Spain is located in the Iberian Peninsula, and is basically what connects mainland Europe with the African continent. Because of its advantageous location, and the many invaders who settled in Spain over the centuries, Spanish food recipes have a lot of European, Arabian, and Mediterranean influences.
For example, it is generally accepted that it was the Romans who brought olives, figs, grapes and wine to the country, while the Moors and Arabs who controlled the Iberian Peninsula for centuries introduced rice, sugar cane, and various fruits and vegetables. The creation of complex irrigation systems which enabled previously dry and barren Spanish land to grow crops is also attributed to the Moors and Arabs. With the discovery of the Americas, potatoes, peppers, avocado, tomatoes, chilis and chocolate arrived in Spain. But despite all these influences, the main characteristics of Spanish food are its freshness, flavorful taste and abundance.
Spanish recipes can be categorized based on their culinary regions. Because for centuries Spain was divided into many kingdoms each with their own language, money, culture, and food, today, Spanish food recipes differ in every region. However, there are two things inherent to Spanish cooking – olive oil and garlic, which are basic ingredients common throughout the region.
There are six culinary regions in Spain. First is the North of Spain, where the food contains a lot of sauces, and is usually seafood. This is where the cuisine of the regions of Galicia and Asturias fall under. The second region is the Pyrenees, which is where the chilindrones, or chicken or lamb stew cooked with chili peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic originated. Chilindrones is part of many Spanish meals. The third region of Spanish food is the Cataluña region, where you can find casseroles and the cazuela meat soup. Meanwhile, popular rice-based dishes like paella valenciana come from the country’s eastern region. In the region of Andalucia, fried fish is a staple food, and tapas or little meals are common. Finally, Central Spain is where roast meats and cocidos or stew are part of the daily meal.
Spaniards love to eat food so much that they are said to consume more food than Americans. Breakfast, or el desayuno, the lightest meal of the day, usually includes coffee and sweet rolls or toast with jam or cheese. Spaniards are famous for their tapas – appetizers or snacks between meals. Some popular tapas are empanadas, sautéed prawns called gambas, and calamares. Lunch, or la comida, is the biggest meal of the day, with multiple courses. Before, lunch would take 2-3 hours, and then after that the people would enjoy their nap or siesta. You will usually find soup, a salad, fish or seafood, chicken or lamb, and then dessert and coffee at a lunch table. People usually eat ensaymada, churros, and other bread treats for merienda or afternoon snacks. Spain is infamous for its late dinners. Dinnertime is usually around 9pm or even later. Fish or seafood, roast chicken or lamb, and rice or fried potatoes, salad, and the Spanish vanilla custard flan for dessert are the dinner staples. Arroz cubano, or white rice topped with tomato sauce and fried egg is also a popular Spanish recipe for dinner.