Tapas are more than just snacks in Andalucia. The word means, literally a lid and the term was thought to have come from the habit of having a few nibbles with a drink and the necessity of placing a saucer or tapas on top of a glass to keep the flies out.
Andalusia is Al-Andaluz, the kingdom of the Moors (Muslim Arabs and Berbers), who ruled southern Spain from the eighth to the 15th century. Way back then, Andalusian cuisine was the most opulent of all of Europe, in the use of spices, herbs, almonds, rose water, orange blossoms and other exotic flavourings of the Oriental heritage.
Cured ham is called jamón serrano, or mountain-cured ham. It can be very good. But, Andalusia has some special pigs with a southern accent. These are a native breed called iberico, a small brown pig which thrives on the acorns from scrub oaks and cork trees.
Five of Andalucia's eight provinces have stretches of coastline (Almería, Granada, Málaga on the Mediterranean; Cádiz and Huelva on the Atlantic), while a sixth, Sevilla, has a tidal river and a seaport. So, you can imagine that the cooking of the coastal regions is distinguished by a huge variety of seafood. The fish market is a great place to get acquainted with the local catch.
Andalucia has some excellent cheeses, often eaten as a tapas accompanied by a glass fino or manzanilla sherry. The cheeses are mostly made from goat's milk, from herds which live in the mountainous areas of the region. A whole round of cured cheese with textured rind weighs between one and four kg and costs about 12-18 € per kg.
Andalucia is best known for its beaches, sunny weather and flamenco. But food is a hugely important part of southern Spain - indeed, the Mediterranean diet was recently recognised as being part of UNESCO's world cultural heritage.
Spain does fresh produce remarkably well - and that includes the fruit and vegetables that are so important for vegetarian and vegan diets. Spaniards have a great respect for what's in season, with market sellers and greengrocers often only selling produce from within Spain.
If you are in Andalucia more permanently and have a kitchen to cook in, then keeping to your vegetarian diet will be much easier. Supermarkets such as Mercadona, Mas and Super Sol don’t have a huge variety of wholefoods and veggie-friendly ingredients. However, most stores stock a good selection of grains, pulses and cheese as well as soya.
Trying to order a vegetarian meal in a Spanish restaurant can be a challenge - just explaining to your bemused waiter you don’t want any dishes containing meat or fish can be problematical. Some good phrases to learn are: No como ni carne ni pescado (I don’t eat meat or fish), and ¿Esto lleva carne o pescado? (Does this have meat or fish in it?).
There is no doubt about it: being a vegetarian in Spain, and Andalucia, can present a challenge. The Spanish eat a large amount of meat (especially jamón), and the majority of dishes have pork or chicken as their main ingredient; here in Andalucia, fish is also very popular.
Spain used to be a vegetarian's nightmare with all those hanging hams and meaty tapas. Vegetarians had no option but to constantly opt for ensaladilla Rusa (the Russan-Spanish potato salad usually served as a tapa), tortilla (Spanish omelette), or the famous main course of huevos con patatas fritos (egg and chips), with the occasional greasy green pepper on the side.
Restaurant Guide by Towns in Andalucia and by restaurants in Coastal resort and villages of Andalucia including Michelin Star restaurants, Beach Bars, Cafe Bars, Teterias, Vegetarian restaurants and roadside Ventas.
Whilst many tourists come to Spain for the tapas, tinto de verano, chorizo, gambas al ajillo and the never-ending supply of fish and seafood, others do not have the palate for pescado. It is also not uncommon for an expat living in Andalucía to simply have a hankering for a taste of home, and especially during the cooler winter months, there is nothing better than a traditional English Sunday roast.
There is no reason why, when you're on holiday, you shouldn´t enjoy the same pleasures as at the weekend at home - aside from a cloudless sky and brilliant sunshine of course. On a Sunday morning, or any day for that matter, you can wake up with a craving for a full English breakfast - especially if you've had a big night out; a full English can seem like the only cure.
We are well aware of the wealth of local Spanish delights on offer in Andalucía: solomillo, presa iberica, chorizo, Serrano ham... the list is endless. But sometimes you just fancy a tender juicy steak, or a succulent burger on the barbeque.
Even though Andalucia has a vast and rich gastronomic offering, some times living in Andalucia, or coming here on holiday, expats and visitors crave the home comforts such as ye olde fish’n’chips. The coastal areas of southern Spain, in particular the Costa del Sol, has numerous establishments offering everything from cod and chips, haddock and chips, scampi and chips, and fish cakes, to burgers.
What many British expats miss most about living in Andalucia is a good curry. But don’t worry – you can find plenty of Indian restaurants on the Costa del Sol. So if you need a little more heat than your Andalucian gambas pil-pil, then take a trip to one of the curry houses along Andalucia’s coast, and beyond.