London-based restaurateur Jose Pizarro takes us through his favourite dishes from the region. Originally from Extremadura, the region just to the north-west of Andalucia, Jose Pizarro is a restaurateur with three restaurants in south-east London and the City, and a pub in Surrey. He has already published books on Basque Country and Catalan cuisine, and in this volume we get the full gamut of Andalucian cooking, with its extraordinary range of local ingredients thanks to the fertile soil and bountiful seas.
The area of wine production known as the Serrania de Ronda forms part of the DO Sierras of Malaga, producing what are popularly known as 'the Ronda Wines'. Here modern bodegas at over 750m altitude in the Serrania de Ronda produce young red wines from Romé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. Their white wine varieties include Chardonnay, Macabeo, Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc.
Spanish bread is normally bought on a daily basis, fresh from the local bakeries throughout the region. Village bread is known as "pan cateto" and is absolutely delicious. On a Spanish night out many revelers will pop by the village bakery in the early hours, lured by the aromas of freshly baked village bread.
There are few better ways to learn about Andalucia than through its food, with all the fabuous local produce available, from the Sierra de Huelva's pure-bred acorn-fed free-range pork (cerdo iberico, which is made into the famous jamon iberico) to the unparalleled selection of mariscos (seafood) on the Costa de la Luz, salmorejo (thick cold tomato soup) from Cordoba, wild mushrooms in the Sierra de Grazalema, olive oil from Jaen.
Few things can beat Sherry as a pre-meal aperitif. Ever since Sir Francis Drake ransacked the port of Cádiz in 1587 and made off with 3,000 barrels of Sherry, the British have been addicted to the stuff, and continue to be the main international clients.
With a wine-making tradition spanning more than 2000 years and with more vineyard acreage than any other country in the world, Spain is producing wines of increasingly good quality. There are excellent reds from traditional areas such as Rioja and Navarre, and also from emerging wine-growing regions such as Ribera del Duero and Somontano.
Paella is a golden rice dish which rates with the best rice dishes in the world. In Andalucía, paella is happy food, fiesta food, served for Sunday lunch or a picnic in the country. Beyond paella are more rice dishes which also make tasty eating.
In Andalusia, as in the rest of Spain, the feast of Christmas dinner takes place late on the night of Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) and normally goes on into the small hours of Christmas Day. Traditionally, the exchanging of presents is not until the 6th of January, on King's Day (Reyes) and so full attention is given to the cooking of an extravagant meal on the night of the 24th.