Gastronomy – the typical dishes of Tossa and the region of Catalonia
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Catalan cuisine is by far the richest of all Spain and encompasses influences from French and Italian cooking, as well as Spanish.
If you can remember the four basic sauces then you are well on your way to an understanding of this cuisine. Sofrito (garlic, onion, tomato and parsley), Samfaina (tomato, pepper and aubergine), Picada (garlic, parsley, almonds and toasted pine seeds) and ali-oli (olive oil and garlic).
The province of Girona boasts one of the most carefully preserved cooking traditions. It brings together the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean to create the concept of ‘mar y montaña’ (sea and mountains), the wonderful combinations of meat and fish in one dish. Chicken with prawns may seem an unusual combination but try it and you’ll understand why it’s such a popular dish. And the stew of sausage, rabbit, shrimp and fish is an absolute classic.
In Tossa there is a fusion of the culinary sensations of Catalonia, Girona and Spain in general.
Tossa was once a thriving fishing village so naturally, fish and seafood features highly on the menus of the majority of restaurants.
There are several different types of fish stew to try, all served in different ways. Cim-i-Tomba is the much-celebrated dish of Tossa. It is a stew of fish, ali-oli, peppers, onions, mushrooms and sliced potatoes and it’s recipe has been a tradition of fishermen for many, many years. It is served in a number of Tossa’s restaurants, and varies between them in ingredients and consistency. It is always served for a minimum of two persons and you should expect to wait at least twenty minutes for a good, fresh one.
Paella features as a staple on almost all the menus, but if you want a change from rice try Fideuá – similar to Paella but made with noodles instead of rice. Zarzuela is a must to try and is a magnificently simple selection of fish and seafood, which varies from day to day and from restaurant to restaurant, is simmered to perfection in a flavoursome gravy-consistency sauce, and can include such delights as octopus, squid, tuna steak, hake and langoustines. You’ll need plenty of bread with this dish (you must try Pa amb Tomaquet (or Pan Tostado con Tomato y ajo in Spanish) – toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato and drizzled with olive oil), or order a side dish of fried potatoes to contrast the texture. Suquet is another type of fish stew which again is much celebrated in Tossa, as is Cazuela. Part of the fun is learning what each type of stew involves as you go along!
If you want simple, straightforward baked or grilled fish, try hake (Merluza), Monkfish (Rape), or turbot (Rodaballo). Fish is usually served in a ‘cazuela’ (earthenware dish), and more often than not, in Marinera sauce. You’ll see ‘Marinera’ come up in many dishes. It’s a tomato based sauce, otherwise known as ‘fisherman’s sauce’. If you order any of these dishes, unless the menu says otherwise, that’s all you’ll get. So you’ll need to order side dishes like salad, fried potatoes, bread or Tumbet (a delicious vegetable dish made from aubergines, peppers, potatoes garlic, tomato sauce and olive oil), for example.
Seafood is another extremely popular dish in Tossa. Allow your nostrils to savour the delightful aroma of prawns grilled in garlic and parsley (Gambas a la Plancha), mussels steamed and drenched in Marinera sauce (Mejillones a la Marinera) squid fried in it’s own ink (Calamares en su tinta)…the choices are endless!
Calling all meat lovers ….
The veal from Girona is renowned, and equally popular is rabbit, lamb and of course, one of the most celebrated meats of Spain, pork.
A visit to the region of Catalonia wouldn’t be complete without trying the array of sausages: Butifarra, Chorizo, Fuet and Salchichon.
The spit-roast chicken is mouth-wateringly sumptuous, oozing the essence of thyme, parsley and garlic that has been baked into its skin. Stroll past one of the restaurants early evening and the wonderful aroma billowing from the outdoor spits will have you licking your lips!
Calling all meat lovers’ – buy Spanish recipe books
A little bit of this, a little bit of that….Tapas, the wonderful Spanish tradition
A ‘tapa’ is a small portion and was originally designed to fill a gap between meals. However, now many people take a selection of tapas as their main meal.
There are many stories about the origins of tapas. One is that tapas comes from the verb ‘tapar’ meaning ‘to cover’. After a long, hot day’s work, Spanish workers would stop off at a bar on their way home for a refreshing glass of wine. Due to the heat, flies were a problem, so the bar tender would cover the glass of wine with a crust of bread or a slice of ham or cheese. The worker would finish his wine and then eat what ever had been covering it. The bread, ham or cheese gradually developed over the years into more extravagant snacks, leading to today’s array of interesting dishes.
Styles of tapas vary between the regions of Spain, although there are staples throughout the country such as olives, ham and cheese. Tapas in the restaurants of Tossa is primarily fish and seafood-based with delights such as small fried fish (boquerones), cockles (berberechos), prawns (gambas) and sardines (sardanas). In Catalonia, however, bear in mind that taking tapas as a main meal can set you back more than a traditional three course meal!
Buy books about Tapas
Enjoying a drink in Tossa
It is believed that wine has been made in this region for 2,700 years. Today, Catalonia is one of the most renowned wine producing regions in the world.
Spanish wines are categorised and recognised by the ‘Denominación de Orígen’ label. The D.O. system is a quality control system which guarantees the origin of grapes, as well as the methods used to produce the wines.
In Catalonia there are ten ‘Denominacíons de Orígen’.
Catalan wines are recognised for their quality and the rich thick reds, refreshing rosés and crisp whites are complimented by the wonderful cava also produced throughout the region. The first Cava was made in 1872 by Josep Raventós who was from the region of Alt Penedés, in the province of Barcelona. 90% of all Cava wine comes from Catalonia.
Name dropping sees Freixenet and Codorniu for cava and Torres and Torello for wines, amongst countless others.
Fancy a beer? Naturally, the primary beer of Spain, San Miguel, is served everywhere, but also very popular in this region is Estrella.
Enjoying a drink in Tossa’ – learn about Spanish wine
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