We return to our examination of regional Spanish cuisine with a look at Catalonian food. It’s a diverse area in terms of geography and produce, with the expected cured meats, olive oils, fish and fresh vegetables. The further inland you go the more traditional pork-based dishes occur, and on the Mediterranean coastline is the sort of seafood you’d expect. There’s also Mar i Muntanya (‘sea and mountain’, the Spanish surf and turf).
Much of this is combined with bread and pasta, though don’t expect to find butter accompanying your bread. This isn’t your Harry Ramsden’s style bread and butter accompaniment. Pa amb tomàquet finds baked bread rubbed and doused with tomato, garlic, olive oil and salt. It’s a standard accompaniment in the region, and this is partly down to it being a matter of Catalonian pride – the resulting food reflects the regional flag. Sausage and cheese are also common, pork and goat based respectively.
In autumn wild mushrooms will be picked, in Spring there are milder and less bulbous onions. These are often roasted and dipped in sauce, making a meal known as calçots. In Catalonia sauces are a big deal, much is done with cooked and pulverised vegetables and nuts, mixing sweet and savoury flavours. There are a variety of stews based around meat, veg and fish. There’s also a regional variation on pizza – coca – which comes in savoury and sweet versions. Nuts and biscuits are integral to the sweeter side of Catalan cuisine. You may also be familiar with Creme Catalan, a desert similar to Creme Brulee.
Cava is, of course, the Catalonian equivalent of champagne, a sparkling Spanish wine that you’ll find throughout the United Kingdom. You may wish to pour some and raise a glass, should you find yourself with some smoked sausage and goats cheese on a warm summer evening.