Winter Brings its own unique tastes to the tables of Southern Spain.
As the colours of winter emerge in Southern Spain, the green mountainsides, the white tops of the Sierra Nevada and the crisp early morning light under clear blue skies, there’s a noticeable shift in the flavours served up at tables across Andalucía. Light summer salads and grilled fish are supplemented by seasonal produce that packs a punch — wild asparagus, fennel and game. It’s time to sample the hearty dishes that traditionally warmed and nourished fishermen and farmers.
‘Gazpachuelo’ is perhaps the most traditional winter dish of all, a creamy and not-so-subtle rift on gazpacho that’s a regular in homes and restaurants around Malaga. It’s a mix of fish broth and garlic mayonnaise, eaten hot and finished with potatoes, fish — cod or monkfish most usually — and sometimes eggs or clams.
Andalucían stew — puchero — is a stalwart on menus across the region, again with many homespun versions. ‘Puchero’ refers to the large clay pots where the stew was made, in rural villages where cooks relied on whatever food was available. So while the traditional base of chickpeas and spices has its roots in Arabic cuisine, over the centuries the dish has evolved. ‘Menudo gitano‘, known as Andalucían tripe, uses pig’s trotters or ham, berza de acelgas is made with pork and pimento and ‘Berza Malagueña’ has a bit of everything, beef, pork, bacon and blood sausage.
‘Choto al ajillo’ includes goat meat and smoked paprika.
Meat is a staple of all these Andalucían stews and of winter dishes in general. Pork and lamb are easily found but there’s also oxtail from bulls, venison and wild boar. Rabbit and partridge are still on many menus as is wild duck from Seville, served with local olives.
Determined not to give up your Andalucían seafood? Try baked hake served on a base of potatoes or travel to Huelva, famed for its siesta-inducing seafood paella.
And no winter trip to Andalucía would be complete without sampling. Translating as ‘crumbs’ this is an intoxicating mix of chorizo, pancetta, garlic, bread and oil, a recipe credited to shepherds and widely served today.
Written by: Cathy Hawker