You may know all about jamón, tortilla and gazpacho, but what other local food should you be trying in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia?
Picos – mini breadsticks, served any time you order food, sometimes with bread rolls. There’s often a pan y picos cover charge on the bill.
Chicharrones – the best translation for this would probably be pork scratchings but in reality they have more meat, and can range from thinly sliced cold cuts of pork with seasoned fat, to delicious bites of pork with thick crispy fat and crackling.
Mojama – cured tuna served like jamón – can be very salty but delicious.
Salmorejo – a Cordoban cold soup similar to gazpacho but thicker. Gazpacho will often be served and drunk from a glass whereas salmorejo is creamier, served in a bowl with a spoon and usually has chopped hard-boiled egg and jamón on top.
Puchero andaluz – a rustic dish, puchero is soup made from (often cheap) cuts of meat and stock, with rice, noodles or chickpeas and vegetables.
Croquetas – made from a thick bechamel and then deep fried – often of jamón, oxtail (rabo de toro or cola de toro) or puchero (see above). Croquetas shouldn’t be made with potato!
Pringá – a Seville speciality – the meat from puchero (pork, chorizo, morcilla) is taken and mashed together a bit like pulled pork. If served as a tapas dish it normally comes as a montadito (in a small toasted bread roll).
Montaditos – in the north of Spain montaditos can be mini tapas bites on bread, but in Andalusia they’re always sandwiches – usually mini toasted rolls with whatever filling you’d like, for example choriqueso (chorizo and cheese).
Tostada / Mollete – a toasted roll is a typical breakfast, and will often come with olive oil and tomate triturado (fresh crushed tomato) or sometimes thick salmorejo. You can also ask for jamón or any other topping you might want (butter, jam etc).
Ajo caliente – a filling rustic dish traditional to the Jerez area, where grape pickers would eat it at harvest time. Ajo caliente translates literally as hot garlic and is a dish of bread mashed up with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, served hot and eaten with spoons, particularly common at ferias and festivals.
Carillada – Iberian pork cheek, tender and often braised in wine.
Tortillitas de camarones – a speciality of Sanlúcar these are deep fried thin crispy fritters with (usually unpeeled) tiny shrimps.
Ortiguillas – sea anemone – usually served deep fried, crispy on the outside and runny and salty in the middle (the texture isn’t for everyone!).
Tagarninas – a local Jerez dish, made from a thistle-like plant with purple flowers. The stalks are chopped finely and stewed with aromatic herbs and spices.
Flamenquín cordobés – a roulade of pork loin and jamón breaded and deep fried.
Berza jerezana – a Jerez stew of chickpeas with meat – sausages, morcilla, chorizo and pork.
Ensaladilla – despite sounding like it should just be a ‘little salad’ an ensaladilla is a Russian salad (potatoes, peas, carrots, and onions in mayonnaise) and can be found on almost every menu. I prefer an ensaladilla de gambas – a potato salad with mayonnaise and prawns.
Churros / Porras – delicious deep fried donut-type snacks – churros are thin, porras are thicker, and they’re made from different batters. If you want the thick hot chocolate to dip them in, ask for a chocolate a la taza.
Spain is improving when it comes to accommodating food intolerances and allergies but if you’re vegetarian, vegan or gluten free, it’s best to ask in advance – a dish of peppers may just say ‘pimientos’ but could easily turn up with some tuna on top…
As you might expect in the home of sherry, it’s available everywhere in Jerez, Sanlúcar and El Puerto de Santa María, with many restaurants having long sherry menus to choose from. If you’re happy with house sherry just ask for a ‘copa’ of whichever style you want (fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso). For more on sherry see my Beginners Guide to Sherry.
Many sherry bodegas also make brandy as well as vermouth (vermut), a sweet fortified wine flavoured with herbs giving it a slight bitterness, great as an aperitif.
Most tapas bars, even if they don’t have a wine list will probably have an Albariño and/or Verdejo (fresh, dry citrussy white grapes from the North of Spain) and reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Tintilla de Rota is a red grape local to the Cádiz region.
Much more common than sangría is a Tinto de verano. Meaning literally ‘summer red’ and is red wine topped up with a cloudy lemonade or soda and served over ice.
Most spirits are generously free poured – G&Ts especially are often served in large balloon glasses and will be mainly gin! Try a gin mare (Spanish gin with rosemary and thyme flavours).