The Andalusian regions of southern Spain are celebrated for their delicious food and drink. Here’s a look at the magical blend of culture, climate and geography that has made the cuisine of Andalusia sought after in restaurants around the world.
A cultural melting pot
The history and culture of southern Spain has benefited from a rich variety of influences, dating back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans who took advantage of the abundant natural resources of the region. The Romans have been credited with introducing irrigation systems to allow for the creation of olive tree groves, which enable mass production of olive oil.
Olive oil is still a signature ingredient in Spanish cuisine, and indeed it has been adopted around the world both as a premium cooking oil and as salad dressing staple. Irrigation also enabled the cultivation of a wide variety of high quality fruits and vegetables, including peppers, aubergine, tomatoes, broad beans and potatoes.
For three centuries from around the 12 century AD, Andalusia was under the rule of the Moors, sophisticated Muslim people from North Africa who are credited with leaving a rich artistic heritage, which is still present today and can be seen in geometric patterns and bright colours for ceramics and textiles.
It also influenced the flamenco musical style, which is mainly expressed through lively guitar music, singing and dancing. However, it is also about a state of mind and a way of life; a part of the social life and café culture of the country.
The region is uniquely located between the Sierra Morena Mountains and the point where the Mediterranean Sea meets with the mighty Atlantic Ocean. This provides an unusual diversity of marine life and ample seafood resources that are of a high quality. Particular specialties include the red tuna, the red snapper, sole, sea bass, and king prawns.
A simple popular meal of the region is fish fried in batter and served with a lettuce and tomato salad. The mountain regions have a varied climate, with some areas being very dry, while others have high rainfall and soil rich slopes that are ideal for olive trees. In between, There are abundant open plains that allow large scale crops to be grown.
Andalusia is noted for its cured hams and sausages, made from pigs reared in the mountains and benefitting from a biodiverse diet. This gives the meat a particularly full taste and aroma with a soft texture. Meats of the region are said to be lower in unhealthy saturated fats than that from livestock reared in other parts of the world.
The region is noted for its high quality wines and sherries, in particular from Jerez, where the much admired fino, amontillado and manzanilla varieties originate from.
No mention of Adalusian culture would be complete without including tapas. These are restaurants that serve several small sharing plates of food to be enjoyed by a group of diners. Popular dishes include goat’s cheese omelettes, fried prawns, and spicy fried potatoes.
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