When we think of Spanish cuisine, it’s often images of flavourful bowls full of paella and light yet satisfying plates of tapas that come to our minds. Whilst this is certainly correct during the summer, Spanish cuisine becomes much richer and intriguing as the seasons begin to change, and if you visit during the winter you’ll find there’s a whole new world of interesting locally-grown ingredients and flavour combinations to discover.
When you visit a restaurant in Spain during the winter you may notice that certain seasonal foods may dominate the menu. Potatoes, pumpkins, certain beans and even chestnuts and oranges will all have come into season during late autumn and winter, whilst the prime season for lighter fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and asparagus will have passed, so expect to see a wonderful choice of hearty stews and bean-based dishes on the restaurant specials boards.
Speaking of beans, these are a popular choice over the winter as they’re as versatile as they are filling, and most types of bean crops stand up to cooler weather. Look out for a dish called Alubias Con Arroz, which is quite simply ‘rice and beans’ but there are many different varieties, and you’ll be surprised just how stuffed you are after enjoying a bowl!
You may also see a dish on the menus called Puchero, of which there are many different variations but generally is a stew of chickpeas, salt pork or bacon, beef and chicken, green beans, potatoes and black pudding. As you can imagine, it’s a hearty dish that will leave you satisfied for hours and will help you to battle those (relatively) cooler Spanish temperatures.
Of course no matter what you choose to eat in Spain during the winter it should always be washed down with plenty of wine, and as the new season’s wines will just have been released it’s the best time to sample all of the new flavours at their very best. Seasonal dishes such as soups and stews will be complemented perfectly by rich wines like Rioja, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself polishing off a full bottle.