Typical Catalan Dishes - Traditional Catalan Food
If someone was to suggest going for some Spanish food, your first thought might be tapas. While tapas culture is very much an important part of Spain's gastronomy, it is not a type of food. Instead it is a way of serving it. Moreover, it is only one of the many ways which vary according to many factors. Region is one of the most important. Although there may be similarities all over the country, the style, technique and even names of the food will vary greatly. Today oneHOWTO looks at one of the most well-renowned food regions of Spain, Catalonia. We look at the typical Catalan dishes of traditional Catalan food to see what best represents Catalan cuisine.
We may not associate winter with food harvest, but every winter in Catalonia brings calçots season. From around the end of November all the way through to April, large spring onions known as calçots are grilled and eaten in a very particular way. While the thought of eating whole onions on their own may sound odd, these are young onions which are naturally very sweet.
The way they are cooked and served is also very important. Calçots are traditionally eaten in calçotadas, a group gathering where calçots are eaten, usually with many other dishes in a big feast. The calçots are grilled over an open flame so their outside skins are blackened, but the insides are cooked. Before they are served, they are wrapped in newspaper to allow them to cook further in their own steam.
Once the calçots are removed from the newspaper, they are served. They are eaten by stripping the charred outer layers and then dipping into a special sauce for the occasion known as salsa de calçots, a sauce similar to romesco. They are usually eaten whole and restaurants offer bibs and gloves to help with the inevitable mess.
Learn about how to make romesco and similar accompaniments with our list of delicious homemade sauces.
In Catalan, this bread is known as pa amb tomàquet and it is on the menu of any restaurant serving typical Catalan food. It is a very simple dish of crispy Catalan bread which is usually toasted, although not always. The latter is especially the case with pan de cristal, a local type of very crisp bread which translates to ‘glass bread’.
This traditional Catalan dish uses the ridges of the bread to act as a rough surface on which you grate a clove of raw garlic, usually sliced in half. You then do the same with a halved fresh tomato. The inner flesh is left on the bread, while the skin is usually discarded. It is then finished with a generous glug of olive oil and then large-crystal salt to taste. This dish either comes prepared or you are simply given the ingredients to make it to your own preference.
Escudella i carn d'olla
It is one of the most traditional spoon dishes of Catalan gastronomy. It is generally believe its origin dates back to the 14th century or possible before. It is a simple, but very tasty broth that is made over low heat.
This typical Catalan dish uses pieces of meat, usually veal. It also requires seasonal vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, celery or turnips. It is often included on Christmas menus, although there are many variations which can be used and still be considered traditional. Sometimes pilotes are added, a kind of seasoned meatball. It is also often served with large snail-like pasta shells.
A variation of Italian cannelloni, canelones are stuffed cylindrical pasta shells which are served all year round, but are particularly popular at Christmas time. This is because they are a typical Catalan dish on St. Stephen's Day. They are often made with leftover meat, but are filled with a traditional bechamel sauce, covered in cheese and baked to perfection.
Take a look at our related article to see how make creamy chicken cannelloni.
The exqueixada is a dish that is eaten cold and is made with salted cod that has been desalinated. It is similar to a salad, but does not include green leaves. Typically, the cod is accompanied by roasted red and green peppers, chives, ripe tomatoes and black olives. It also requires abundant dressing with a mild vinaigrette in which there is no lack of virgin olive oil. If you add stewed white beans and hard-boiled eggs to this dish, you will have another delicious and healthy Catalan recipe called empedrat.
Butifarra with mongetes
The butifarra is one of the most important and delicious sausages of Catalan gastronomy. It is made from pork and spices that are stuffed into a natural casing. There are several types and with the fresh ones you can make delicious traditional dishes like this one. It consists of accompanying the large sausage with white beans in a hearty stew full of flavor, ideal for the coldest months of the year.
This is a simple, but dish that occupies a prominent place in the Catalan recipe book. It is most typical of the Cerdanya region, although it is also eaten in the Alto de Urgell area. Its appearance is similar to that of a cake or Spanish tortilla and it is made with potatoes and cabbage, both ingredients boiled and mashed. They are cooked in a shallow pan with a little bacon and Iberian panceta. Trinxat continues to be a typical breakfast or lunch in different rural areas of Catalonia, although it can be enjoyed at any time when it is necessary to regain strength.
Veal fricandó is a truly exquisite autumn-winter Catalan dish. It consists of cooking very thinly sliced veal fillets to make a rich stew. This stew is accompanied with a succulent sauce and seasonal mushrooms. The recipe has been around since at least the 18th century and is often prepared the day before cooking so the extra-tender meat also takes on all the flavor of the different seasonings.
Samfaina is also one of the most delicious typical Catalan dishes which uses a traditional recipe that takes advantage of the wealth of quality vegetables that exists throughout the area. It is a dish suitable for vegetarians as its basic ingredients are aubergine and zucchini. They are cut and fried with chopped garlic and onion together with grated tomato. Red and green peppers are often added to the dish. The samfaina is seasoned with olive oil and has aromatic herbs, such as rosemary or thyme to enhance the flavor of the different vegetables.
Check out our article on how to store fresh rosemary to help ensure you get the most out of your herbs.
Although there are many delicious desserts typical of Catalan gastronomy, crema catalana is the one now most traditionally associated with the region. Any menu del dia worth its salt will have this as one of their dessert options. It is a type of custard, similar to a crème brûlée in French cuisine. Its basic ingredients are eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon or lemon. It has caramelized sugar on the top, making the crunch of the first bite so tantalizing.
Learn how to make another typical Catalan dessert with a twist in our recipe for Baileys crème caramel.
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