Catalan specialties: a festival of flavours

Pauline
By

Article updated 10 May, 2017. 0 comments

From sweet tapas to preserved vegetables, paella and even more, indulge in Catalan specialties.

catalan specialties escalivada

Catalan specialties are very varied, so you are bound to find a dish that makes your mouth water!

Tapas

The word “tapas” (spelled “tapes” in Catalan) doesn’t denote a particular dish, but just its size. A tapa is a small portion, a sort of taster that you generally enjoy with a drink.

  • In Spain tapas can be enjoyed either seated or standing propped up at a bar, or even in the street around wooden barrels. The Basque country is a region particularly well known for its tapas.

Be careful when ordering, to distinguish between a tapa (small portion) mitja-ració (half-plate) and ració (full plate) as the prices varies depending on the size. Tapas are obviously cheaper than the full portions.

Origins of tapas

It seems as though the concept of tapas was created in order to prevent flies falling into your drink by placing a slice of bread or a plate of olives over the top.

The origin of the word “tapas” comes from the verb tapar, which, in Spanish means to cover. The tapas ritual gave rise to the verb tapear, meaning “to eat tapas”.

drawing tapas

The most common Catalan tapas

Charcuterie (embotits in Catalan) is often eaten as tapas. To learn more take a look at our article Catalan cuisine: between land and sea, tradition and innovation

The other most common tapas are olives, anchovies (anxoves or boquerons), fried calamari, cod or cheese croquettes (bunyols) or the Barceloneta “bombs”, little balls of mashed potato stuffed with minced meat, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried.

Starters

Calçots amb romesco

The calçotada is a Catalan institution. It is eaten from November to April, often with family or friends, as it is a chance to get together around the fire where you grill spring onions (calçots). Once ready, you peel off the blackened outer layer of skin and enjoy a calçot in a romesco sauce.

Esqueixada

Esqueixada is a salad of unsalted cod, tuna, tomatoes, peppers, olives and onions. It is very refreshing and very good in Summer!

Canelons a la barcelonesa

Yes cannelloni is a Catalan specialty! Imported from Italy in the 19th Century by the middle classes it was swiftly adopted by the Catalan people, who gave it their own twist.

Escalivada

Escalivada can be served as a starter or as an accompaniment as it is made of baked crystalised vegetables. It is usually made up of aubergines, peppers and onions seasoned with olive oil.

Faves a la catalana

Fava beans are cooked with lard, onions, garlic, laurel and olive oil. They can be eaten on their own or accompanied by a sort of Catalan sausage called botifarra negra.

Main courses

Paella

The name of this emblematic dish comes from the Catalan paella, which refers to the large dish used to prepare this mixture of rice, saffron and poultry.

Originally from Valencia, paella is so beloved of Catalan people that they have reinvented it, replacing some of the meats with seafood such as mussels and prawns.

  • Catalans and Valencians tend to eat paella for lunch (and mostly on Thursdays), and never in the evening.

In Catalonia, it is also usual to eat other rice-based specialties: arroz con bogavante (lobster rice) and arroz caldoso (a more liquid dish than paella but just as tasty).

Arròs negre

Black rice is a really delicious Catalan specialty. It gets its colour from the squid ink that is mixed with rice together with white wine and fish sock. It is often accompanied by seafood.

Fideuà

This dish is a lot like paella in that it involves the same type of cooking and some of the same ingredients such as tomatoes, chicken, and prawns. The rice is however replaced with noodles (fideus in Catalan). Fideuà is usually served with garlic sauce or lemon.

Bacallà a la llauna

This cod dish dates from the 18th Century and is deeply rooted in the Catalan culinary culture. The word llauna refers to the metal dish that the fish is cooked in with tomatoes, paprika, white wine and parsley.

Suquet de Peix

This fish sauce is in some ways the Catalan equivalent of a French bouillabaisse. The recipe was invented by fishermen who were looking for a way to prepare rock fish or imperfect fish that they hadn’t been able to sell during the day.

Sarsuela

This sophisticated dish is made up of fish cooked in olive oil with peeled tomatoes, nuts, garlic, onions and herbs. After cooking it in a dish that looks a little like a tajine, you flambée the whole lot in rum or brandy before adding a mixture of clams, calamari, mussels and prawns or lobster!

Conill amb cargols

This is none other than rabbit with snails. The snails give a particular flavour to the sauce that the rabbit is cooked in, and it makes quite a surprising mixture!

Conill amb xocolata

Rabbit in chocolate is another unsettling mixture but the chocolate is only used in small quantities and serves to balance the taste of the red wine and brandy.

Mar i muntanya

The “mar i muntanya” is a dish that comes from a certain revival in Catalan cooking. The idea is to create bold flavours by combining ingredients from land and sea.  The most usual mar i muntanya is made of chicken and prawns.

Catalan Breads and Cakes

Tomato bread (pà amb tomàquet) is almost always present on a Catalan table. However “pà amb tomàquet” requires some preparation, as it is made with slices of good bread that are rubbed with tomato and sometimes garlic. A dash of olive makes this simple bread delicious.

A coca is a little more sophisticated as it is garnished before going into the oven. Whether it’s sweet or savoury, all flavours are acceptable. The best known is the coca amb llardons made with little pieces of bacon, and the coca de Sant Joan, made with conserved fruits.

Desserts

Crème catalane and mel i mató

Crème catalane is an egg-based dessert covered in burnt sugar. It is delicious and not unlike the crème brûlée that it inspired.

Another specialty, the mel i mató is made of a not too creamy yoghurt (mató) with a drizzling of honey (mel in Catalan).

Cakes

Among the most popular cakes of Catalonia is the braç de gis itano, a rolled cake filled with crème catalane. Sweet potato pudding (púding de moniatos) can also be used as a filling.

If you prefer dry cakes, Sitges escumes are almond and egg-white biscuits from a beach resort south of Barcelona.

Other sweets

In Catalonia, every time of year brings its own sweets.

Bunyols de Quaresma

At lent we eat donuts (bunyols). Hollow, stuffed with cream, and flavoured with aniseed or liqueur and rolled in sugar before being served.

Mones de xocolata

For Easter, both young and old enjoy mones, golden coins in varying degrees of splendour.

Panellets

At all-saints people eat panellets, little cakes made with almond paste. The most popular ones are made with pine nuts but there are many types: coffee, lemon, quince…feel free to indulge!

Torrons

The sweets of Christmas are turrón or torró made from egg, honey, sugar and almonds. It’s a sort of Catalan version of nougat. To find out where you can get it, see our article Where to buy good handmade turron in Barcelona?

Tortell de reis

To celebrate the Day of the Kings on the 6th of January there is the much-honoured Kings’ Cake (tortell de reis). This circular loaf flavoured with orange blossom and crystalised fruit is filled with cream.

Get ready to lick your fingers!

Like this article?

Click here!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

5.00/5 - 1 vote(s)

Loading...

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Our comment form stores your name and email so we can respond to your comment and send you notifications when your comment is getting replies (if you have opted in to receive those notifications). Your data will not be shared or stored with third parties and will not be added to any lists. For more information you can read our Privacy Policy.

  • Controller: Anakena Internet Services, S.L.
  • Purpose: Manage comments and send automatic notifications by email in case of response.
  • Legal standing: Informed consent of the person concerned.
  • Recipient: No data will be transferred to third parties, unless expressly allowed .
  • Rights: Right to access, correct, delete and forget your data. Right to data limitation and portability.

Our contact form sends your name, email and other provided data to our support team so we can respond to your inquiries or put you in touch with our specialised partners that provide the service you are looking for. Your data will not be shared or stored with any 3rd party (excepting those specialised partners) and will not be added to any lists. For more information you can read our Privacy Policy.

  • Purpose: Support and contact with specialised partners.

About the author

Pauline

Pauline loves books, food and new discoveries. For her articles, she loves finding original and authentic places which are a treat for both the eyes and the tastebuds. Her favourite thing to do in Barcelona? Getting lost in the Old Town and soaking up its unique atmosphere... whilst enjoying the appetising smells emerging from restaurant kitchens! Is there anything better than that?