What to eat in Spain when the cold hits?
Published on: 16-01-2018

Spain is known the world over as a centre of gastronomic excellence, with Spanish restaurants El Bullí, El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz taking the best restaurant in the world plaudit several times in the recent past.

The Mediterranean diet is widely credited as being amongst the healthiest and is more than a diet on the Costa del Sol, it is a way of life. The abundant fruit and veg coupled with fresh fish make a delicious and healthy combination, however when the – very rare – cold hits, gazpacho and espetada de sardinas just don’t fit the bill. So what hearty traditional fare is to be found during the winter in Spain?

An ideal start to a wintry day is churros with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Freshly deep-fried doughnut-like lengths of crispy batter are dipped into hot chocolate, which should traditionally be dark and almost thick enough to stand a spoon in. It is definitely a great way of warming the stomach before heading out on a cold day.

Customarily winter comfort food is ‘peasant’ food, as it was intended to warm up farmers and field workers toiling on the land in all weathers, so it should deliberately lack refinement, yet what it lacks in sophistication it more than makes up for in flavour.

A shortcut to warming comfort food is a mug of caldo, which by itself is sufficient to revive spirits. Caldo is generally a simple broth resulting from the cooking of meat, vegetables and often beans or pulses. Simple-seeming but delicious and warming, it can also be the start of a hefty menu known as Cocido Madrileño or ‘Madrid Stew’. Pork, beef, chicken, pork fat (for flavouring), chorizo, potato, cabbage and chick peas are cooked until the meat is tender and the fat has melted into the broth.

The caldo in this case will be served as a starter with fideos (short noodles). Next course will be the vegetables and chick peas and then finally comes the stewed and tender meat. It is definitely a meal to give hardworking people of the land energy to head back out into the cold, however for those who don’t have manual labour to carry out it is a meal to be savoured over a long lunch with a glass of good wine!

A warming fish or seafood stew with or without rice is the local equivalent on the Costa del Sol, cooked up by fishermen returning from their arduous duties.

There are so many other typical winter comfort food dishes from different parts of Spain, and with such a large and diverse country as this, each region has its own speciality. However, as the sun is never far away from Marbella, it won’t be long before the only thing that will do is a cooling gazpacho or some delicious fresh fish from a chiringuito bar on the beach.