Spanish people love food. A typical Spaniard probably eats more in a day than most of the people in the United States- but at least the food is generally healthier! The gastronomy of Spain is fascinating– the plates are filled with rich flavors and varied dishes. That is why I signed up for a cooking class to cook a three-course traditional Spanish meal.
Appetizer (Tapa)- Tortilla de Patata
For this cooking class we learned how to make “tortilla de patata”, or as we know it, Spanish omelet. This dish is made from egg, potatoes that were thinly sliced with a mandolin, and julienne cut onion. The Spanish tortilla needs to cook with a low heat so you get that runny texture in the middle and a perfectly golden outside.
To begin, caramelize the onion, then place the thin potatoes on the pan and spread the egg. Let it sit on low heat for about nine minutes. My friend, who happened to be the class helper, placed a larger plate over the pan and quickly flipped the omelet. Don’t worry if eggs slip out- it will be messy, but delicious!
Let it cook for another 6-8 minutes and then slide it out of the pan onto a big plate and let it cool before devouring this deliciousness!
Main Course- Paella
Paella is the most famous Spanish dish, known throughout the world as a rice dish that has different types of seafood and sometimes chicken. I volunteered myself to make the Paella. Even though all the ingredients were already pre-arranged, I had the pleasure to put them all together.
First, a sofrito (chopped onions, green peppers, and tomato) goes into the pan. Let it caramelize, then add peas and the arborio rice, which is the special rice for Paella. Mix it up for a couple of minutes and then add water. Let it sit for 4-6 minutes– the smell at this time is AMAZING!
After letting the rice absorb all the flavors, arrange the rest of the ingredients in the pan- the mussels, squid, gambas (also known as big shrimp). Lay them in a beautiful pattern on the rice. Cover it and let it sit for 20 minutes on low heat– the longer it takes, the better the flavor it gets!
Dessert- Tarta de Santiago
This dish, also known as the cake of St. James, is an almond based tart, decorated with a powdered sugar imprint Cross of Saint James which gives the tart its name.
Before starting, heat the oven to 180°C.
In a big bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, a pinch of salt, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Then add the almond flour and mix it all together. You can make your own almond flour by peeling almonds and soaking them the night before in cold water, so they get soft and become easier to grind.
After your batter is done, grease and fill your pan, and put it on the oven for 20-30 minutes. Make sure you’re always checking, because exact cook time will depend on your oven. You know it’s done when you stick a toothpick in the cake and it comes out clean.
Once the cake it done baking, remove it from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. You can start decorating with the typical Santiago cross. If you don’t have the silhouette, you can cut it yourself and place it on top of the cake before sprinkling powdered sugar on top. Carefully remove the cross and voilà!
This was a delicious menu that I will make back at home for my relatives. The cooking class not only taught us about traditions and how different flavors combine, but each student had the chance to create a meal in a hands-on atmosphere where we were able to learn, experiment, and take away the lessons of the night. By the end of the class, people were happy, with smiles on their faces while tasting the amazing food that they created.
The world awaits…discover it.