This Sibarita (foodie), is excited to share with you one of the most popular and healthy diets in the world...the British diet...only joking, it is, of course, the Mediterranean diet. Originating from the Mediterranean region which covers several countries, this diet emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil. It has been proven to have numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.
As a Spaniard, I am proud to say that Spanish cuisine plays a significant role in the Mediterranean diet. With its diverse regions and rich history, Spanish food is a reflection of its people and their culture. Spaniards take their food seriously, and it is evident in the way we prepare and enjoy our meals. Eating is not just about satisfying hunger; it is a social activity that brings families and friends together. We can spend hours on a terraza (terrace, seated outside) enjoying the sun, chatting (well shouting really) with a selection of tapas to accompany the wine. Or at a table in a restaurant for several hours enjoying Sobremesa (the time spent at a table relaxing after a meal).
In fact, here are some useful Spanish phrases to use around food, try them out and impress your Spanish friends, we love it when you try!
Useful Spanish Food Expressions
¡Buen provecho! - This is the Spanish equivalent of "bon appétit!" and is used to wish someone a good meal. We say it to strangers too, so you can ener a restaurant and wish anyone a good meal.
¡Qué rico! - used to express that something is really delicious. It means "how rich!" in English, but I guess you don’t really say that, so maybe more like “yum” (which is actually ‘ñam’ in Spanish) or as the boys at Bulldogz tell me “this is the dogs b*llocks.”
Está para chuparse los dedos - "it's finger-licking good" 😜
Está soso - This expression means that the food is bland or lacks seasoning.
One of the most iconic Spanish dishes is the paella, which originated from the Valencian region. Paella is a rice dish cooked in a large shallow pan with a variety of ingredients such as chicken, rabbit, seafood, and vegetables. It is a perfect representation of the Mediterranean diet as it contains an abundance of vegetables and lean proteins. Paella is not only delicious but also versatile, as there are many different variations depending on the region of Spain (muy importante).
Another popular Spanish dish is the gazpacho, a refreshing cold soup made with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, and bread. This dish is a staple during the hot summer months and is a great way to get in your daily serving of vegetables. Gazpacho is not only easy to make but also nutritious, as it contains a variety of vitamins and minerals.
In addition to paella and gazpacho, there are many other Spanish dishes that are part of the Mediterranean diet. One such dish is the tortilla de patatas, a simple yet delicious omelette made with potatoes, onions, and eggs. The tortilla is a staple of Spanish cuisine and can be eaten hot or cold, although the big debate is whether you have it with onion or not, I’m saying nothing.
Here’s a Paella recipe for all tastes, try it, adapt it, enjoy it!
1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/2 pound chorizo sausage, sliced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups short-grain rice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Salt and pepper
In a large paella pan, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and chorizo and cook until browned.
Add the onion, garlic, red pepper, and green pepper and cook until softened.
Add the rice, smoked paprika, saffron threads, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp and peas and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
It's hard not to fall in love with the Mediterranean diet. Spanish culture is very focused on food, and it is clear that our cuisine has played a significant role in shaping our identity as a people. Our dishes are not only delicious but also healthy and nutritious, making them an ideal fit for a healthy lifestyle.
When I moved to the UK, I noticed a significant difference in the food culture. While British cuisine has its own unique flavours and dishes, it often lacks the emphasis on fresh, whole foods that are central to the Mediterranean diet. However, there are some standout British dishes that are both delicious and healthy, such as fish and chips made with fresh fish and oven-roasted vegetables, and the classic roast dinner with a variety of vegetables. It is also important to recognize that each country has its own unique food culture, and it is possible to enjoy the best of both worlds by incorporating dishes from different cultures into our diets.
Wherever you’re from, you always crave the food of home and as much as I love a curry, I have to say that my heart is Mediterranean. I hope that you can try out the recipe above or any Spanish cuisine and let us know about your experiences!