Viva Espana… or how to enjoy Spanish cuisine in London

I have to admit it, I have never been to Spain. I come from a neighbourhood country and despite some trips to Montpellier or Perpignan, my journey has never brought me to the red and yellow flag country.. It’s a shame, isn’t it?

The situation gets even more burlesque when you think that my first true introduction to Spanish cuisine took place in London…by a relentless Scottish woman, Rachel McCormack, a few months ago.

Of course, I had had paella in the past and there was always a chorizo at home but my taste buds never got the chance to enjoy a proper traditional dish such as Fideuà, or cocido madrileño. As in France, each region has its speciality. Catalonia features a lot of rice-dishes and seafood, just as Rioja is known its wine, you can’t leave Valencia without having enjoyed Paella, its birthplace.

Depending on where you live in Spain – either North or South – everybody has a different approach of the food and I think it’s important for people to understand the differences. I lived in Catalonia for 6 years so my knowledge of Spanish food is very much Catalan food. The only other food I really know is the one from the North because I lived in Santander for a year, explained Rachel McCormack

These past few months, my discovery of Spanish food has improved a lot – well, quite easy when you start from scratch. There are plenty of opportunities in London to understand the passion and the love that many people have for Spanish cuisine. Step into Fino, Salt yard See my review of Salt Yard – Brindisa, Pinchito…and you will see people enjoying and sharing good, simple and authentic food.

We’ve been at the shadow of the French & Italian cuisine for a while as southern European/ Mediterranean representatives but now, the best chefs in the world happen to be Spanish.This evolution eliminates the image of Spanish food being fried fast food that is available in Mediterranean beach resorts, said Tobias Blazquez-Garcia, Founder and Director of Pinchito.

Whether it’s Ferran Adria or potato tortilla, Spanish food is all about eating and enjoying what you cook and eat. British have been travelling to Spain for years but they only seem to start discovering proper Spanish food. The Spain’s gastronomic profile in the world is on the increase and people are just discovering it now, continued Rachel.

Showing off and superficiality don’t exist in Spanish cuisine. Where France tries to impress with the most sophisticated dishes, the Spanish keeps it simple and honest. As being the country that invented the concept of tapas, Spanish cuisine is the quintessence of shared food.

Spanish traditional cuisine is based on the climate and the products available in different areas. The large varieties of ingredients are cooked and served in an immense variety of methods and techniques that all bring the best out in the food. But I guess what people really look for in it is simple but surprisingly tasty food.

For the launch of  the Book of Tapas written by Simon and Ines Ortega published by Phaidon, a group of food bloggers were invited to Jose Pizarro‘s flat  to enjoy tapas the way it should be: amongst friends, in a relax atmosphere, with everybody picking up food from the wide selection of dishes presented on the tables. No table map, no proper sitting, just a plate to grab, lots of food to share and a chair or a couch to sit on. And that’s what the whole concept of tapas is about: sharing.

I love the whole ethos of sharing food…for me eating is such a sociable occasion!  I love the idea of being with friends or family and spending hours grazing over food, with all sorts of flavours. I also love one-pot cooking, where you have a centrepiece dish that the whole table can tuck into. My family taught me the beauty of sharing, so I never squabbled with my sister about toys or anything like that. I was taught to share everything in life: wisdom, recipes, and love. However, a lover should be never shared!, said Jose Pizarro

When she teaches Londoners the basic of Spanish cuisine at her Catalan Cooking Class, Rachel McCormack tries to re-create the kind of meal that she has at her friends’ houses in Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia without any fuss. The class is designed for a  maximum of 8 persons to keep it interactive and give the chance to everyone to cook together and help each other to make a 3-course seasonal menu.

I started teaching the class as I realised talking to people who know a lot about food how little they actually know about Spanish food in general and Catalan food in particular. I wanted to give people the opportunity to have some hands on training and teach them dishes they can make at home. I also suggest many alternative ways things can be made to give people the confidence to make what they learn to their own taste and not just blindly follow a recipe, explained Rachel.

Catalan Cooking Class – From 6.30pm – £60 per person including the tuition, food and wine.

At Pinchito, the paella master class is first of all a way for people to have a good time amongst friends and learn the basics of authentic paella from the chef. The class finishes with a paella dinner, accompanied by pitchers of sangria.

Everything started because we organized a few gatherings of friends to cook paella on some Sundays while the restaurant was closed and all our friends ended up showing up early to try to learn how to cook it for themselves. Our idea is more to show people some simple and tasty Spanish food rather than a boring teaching class, said Tobias.

Pinchito Paellla masterclass – From 6.30pm to 8.30pm – Minimum of 10 people – £40 per person including the demonstration, food and sangria.

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11 Bayley Street,
London, WC1B 3HD
020 7637 3977

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8 thoughts on “Viva Espana… or how to enjoy Spanish cuisine in London

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Viva Espana… or how to enjoy Spanish cuisine in London « Mathilde’s Cuisine --

  2. It’s so true what Rachel says about catalan and Spanish food. I eat it a fair bit, and recognise many of the dishes. But, while I use Spanish ingredients a lot, i hardly cook Spanish food per se, and that is because my knowledge is of a superficial kind. It would be great to learn more, so thanks for the posting and the links.

  3. Hello Everyone,
    My name is Richard, my friends and family consider me to be more than an aficionado, perhaps even a gourmet. After living in Spain for the last 14 and a half years, traveling extensively throughout the country and visiting many enclaves, I think it’s necessary to inform the English speaking public that though Cataluña (or Catalunya as they spell it) is part of the country of Spain, the Catalans don’t consider themselves to be Spaniards, in fact, the Catalan people have always insisted vehemently to the contrary. This phenomena is so pronounced that the Catalans were opening consulates in other countries. The current economic crisis has ended that farce. To this day Catalans still wish to secede from the Spanish Union.
    In further regards to Spanish Cooking, I would also like to mention that Spain has 50 provinces. Most of these provinces were at one time or another, small kingdoms, each having its own gastronomic distinctions, differences and or cuisine. So what is typical Spanish then???
    I’m still tallying my results. As I mentioned I’ve lived here for 14 and half years now and have yet to find a typical dish or groups of dishes that are indigenous to all of Spain.
    Each region and province has its own delicacies that invariably are worth the trip to Spain to discover these wonders.
    By the way Catalan cuisine fine though it may be, here in Spain, is not considered to be the grandest. Catalan Cooking falls last place at 10. The top ten Iberian regional cuisine have been compiled without the inclusion of Portugal.(It’s unfortunate as well)
    The Best cuisine as it be known in Spain…I reiterate that last part, “As it be known in Spain,” is firstly, (1) Basque Cuisine, (2) Navarra and Rioja (3) Galician Cuisine, (4) Austuriano, (5) Cantabrian, (6) Castilian and Leonese, (6) Extremaduran, (7) Manchego [La Mancha], (8) Valencian, (9) Andaluz, and finally (10) Catalan.
    Happy cooking!!!

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