Overview of Barcelona Cuisine
What differentiates Catalan cuisine from other Spanish regions is its innate creativity and tendency to mix sweet and savory flavors. The most famous examples of this are the so-called Mar and Muntanya dishes (sea and mountain dishes). For instance, pork can be combined with lobster whereas chicken is usually prepared with shrimp. Also, you will often find nuts or raisins in vegetable dishes, fruit in meat dishes, or even rabbit meat combined with snails.
Generally speaking, Catalan cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine mostly influenced by Valencian, Balearic, Aragonese, Southern French, and Murcian cuisine. So, you can find a variety of rice dishes worth trying, mostly variations on the typical Spanish paella.
This cuisine is diverse in itself. The diet of the inland part is based on meat, mostly turkey, pork, duck, and goose as well as game, particularly rabbit. On the other hand, fish and seafood are more popular along the coast.
It would be impossible to imagine Catalan food without garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes. As the Mediterranean is just there, the cuisine can boast with a variety of tasty seafood dishes. The ingredients characteristic for the region are a variety of fresh vegetables (eggplant, garlic, artichoke, capsicum, onion, tomato), meat (lamb, poultry, pork, rarely beef), seafood (tuna, anchovy, sardine, prawns, cod, squid), legumes (chickpeas and various beans), cheese (especially goat cheeses), and wheat products (bread and pasta). Other typical ingredients include olive oil, sherry vinegar, pine nuts, rice, almonds, as well as pork sausages, such as Xoriço paprika salami, made from the black Iberian Cerdo pig.
Another authentic ingredient of the cuisine are wild mushrooms called bolets. One way to prepare one of the mushroom delicacies is to roast them with spring onions and serve them with romesco sauce.
Sauces form another essential aspect of Catalan cuisine and are much more important than in Spanish cuisine. Some of the most popular sauces are:
Allioli: A thick garlic and olive oil sauce, served with grilled vegetables and meat
Picada: A unique Catalan sauce made with garlic, almonds, nuts, parsley, and breadcrumbs
Salvitxada: A sauce made from hazelnuts, almonds, tomatoes, garlic, dried red peppers, and vinegar.
Some of the famous Barcelona dishes you should not miss include:
Pa amb tomaquet: Slices of rustic bread, rubbed with garlic, topped with tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. This Catalan staple is usually enjoyed for breakfast.
Sarsuela: A casserole dish prepared with a combination of seafood such as white fish, squid, shrimp, prawns, lobster, or mussels, tomatoes, and white wine, seasoned with paprika and other spices and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
Fideua: A dish prepared in a large circular pan with a combination of vegetables, meat, usually poultry, shellfish, and noodles called fideus.
Cargols a la llauna: Cooked snails
Faves a la Catalana: Bean stew cooked with black sausage, mint, and garlic
Escudella: A stew served with pasta, vegetables, or minced meat.
Catalan-style cod: Cod prepared with pine nuts and raisins.
Peres de Lleida: Pears cooked in a kind of crema catalana, served cold.
Mel i Mato: Dessert made with honey and cheese
Menjablanc: White cream made with almonds
Coques: Biscuits made with pine nuts and candied fruits
Crema Catalana: A unique dessert of cold custard and caramelized sugar coating.
Planning your meal
Visiting Barcelona and not trying some of its classic dishes such as tapas, paella, and crema catalana would be an incomplete trip. If you want to get the authentic Catalan experience, you just have to feel the vibrancy of tastes, flavors, and aromas intermingled into hearty and flavorful dishes.
The ingredients you will need to recreate these popular dishes are all easily available in stores, so it should be easy organize a Catalan dinner at your home and surprise your family and friends.
Typical Catalan appetizers are tapas, and they are so popular in Barcelona that they have become part of the Catalan way of life. If you visit Barcelona, you can’t miss a tapa bar, as they are everywhere. Catalans enjoy eating tapas with people dear to them in a friendly atmosphere. Tapas are great appetizers as you can make delicious ones with just a few ingredients like olives and cheese. Plus, they give you the freedom to experiment and combine various ingredients to get some new and unique tastes. They frequently don’t require any cooking and are easy to make. Tapas pair nicely with a glass of wine like dry sherry or just a glass of plain water.
You don’t have to worry that you will need some special ingredients; tomatoes, olives, garlic, cheese, and ham are the typical tapa ingredients. Popular tapas are marinated olives, fried salted almonds, marinated tuna, spicy sausage, fried cheese balls, and fried mushrooms in garlic sauce. Here are two recipes that you can try out at home.
Prune & Date Wraps
You just have to try this one; it has that combination of sweet and savory, typical of Catalonian cuisine.
12 thin slices Bacon
12 Dried Dates
12 Dried Prunes, pitted
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
With each slice of bacon, wrap a prune and a date. Use a toothpick to keep the bacon wrapped around the fruit.
Heat a dash of olive oil in a frying pan on medium-high and add the bacon. Fry until crispy and golden brown on all sides.
Once done, remove and allow to drain on kitchen paper.
Baguette with Tomato & Serrano Ham
Crusty slices of bread are topped with tomatoes and ham and infusesd with just a hint of garlic. Simple and delicious!
2 Baguettes, cut into 8 slices
4 Garlic Cloves
4 Tomatoes, halved
8 tsp Olive Oil
8 slices Serrano Ham
Toast the baguette slices using your toaster and rub them with the garlic.
Rub the slices with the halved tomatoes as well.
Drizzle with the olive oil, top with the ham slices and serve.
A colorful paella will surely amaze your taste buds with its variety of Mediterranean flavors. It is typically made with fish, but you can find chicken varieties as well. It will take you some time and patience, but you won’t regret once you try it. Just follow the detailed steps in the recipe below and your paella will turn out great. Your kitchen will be filled with those authentic Mediterranean aromas, making it hard for you to wait just a couple of minutes for it to rest before serving.
4 ½ cup Water
Kosher Salt, to taste
1 small bottle Clam Juice
6 oz Shrimp
A pinch of Saffron Threads
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 oz Dry Scallops, patted dry
6 Garlic Cloves, peeled
1/2 Onion, roughly grated
1 Tomato, halved, peeled and grated
1/2 tsp Pimenton (ground dry capsicum)
1 1/2 cup Medium-Grain Rice
8 small Clams or Mussels, scrubbed
2 Lemons, cut in wedges
Peel the shrimp, pat dry them and reserve the shells for the broth.
Fill a pot with water, add some salt and bring to the boil. Pour in the clam juice, add the shrimp shells and reduce the heat to a simmer. After 10 minutes of simmering, strain the broth, return it to the pot and set aside.
Preheat a skillet on medium-low, add the saffron and toast for about a minute or two or until fragrant. Crumble the saffron, add it to the broth and set aside.
Heat the oil in a paella pan on medium-high, add the scallops and shrimp and saute for about 2 minutes. Once done, transfer to a plate and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato and season with pimenton and salt. Continue cooking for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture should get a dark burgundy color. If it is too dry, pour in a little water.
Warm the shrimp broth, add the rice to the paella pan and cook for a minute. Add 4 ½ cups of the broth to the paella pan. Give it a good stir so that the rice is evenly distributed. Add the clams, submerging them below the level of the liquid.
Simmer on medium-high for about 8-10 minutes. Do not stir the rice! Once the rice is at the same level as the liquid, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the mussels. Cook for about 10 more minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. Check the rice; it should be cooked al dente. If the rice is still not cooked and there is no liquid in the pan, add just a little more broth and cook for a couple of more minutes. Arrange the scallops, shrimp, and calamari in the pan and pour in any juices.
Cook for 2 more minutes on medium-high, rotating the pan so as to distribute the heat evenly. The rice at the bottom of the pan should start to caramelize and crackle. If it starts burning, remove the pan immediately from the heat.
Once done, remove the pan from the stove, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
Serve the paella! It is usually eaten directly from the pan.
Catalonia can be said to be a kingdom of super delicious desserts, and since Catalan people enjoy desserts a lot, their typical treats are very sweet. A typical Catalan dessert that you must try is definitely Crema Catalana.
This classic custard dessert topped with a crunchy layer of sugar has been a hot topic of conversation. It is favorite all over Spain, but other parts of Europe, such as France, have their own version of it. One thing is for sure, Crema Catalana is the oldest custard dessert that Europe knows; historians have found recipes as old as 14th century.
7 Egg Yolks
1 ½ Tbsp Cornstarch
1 liter Whole Milk, cold
Zest of ½ Lemon
Zest of ½ Orange
1 Cinnamon Stick
7 oz Sugar
Whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch and just a bit of cold milk.
In a saucepan, combine the remaining milk, lemon and orange zest, and cinnamon and bring to a gentle boil. Allow to cook for 3 minutes, add the egg mixture and give it a stir.
Set a sieve over a pan and pass the custard through the sieve. Return the mixture to the pan and cook on medium for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly.
Once the custard has thickened, remove it from the heat and pour into ramekins. Leave to cool and keep them in the fridge until serving.
Before serving, sprinkle each ramekin with 1 Tbsp sugar and use a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar. Another option is to place the ramekins under a gas grill and leave them to brown.
Wait for a couple of minutes for the sugar to harden and then serve.
People in Barcelona enjoy drinking coffee - espresso, cortado (espresso with just a dash of milk), and cafe con leche (a double espresso with a lot of milk).
Almost all main meals are accompanied with wine, and there are great wines to choose from when in Barcelona. Penedes, the closest wine-producing region to Barcelona, is famous for its Cava, a sparkling wine similar to champagne (some would say it is even better that champagne). This wine pairs nicely with seafood dishes. Other wines to try are Moscatelli, Empordà, sweet wine that Catalans enjoy after a meal, or high-quality Priorato, Tarragona wine.
Beer is also an important part of the Catalan life. The beer that you will find to be the most popular in Barcelona is Estrella. Other beers include Voll Damm (flavorsome malt beer) and Bock Damm (dark beer), all produced by the company Damm, established in the 19th century that now produces 15% of Spain’s beer.
Catalonia (also Catalunya), located in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula, feels distinct from the rest of Spain. It is an area with splendid nature - Pyrenean peaks guarding Catalan fertile vineyards and meadows as well as its sandy beaches. Besides its magnificent landscape, Catalonia is also proud of its food and has other treasures as well like fresh fruits and vegetables and high-quality seafood and meat.
The capital of the autonomous community Catalonia, Barcelona, is considered to be the largest metropolis in the Mediterranean. Its cuisine, known as Catalan cuisine, is very diverse, as its dishes range from hearty pork-based dishes to light and tender fish recipes.