One of the best ways to truly understand a destination is through its native cuisine. Any trip to Andalusia would feel incomplete without savouring the local flavours that are at the heart of the expansive Spanish region. This is why guests on our Spain & Portugal in Style Luxury Gold tour are invited to experience, from market to plate, local cuisine at the Taller Andaluz de Cocina. This cookery school, set up in 2014, specialises in teaching traditional Spanish and Andalusian cuisine, and has quickly become an essential starting point to begin a journey into Andalusia’s culinary heritage.
But what precisely is Andalusian cuisine? José Manuel, a food professional and one of the brains behind the school is ideally placed to answer: “Andalusian cuisine uses a lot of fresh products. It is slow cooking and has a wide range of preparations according to the different seasons and months of the year, local festivities and weather conditions.” If that sounds like a broad definition, that’s because it is: Seville alone, where the school is based, is home to a vast range of traditional dishes, from gazpacho to carrillada ibérica (pork cheek stew), while broader Andalusian classics include salmorejo (tomato cold cream), tortilla patatas (Spanish omelet), migas (iberian cured meats with breadcrumbs) and many other foods closely tied to Spain’s cultural identity. Central to all these dishes, however disparate, is the reliance on local produce – and it’s this characteristic that differentiates Andalusian cooking from Spain’s other regions. “We believe Andalusian cooking is special because of the use local ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, white and blue fish [such as cod and sardines], meat – especially Iberic ham and other pork products – table olives and olive oil.” The latter isn’t surprising, as Andalusia is the world’s largest producer of olive oil.
Just as the Moorish architecture of the Alhambra Palace vividly brings to life the region’s history as an Islamic domain, the same holds true for food. “Andalusian cuisine has deep roots in the Arab cuisine from Al Andalus.” Saffron, coriander and fruits such as apricots were introduced by the Moors, and remain key components of many typically Andalusian recipes. This influence can be traced back 1,300 years, to when the Moors extended their empire to include parts of Andalucia in 711. When they left some 800 years later, they left behind a lasting culinary imprint that is still very much present today.
Guests of the cookery school don’t have to travel too far to sample the abundance of these diverse ingredients – the school itself is based in Triana Market, a traditional food market. Indeed, a crucial part of the experience for the guests of the school is exploring the produce on offer, talking to vendors, understanding what’s seasonal and getting a feel for that authentic local character which really shapes the food. “Triana is one of the biggest and most popular of the city,” he says. “Combining a perfect mix of local people from Triana district doing their daily or weekly shopping with other people, locals and foreigners.” Afterwards, guests are invited to put the produce from the morning’s shop to good use. Under the expert guidance of a chef, the class will learn to cook a delicious, traditional meal from scratch, before sitting down to enjoy it accompanied with local wine and other drinks.
If you can’t wait until then, however, José has a recipe to try at home. “We suggest Salmorejo, a chilled tomato cream traditional from Córdoba.
Cut 1.5kg red ripe tomatoes into quarters. Then add 100g stale white bread (if too dry, soak with water first), 1 garlic clove, salt and vinegar. Blend all the ingredients together until you get a puree texture. Add extra virgin olive oil slowly to the mixture while blending to get a smooth emulsion. Keep it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Decorate with chopped boiled egg and cubed ham, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.” Delicious.
Learn all about the cuisine of Andalusia, and take part in a class at Taller Andaluz de Cocina as part of our Spain & Portugal in Style tour.