Spain is a paradise for food lovers and there are 11 iconic ingredients that embody the essence of Spanish gastronomy, fine products with a high level of flavour, excellence and quality that appeal to all the senses: cheese, fish, wine, fruit & vegetables, ham, meats, olive oil, spices & salt, sweets, table olives, and vinegars.
Valencia’s famous Mercat Central is one of the largest fresh produce markets in Europe. This treasure of modernist architecture sells products from the entire region and beyond with all the flavours of the Mediterranean on offer here.
Spain produces many spices but none are more iconic than saffron. Spain is the world’s largest producer of this fragrant and colourful spice used in many dishes like Paella…
“Spanish saffron, is considered the best in the world and is grown mainly in the area of La Mancha,” says Domingo Rodriguez Lopez of La Parada de las Especias. “There is no Spanish dish that does not have it.”
Fresh meat in Spain benefits from 16 Protected Geographical Indications to help preserve local flavours.
“The meat we sell here is practically all national”, says Carlos Andreu Celda, butcher at Rosa Lloris. “Everything is done traditionally and very carefully. The breeds are practically all Spanish and when it reaches the consumer the quality is noticeable.”
For something sweet, Turrón is inherited from Arab cuisine.
“The two most important varieties of turrón with designation of origin are soft turrón, from Jijona and hard turrón from Alicante,” says Diego Molina from Super Gourmet Mercado Central. “The composition is always almond: Marcona almond, honey, some sugar and egg white. The importance is that they contain a significant amount of almonds, which are indigenous almonds, which gives a lot of value to the product.”
Olives are an iconic Spanish ingredient and there’s a huge variety on offer.
“These are typical Valencian,” says Luis Alabau Ballester, owner of Alabau, as he shows m his produce. “The olive comes from Córdoba, but it is made here with ingredients from here in Valencia. This one comes from Morón de la Frontera, Seville; this is one is from Arahal, from Seville and this one from Aljarafe, this is typical Sevillian. Then we also have spicy ones from El Arahal, Granada. And in black olives we have Alicante and Zaragoza.”
Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and most of it comes from Andalusia. Álvaro Guillén’s family has owned Hacienda Guzman for several generations, but its history dates back more than five centuries. Today its 300 hectares of olive trees produce high quality, extra virgin organic oil.
Olive trees are ‘milked’ – an ancient skill to harvest the fruit without damaging the branch – a process still done by hand here today.
“Here in Andalusia we have become experts at producing extra virgin olive oil,” says Irene Trujillo from Hacienda Guzman. “In terms of our premium oils, we have researched a lot about different varieties to make monovarietal oils and to find new flavours and new hints to make us enjoy the olive oil like a bottle of wine.”
The Ultraminos Octavio gourmet shop in Madrid showcases some of the best Spanish delicacies, including cured Ham and sausages.
“This ham is special,” says manager Alvaro Gomez. “Because from the moment the pig is born in the first two years of life it is cared for to the maximum. Its diet is based on acorn and the outdoor feeding period lasts from October to March. The pig exercises in the field and eats acorns, mushrooms and is very special.”
We hope you have enjoyed discovering – or rediscovering – some of Spain’s finest ingredients. Hasta Luego!
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