Canaries).
Becada - Woodcock
Berejenas - aubergines
Besugo - Red Bream
Bienmesabe - fish marinated and deep fried in cubes, away from Andalucia may be meringue or "almond jam" , literally something like "tastes good to me"
Bocadillo - filled roll.
Bodega - sherry warehouse
Bodegon - tapas bar serving mainly drinks
Bogavente - lobster
Boletos comestible - cep/porcini/penny bun
Bonito - Sarda sarda, a small tuna

Boquerones - anchovies
Boraje - borage (the stems are used as a vegetable in parts of northern Spain)
Brasa - cooking over embers

Botellon - unofficial street/park party in which young people bring bottles from supermarkets
Buey - crab
Buñuelos - bun shaped savoury fritters
Burgado - winkle
Caballa - mackerel
Cabracho - Scorpionfish
Cacerola - casserole pot
Cachuela Extremeña - coarse cut spicy pate.
Café - coffee. Solo - strong black, cordato - with a little milk, leche manchada - milk with a dash of coffee, con hielo - iced, con leche - white. 
Calabacin - Courgette
Calabasa - Squash
Calçot - Catalan blanched onion shoots, looking like a large leek, used in the casserole "Calçotada" 
Caldo - broth (Caldo Gallego is of pork beans and cabbage)
Caldereta de Langosta -  lobster stew
Callos a la gallega - galican thick stew using tripe etc.
Camaron - prawn. ("El Cameron de la Isla" is the name of the legendary flamenco singer of small stature from Cadiz). 
caña - glass of draught beer
Carabinaros - large dark red prawns
Cantaro - earthenware water jug
Cangrejo - "river crab" or crayfish, Cangrejo de mar - shore crab
Carajillo - espresso coffee with flamed alcohol.
Carnes - meats
Castañas - chestnuts
Cava - Spanish sparkling wine
Caza - game
Cazon (kath-on) - huss, dogfish, smoothhound
Cazon adobado, Huss (smoothhound) marinated and deep fried in cubes
Cazuela (cath-whaler) - earthenware cooking pot
Cebolla - onion
Cecina de Leon - cured beef
Cerdo Iberico - black Iberian pig
Ceña - evening meal
Centolla (sen-toy-a) - spider crab
Cerveceria - bar specialising in beer
Champiñón - the cultivated mushrooms (agaricus)
Chato - glass of red wine from the barrel
Cherne - wreckfish or stone bass
Chigre - Asturian cider bar
Chiquito - small glass of wine
Chilindron, al - cooked with red (bell) peppers
Chiringuito - beach shack bar/restaurante, often with surprisingly good food.
Chistorra - Navarre sausage
Choco - cuttlefish
Chorizo - hard generally spicy sausages
Choricero - (bell) pepper often dried.
Churros - breakfast fritters
Churreria - churros kiosk
Cigala - dublin bay prawn,scampi
Cigarra - flat lobster
Clara - shandy
Coca - open tart like a thin pizza
Cocarrios - pasties
Cochinillo - suckling pig, speciality of Castile
Cocido - classic country casserole
Cocina casera - home cooking
Cordoniz - quail
Cortador - person who slices ham
Conejo - ("con-ek-o") rabbit
Coñeta - green shore crab
corvina - meagre
Crema Catalana - a type of creme caramel with a hard caramalised sugar top, browned with a Salamander (a heated iron).
Croqueta - Croquette, typically a breadcrumbed cylinder made from creamed potatoes flavoured with ham, salt cod or chicken.
Degustacion - tasting
Dehesa - open cork oak forest used for extensive pig rearing.
Desayuno - breakfast
Doble pasta - wine produced with double the amount of grapeskins
Dorada - gilt head bream
Duelos y Quebrantos - scrambled eggs with pork
Dulce - sweet
Empanada - savoury pastry pie from Galicia
Ensalada - salad
Ensalada rusa - "russian" salad, mayonaisse, potato, carrot, peas
Ensaimada - Mallorcan cake
Entradas - starters
Erizo de mar - sea urchin
Escabeche - a vinegar and garlic marinade
Espejo Líquido Semidulce - dessert wine of Almagro
Estafadas, estofada (Cat) - stews
Exxencia de Bornos - rare "noble rot" dessert wine from Castile
Fabada - Asturian stew of white beans and pork
Farinata - sausage from Ciudad Rodrigo
Faisan - pheasant
Fideua, Fideus, Fideos - seafood pasta
Fino - dry sherry
Flamenquinas - deep fried pork rolls with egg, peppers & ham
Flor - adventageous yeast growing on surface of sherry in barrel

Frit or frito - Mallorcan liver and vegetable fry. Frito - fried in oil.
Fricandó - Catalan veal and mushroom stew
Freiduria - fried fish restaurant
Gachas - a thickened soup using toasted wheat flour or pea flour with pork from La Mancha with regional variations elsewhere
Galera - mantis shrimp
Gallo - a relative of the John Dory, halibut like taste.
Gamba - prawn
Gamonedo - lightly smoked blue cheese from Cangas de Onis
Garrofón - lima beans
Gazpacho - cold soup - often now based on tomato
Grelos - turnip greens - as in the Galician dish "lacon con grelos" cured pork with greens
Guachinche - informal seasonal bars selling local wine and food on Tenerife.
Guibelurdina - wild mushroom Russula cynaxanta
Guisantes - peas
Guiso - stew. Guisos - the "stews" section of a (probably Andalucian) menu, as opposed to "fritos", fried.
Gulas - "synthetic" angulas (baby eels) from Alaskan pollack, produced because of falling catches.
Herrera - striped seabream
Hierbas - Mallorcan herb liquer
Hojaldre - puff pastry
Hornazo - bread crust pie filled with various types of pork (Extremadura, Castile)
Hongo - mushrooms, (also used to mean fungi)
Horno - oven
Huevos - eggs or menu category for egg dishes
Jamon Serrano (ham-on) - unsmoked cured ham from the mountains (Jabugo is considered the best)
Kokotxas - Basque speciality of Hake cheeks
Lacon - cured pork, con grelos
Lagrima - first pressing
Langosta - spiny lobster
Langostino - large prawn
Lomo - cerdo loin, vaca (latin america) fillet steak
Longaniza - sausage with cinnamon and cloves
Lubina - Bass
Manzanilla - Camomile tea and the very dry sherry that has taken its name from it.
Marinera - fisherman style
Matalahúva - anise
Matanza - winter pig killing and morcilla and chorizo making festival.
Maza - the widest fattest part of a ham or a meat tenderiser.
Membrillo - quince, a quince "jam" is popular in Spain (with cheese).
Merendero - open air eating place.
Merienda - afternoon snack, merienda cena - high tea.
Merluza - hake
Mero - grouper
Migas - sauteed breadcrumbs with bacon, served at breakfast
Mojama - wind dried tuna
Mojarra de Piedra - two banded seabream
Mojo (mo-ho) - Canarian sauces for potatoes and fish (red and green)
Mollejas - sweetbreads
Morcilla (more-see-a) - Blood sausage or black pudding, "Burgos" version with rice, also other versions with onion, herbs etc .
Morros - pork fat next to the skin in tomato sauce (Extremadura).
Montadito - minature bocadillos, delicacies on bread. 
Moros y cristianos (moors and christians) - rice and black beans, often served with meat.
Necora - swimming crab
Ñora - dried small red peppers "dulce" sweet or "picante" hot.
Oloroso - an aged aromatic sherry type
Olla - deep cooking pot
Oricio - sea urchin, also Erizo de mar.
Pachero - stew pot
Patudo - tuna relative
Pa amb oli - bread with olive oil and (optionally) rubbed with tomato and garlic, from 
Mallorca, now fashionable elsewhere
Pasada - aged manzanilla
Papas Arrugadas - Canarian potatoes cooked in seawater
Parilla (a la) - grilled
Paella (pie-ay-a) - strictly the curved metal pan used to cook the dish of the same name - but the dish is now often called a paellera.
Pargo - Sea Bream
Pato - duck
Perdiz - Partridge
Peto - like swordfish
Parrillada (par-ee-arder) - grilled mixed dish (usually fish)
Pasada - aged manzanilla
Patatas Pobres - "poor man's potatoes" fried with garlic and spices.
Pescados y Mariscos - fish to eat (a live fish is "pez") and seafood
Percebes - goose barnacles, a superb delicacy of the northern coast, won from the sea at some risk to the fishermen
Peto - related to tuna
Pez de San Pedro - John Dory ("pez" is a fish in the sea, "pescado" is a fish in the fishmongers)
Pez Espada - Swordfish
Picata, picada (Cat) - pounded ingredients used to thicken sauces - liver, bread, garlic, piniones (pine kernels) etc.

Picadillo - A chopped sauce. For example: diced tomatoes, onion and peppers in olive oil.
Pichón - pigeon
Pijota - a type of hake, (juvenile, I believe)
Pil-pil - sauteed in oil and garlic and chilli with constant shaking to form an emulsion with the fish gelatin.
Pimiento - Sweet red pepper
Pimienton - Paprika
Pinchos - see tapa
Pintada - guinea fowl
Piperade - Sweet pepper omelet.
Pisto Manchego - ratatouille type stew
Plancha (a la) grilled on hot-plate
Polvorones - Andalucian cake like biscuits, made from finely ground almond and icing sugar.
Postres - desserts
Potaje or sopa - soup
Pulpo - octopus - often a tapa in Galicia with hot paprika - "pulpo gallego" or known as "pulpo a feira" locally.
Punta (of ham) - tip of the joint opposite from the hoof.
Queixo - cheese (Gallego)
Queso - cheese
Quesado, Quesadilla - cheesecake (sweet, not savoury).
Quisquilla - small prawn or shrimp
Racione - larger than a tapa, eaten with knife and fork
Raf - an excellent uneven shaped fleshy tomato
Rape - angler fish, but often called monkfish (see angelote). There seems to be some confusion in the english naming between angel fish and angler fish.
Rellenas - stuffed.
Remolacha - sugarbeet 
Remolacha roja - beetroot
Reserva - three years in wood
Revuelto - scrambled eggs
Robalo - seabass, lubina is the usual name, this is the Portugese name
Rodaballo - turbot
Romesco (Xato, Salbitxada) - Catalan pounded sauce typically of bread, garlic, tomato, almonds,  ñora (Cat. nyora - dried slightly hot peppers, not chillis as many recipes say) and paprika. Mixed with wine vinegar and olive oil. 
Roncador - Bastard Grunt or Pomadasys Incisis
Sacromonte, tortilla de - brain omelette 
Salsa - sauce
Salsa Mahonese - mayonnaise, reputedly invented in Mahon, Menorca.
Salmonete - red mullet
Salmorejo - Cordoban gazpacho
Sama - a firm white dentex
Samfaina - Catalan ratatouille
Sargo - white seabream, diplodus sargus
Seco - dry
Sesos - brains
Setas - wild mushrooms
Sidra - Asturian still cider
Salchicha - fresh sausage
Salchichon - cured sausage
Salmonete - red mullet
Salmorejo - Cordoban gazpacho
Saltén - thin frying pan
Serrano - cured ham
Sobresada - Mallorcan pork sausage
Socarrao - the crisp finish of a paella
Sofrito, (Catalan Sofrigit) - onion, garlic and tomato cooked down in olive oil to form base for a dish

Solera - series of butts in which the older are topped up from the younger to obtain desired consistency and character. Sherry is therefore not of a vintage, and is in theory partly as old as the bodega.
Solomillo (sol-o-me-o) - centre fillet of beef, lamb or pork
Sopas Mallorquinas - brown bread soaked in soup 
Suquet - Catalan fish stew
Tabella - butter beans
Tala - Maize cake
Tarta de Santiago - almond tart
Tasca - bar or tavern, serving food
Tapa, Tapas, Tapeo, Tapeador
Torta del Casar cheese from Extremadura
Torta de Aceite - a anise and sesame flavoured olive oil snack or dessert biscuit/crisp-bread from Sevilla.
Tortilla - (Spanish Omelette) (tor-tee-a) - potato, onion and egg "cake"
Tortilla de Sacromonte - sheeps brain omelette
Tortillitas - flour based fritters a little nearer to the South American tortilla.
Trato - "friendly service" is the nearest in english, that little extra interaction between customer and waiter. The opposite of formulaic "have a nice day" service.
Tumbet - Mallorcan Aubergine, courgette and potato fry.
Turron - hard nougat like sweet.
Txakoli - Basque petillant wine
Txanqurro rellenos - Basque stuffed crab
Txistorra - Basque spicy sausage
Urta - red banded seabream, a large bream
Vapor - steamed
Verduras - vegetables
Vichy Catalan - strong flavoured water from Caldes de Malavella, "Vivaris" is a slightly milder water of a similar style.
Vieiras - scallops
Vieja - parrot fish
Vino tierno - Malaga wine from sun dried grapes
Vi ranci (Cat)- rich sauce from an old wine
Xampanyeries - Catalan cava tapas bars
Yemas - dessert of raw egg yolk and sugar
Zamburiña - (vieiras) scallops
Zarzamora - blackberry
Zarzeula, sarsuela (Cat) - literally a musical comedy of fish, a fish stew
Zizak - wild tricholoma mushroom (Basque) 
Zorza - a pork, paprika and garlic mix (sometimes used in empanadas)
Zurito - a small beer

Note for USA readers
US shrimp = European prawn (large)
US prawn = European shrimp  (small)
so a Spanish quisqullia = European shrimp
a Spanish langostino = Dublin bay prawn or scampi
and a Spanish gambas = European prawn


  See also :-
Walking in Spain | Spanish photos | Spanish pronunciation & general guidebooks | Spanish food - Andalucia | Food - Asturias | Food - Basque Country | Food - Canary Islands  | Food Castile | Food - Catalonia & Balearics | Food - Extremadura | Food - Galicia | Food - Navarre & Aragon | Food - Valencia | Tapas | Glossary |Books