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Fiesta Nacional de Espana: Celebrate Spain’s National Day with Authentic Spanish Cooking

Fiesta, Flamenco and Food; the three F’s that make Spanish National Day complete. Known for their love of food, life and revelry, Spaniards surely know how to celebrate everyday as if it were October 12th. The Fiesta Nacional de Espana or Spanish National Day is celebrated on the 12th of October every year. It marks the day Christopher Columbus first arrived in America, hence it coincides with Columbus Day in America and Dia de la Raza in other Latin American countries. If that was not enough, Spain has also declared October 12th as the Day of the Armed Forces as well as the feast day of “Our Lady of Pilar” (their patroness), hence more reasons to celebrate. While the Spanish patriots commemorate this day with military parades, music, food and merriment, we can use this day as an excuse to learn the art of Spanish cooking.

National Day of Spain

With the influence of several cultures, regions and benefiting from its poignant geographical location and climate, Spanish cuisine is diverse, healthy and rich in flavors. With seafood being a major feature on Spanish menus, due to the boundless seas surrounding the Iberian peninsula and olive oil generously used due to its proximity to the Mediterranean nations, Spanish cuisine can never be mastered in just one sitting. Hence the popularity of Spanish Tapas; to get a taste of all things Spanish, without the the fear of overeating. Tapas, almost always associated with Spanish food, are small plates or appetizers similar to mezze platters in Arabic cuisine. Served either hot or cold, tapas include fried calamari, cheese and olive skewers, prawns sauteed in garlic to name a few. Legend has it that it was drinking wine with small dishes in between meals cured King Alfonso X of Castille of his illness. After that all taverns across Spain were ordered to serve small plates, tapas, along with wine. Spanish food has come a long way since then, with entire restaurants now being dedicated to Tapas style food. But that is not all what Spanish food is known for. The discussion about Spanish fare would be incomplete without tortilla de patata and paella.

Spanish Tapas

Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Omelet)

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 green chillies, chopped (optional)
  • Handful coriander (optional

Preparation:

  • Slice the potatoes lengthwise. Make sure you cut them very thin
  • Mix in the diced onion and add a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the potato-onion mixture. The potatoes should be evenly covered with the oil
  • Cook till the potatoes are soft and the onions are translucent. Make sure the heat is low otherwise the onions will burn
  • Remove the mixture from the pan
  • In another bowl, beat the eggs and add a dash of milk, about 2 tbsp. Whisk well
  • Add the ¬†potato mixture, coriander and chopped green chillies to the beaten eggs and mix well
  • Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a non-stick pan and pour in the egg mixture
  • Run the spatula along the sides of the pan to keep it from sticking
  • Let the bottom of the omelet cook for about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Lift the omelet from one side to see the progress. Once the bottom starts to brown, remove from heat
  • This is now the tricky part. Take the pan off the stove and cover it with a large plate. Carefully holding the plate and the pan, flip the omelet over onto the plate
  • Add some more olive oil onto the pan and return to the stove
  • Slide the omelet back onto the pan and let the other side cook for about 2-3 minutes
  • Once the bottom of the omelet starts to brown, turn off the heat and let it cool
  • Slide it onto a plate and serve.

Tortilla de Patatas

PAELLA

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 kg chicken drumsticks
  • 2 lb medium sized prawns with the skin on
  • 2 lbs mussels (open but in shell)
  • 1 lb clams (open but in shell)
  • 1 lb calamari rings
  • 5 cups of medium grain rice
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, skinned and diced
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp garlic/ginger paste
  • 2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 2 cup peas
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation:

  • In a large pan (preferably a paella pan) glaze the bottom with olive oil. Add the onions, tomatoes and garlic/ginger paste
  • Cook till the the onions are translucent and the tomatoes have become soft, stirring often
  • Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes on each side till slightly brown
  • Stir in the calamari rings and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Add the rice, and stir it into the mixture till it is coated with olive oil and has infused with the rest of the ingredients in the pan
  • In a separate bowl, mix a pinch of saffron in the chicken stock to give the rice the yellow color
  • Pour the chicken stock into the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Add more stock if the ingredients are not all covered
  • Place the mussels, clams and pepper in the pan and cook on low heat
  • Simmer till the rice has completely been cooked and the liquid has dried up (Note: Add more stock if the previous one has dried up and the rice still is not cooked)
  • Once the rice is cooked, add the peas and cover with a lid for about 10 minutes. This helps the flavors infuse with the dish with the help of its own steam
  • Serve immediately

Paella

And last but definitely not the least, a Spanish celebration would be incomplete without a large jug of cold Sangria

SANGRIA

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine (preferably Spanish Rioja)
  • 2 apples, skinned and sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 peach, skinned and diced
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 cans club soda
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Preparation:

  • In a large pitcher, combine all the ingredients except the lemon juice and club soda
  • Stir in the sugar (add more if you prefer it to be sweeter) and refrigerate till ready to serve (atleast 3-4 hours). This helps to soak in all the flavors
  • Before serving, add the club soda and lime juice
  • Garnish each glass with a slice of lemon and serve

Sangria

A very small part of Spain brought to your table. What better day to inspire yourselves to discover the cuisine of yet another country than on Fiesta Nacional de Espana. Get your aprons ready, 12th October is right round the corner. Maybe this way you would discover that there is more to Spain than their football team, tennis players and beaches.

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