All of us know, how rich is the Spanish cuisine, with most famous paella, sangria and amazing tapas. Today I was inspired by a local food magazine to share with you some very specific Catalan dishes. Many of those you will find only in Catalonia.
Catalan cuisine is very tasteful because they use as basic ingredients many fresh vegetables(especially tomato, garlic, eggplant (aubergine), capsicum, and artichoke), wheat products (bread, pasta), Arbequina olive oils, wines, legumes (beans, chickpeas), mushrooms, all sorts of pork preparations (sausage from Vic, ham), all sorts of cheese, poultry, lamb, and many types of fish like sardines, anchovy, tuna.
As well each dish is flavored with a mix of sweet and savoury sauces that include ground almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, etc. sometimes with garlic, herbs, biscuits.
I know that many tourists already know about the famous “Calçotada”. It is a specially cultivated onion, grilled and served as a “Calçotada”. In the cities you will have to know the right places to go to enjoy. But, the best Calçots, can be enjoyed only in mountain region.
About calçot, as I mentioned it is a specially cultivated long white tender onion that is grilled and after peeled the black part due to the fire and then dipped into the romesco sauce.
Romesco sauce. This sauce is made with grilled red peppers or nyores and tomatoes, with toasted almonds and hazelnuts as the main ingredients. Romesco sauce is mainly used for Calçots, but it is so tasteful, that I like to buy it and eat on the bread.
Calçotada, is the reunion with friends and family where you gather specially to eat calçots. It is more a tradition than a simple dish.
After having some good portions of calçots, then comes the main dish, which is grilled meat with all i oli. If you are lucky enough to be in Catalonia around February/March you have to try the calçots.
Pa amb tomàquet
Pa amb tomàquet also known as pan con tomate in Spanish, is an essential part of any Catalan meal. It is a slice of bread crisped up, it is better when it is grilled and rubbed with garlic and then tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and finished off with a sprinkling of salt.
Escalivada is a combination of various grilled vegetables. Usually it is served as a warm dish. Usually they grill aubergines, red peppers, onions and tomatoes over an open fire or directly in the ashes. Then skinned and de-seeded and served with oil and pinch of salt. Sometimes it is served alongside anchovies and tuna.
Mongetes amb botifarra (beans and pork sausage)
This dish is cooked in Catalonia since the 16th century. This is the Catalan version of sausage and beans. Botifarra is the sausage, which is typically made of pork (although sometimes goose meat) and laced with a host of fresh spices. The black botifarra also includes pig’s blood. Then botifarra d’arròs built out of rice, and occasionally some fattier parts of the animal. The sausage is flanked by a side of white beans and garnished with parsley.
Escudella i carn d’olla
This Catalan dish is served as soup with pasta and minced meats and vegetables, or as the soup first and then the rest.
The escudella is a soup stewed with meat and vegetables, bobbing with scraps of pasta or rice. The second half is the carn d’olla: all of the meat (chicken, cansalada -a kind of bacon but thickest-, chorizo, black sausage etc..- and chick peas and a ham bone or meat bones as well) and vegetables (carrots, celery and cabbage) are cooked in the soup first, removed and then served on the side.
Escudella i carn d’olla is typical main dish for Christmas.
On the second day of Christmas, after having an Escudella i carn d’olla as main dish on the previous day, there is still lots of meat left. Catalans are very resourceful and they use the meat left for doing canelones. Canelons are made of tubes of pasta stuffed with meat and layered with creamy béchamel sauce.
I made it several times at home, and all the family just love this dish.
Fricandó is one of the few traditional Catalan dishes that stars beef: sliced beef is covered in flour, seared in butter or olive oil with some mushrooms and stewed in white wine. It’s often made the night before and served the next day.
This dish is very well known in other parts of Spain as well. It is a combination of meat and vegetable stew. The base are vegetables (potatoes, carrots, artichoke etc.), legumes (beans, kidney beans, etc.) and embotit or butchery.
Embotit (cured meats)
In every part of Spain and Catalonia is not an exception, people love ham. It is not missed on any table. Catalonia region is very famous for cured meats. The typical ones are the fuet – a dry sausage- and the secallona – an even drier sausage and with more pepper taste-, as fresh meat the botifarra -sort of sausage- it is also a typical thing to try.
Cap i pota
Cap i pota is a traditional Catalan dish that is not so famous in modern times. It’s made from a base of offal or tripe, simmered until soft; occasionally ham hocks and veal head are added to the stew. Cap i Pota is cooked slowly, letting the ingredients gently bubble away, making it ideal if you love dipping your bread in the leftover juices when you’re in no hurry about finishing your meal.
Esqueixada is a salad made with peppers, tomatoes, onions, red wine vinegar and shredded ‘bacalao’. Bacalao is salt raw cod very typical to the region. It normally goes with black olives as well, the sweetness of the olive contrasts with the salty flavour of the cod.
Suquet de Peix
A Seafood Stew with potatoes, garlic and tomatoes. Here you can use a wide variety of fish.
The dish was invented by fishing folk who would build an easy meal for themselves at the end of a long shift using the parts of the catch that weren’t sold that day: bits of hake, monkfish, clams and mussels. The stew is also mixed with saffron – an expensive spice grown in Central Spain – giving it its recognisable red colour.
Crema catalana I think is the most famous Catalan desert, and not sure I have to present it to you. It is very similar to the French Crème Brulée. Yellow cream made with egg yolk, milk and sugar, whose denseness is between a crème pâtissière or natillas and a flan.
Unlike the French version, crema catalana uses a base of milk (instead of cream) and is thickened with eggs. It’s cooked in the oven in a water bath; once out, the tops are doused with sugar and torched.
Then you have a variety of Crema Catalana with some specific tastes, depending on which part of Catalonia you stay. Mató de Pedralbes – Barcelona; Menjablancor – Reus; Peres de Lleida – Lleida. All these are a little bit different from Crema Catalana, but the base is the same.
Panellets are round small pastries made of almonds, pine nuts, eggs and sugar with different shapes and flavors. They can be rolled in any number of coatings, but the traditional ones are rolled in pine nuts. Usually can be found around the 1st of November, on Castanyada holidays.
Mel i mató
A dessert of fresh mató cheese with honey. It is very specific for Catalonia region, as the cheese is made from cows’ or goats’ milk, with no salt added. Sometimes it is also served with walnuts
Coques were at first eaten only on holidays. But nowadays, I found out that many parents buy it instead of the cake, and kids really loves it.
Is a special kind of coca, that Catalans eat on the Day of the Three Kings, a typical ring-shaped pastry stuffed with marzipan or Catalan cream (crema catalana) and topped with glazed fruit and nuts.
Mona de Pasqua
This dessert is very specific for Easter. Is a pastry covered with almonds, yolk jam, chocolate eggs. Usually the Godfather and Godmother give it as a present to their godchildren. At first, it has one egg for each year of the children’s age, and continuing to add one egg each year until twelve, as at thirteen they are no longer considered children.
My kids were preparing one every year in the kindergarten.
I think the list is not finished here. If you are a food guru of Catalan cuisine, and think something is missed here, let me know, I will add it with pleasure.
Catalonia during centuries, has created its own rich history and distinctive culture, including its own special cuisine. During this time it was influenced by their neighbours France, Andorra and Italy.
I hope you enjoyed reading and see you on the next post.