Sample the best of Catalonia’s natural larder with selections of seafood, cured meats and seasonal produce.
A fish-based stew producing a symphony of flavours
Named after a type of operetta, this medley of seafood and fish, zarzuela proves a tasty way of using up left-overs. Fried fish sizzles in a paella pan before tomatoes and a splash of white wine are thrown in. A traditional Catalan accompaniment of a ‘picada’ sauce is concocted from saffron, garlic, salt and parsley.
Escalivada (Baked Vegetables)
A vegetable feast for the eyes and the stomach
This tricolour treat offers up at least four of your five a day. A fine sampling of Mediterranean goodness, these grilled vegetables – usually a mix of tomato, aubergine, pepper and onions – are drizzled in olive oil and served up on a plate, or on a generous chunk of toasted bread.
A creamy treat that’s sugar-topped
Much like its French counterpart, crème brulée, this lighter Mediterranean version is flourished with a scattering of brown sugar before being gently browned under the heat of a grill. The chilled, custard-like mix should be fluffy with a lemony edge to its flavour, then jazzed up with a dash of cinnamon.
Esqueixada de bacallà (Cod salad)
A fresh green salad that tastes of the sea
This tasty salad combines flaky, shredded chunks of tasty cod, with sliced-up onion, peppers and plenty of garlic. The flavoursome blend is complemented by a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Occasionally olives and boiled eggs are added to the quintessentially Mediterranean mix.
Escudella i carn d’olla
A hearty country dish of two parts
Traditionally farmer’s fare, this is guaranteed to fill you up. Not one, but two dishes, it makes use of seasonal ingredients sourced from the land. The pilota – a ball of meat, garlic and herbs – is placed in a broth, along with soft pasta shells. A mix of meat, cured sausages and vegetables is served second – if you can make room, that is!
Bolets (Wild mushrooms)
Forage or feast through Catalonia’s variety of mushrooms
The woodlands of Catalonia brim over with different types of wild mushroom. Try truffle-like, compact ceps in a soup or carpaccio, or go for the ominously named – although it’s more flavoursome than deathly – trompeta de la mort variety. The star of the show is the ou de reig (royal egg) – with a chestnut top, it’s easy to spot, though hard to come by.
Local tip: Autumn is prime mushroom-hunting season, so keep an eye out for markets and local fairs celebrating this fungi favourite.
Mel i mató
Cheese with a little bit of sweetness
Fluffy and fresh mató cheese, made from goat’s milk and hailing from the Montserrat Mountains, is scooped into bowls like ice cream, or moulded into a tidy flan formation. This savoury-sweet Catalan treat has a hint of lemon and is drizzled with honey and nuts to serve.
Fideuà amb allioli
A seafood delicacy and alternative to paella
Catalonia’s own spin on the classic paella dish is packed to the brim with fragrant prawns, mussels, clams and other seafood treats. This twist on the famous Spanish favourite is the use of noodles, instead of rice.
Local tip: This noodle feast is usually served in a dish for two, so bear this in mind when you’re ordering.
Calçots amb salsa romesco
A unique way to feast on spring onions
Bib in place, this long, stringy variety of green onion forms part of a yearly, spring-time ritual. Fire roasted, they’re complemented by nutty, red-pepper-flavoured romesco sauce and should be dangled into the mouth, head tilted back, from a height. This is followed by a generous swig of wine, taken straight from the pitcher.
Local tip: El Glop Restaurant prides itself on traditional Catalan cuisine and is the perfect spot to join a calçot feast.
A daytime tipple designed to whet your appetite
There’s no better accompaniment to tapas in the sun. Strong and aromatic, most bars will have their favoured “vermut de la casa”, which can range from sweet red and white-based concoctions to dry whites, or bitter mixes with herbs, wormwood and juniper.
Local tip: The apéritif is traditionally enjoyed before lunch. The phrase “to go for a vermouth” has become synonymous with simply going for tapas and a drink.
Catalonia’s flavoursome sparkling wine that sets it apart from the rest
Authentic cava must be produced in Spain to get its “Denominación de Origin” status and most varieties are produced in the lush Penedès Valley. This most beloved of sparkling wines can be of the white or rosé variety and is known for its distinctly dry and aromatic edge.
A cured meat that packs in the flavour
This is a signature tapas treat. Usually served by itself, with cheese, or adorning bread with tomato and olive oil, the Catalan favourite is distinguishable by its slightly chewy, flavoursome texture. More solid than chorizo, it has a salty depth of flavour and can be flavoured with spices like cumin or pepper.
Pa amb tomàquet
Fresh bread smothered in flavours
Simply delicious, this is more than just a slice of bread. Lathered in olive oil and rubbed with fresh tomato, garlic and salt, you’ll see it in most bars. It serves as both a tapa and an accompaniment to a main dish, or a delicious snack.
Local tip: Some traditional restaurants will bring you the bread and toppings separately – so you can prepare yourself a slice that’s to your taste.
A nutty, bite-sized autumn treat
A bundle of fluffy goodness, these seasonal sweets are made from ground almonds, potato, sugar and lemon zest before being lathered in pine nuts. Locals tend to buy boxes to take home, or to give to loved ones. You’ll find trays of them lining bakery windows around All Saints’ Day (1st November).
A simple salad dressed with pieces of pork
The vegetables in this salad tend to be outweighed by the proportion of sausages that are added to it. A bed of lettuce, onions and tomato is garnished with three types of botifarra sausage, as well as sweet ham, before it’s dished up as a main course.
Local tip: Several types of Catalan cured meats can replace the botifarra — but it’s a definite no-no to include chorizo, or sobrassada.
Butifarra amb mongetes (Sausage and beans)
A humble combination with hearty sausage at its core
This timeless casserole is Catalan fare at its best with the white or black version of juicy botifarra added to the mix. Fried white beans are dished up alongside the grilled meat and drizzled with an oil and parsley sauce. A dose of aioli mayonnaise makes for a tasty addition.
Vi del Penedès (Wine from the Penedès region)
Wine sipped at the table and sourced from lush vineyards
The Penedés Valley is known for its cava but it’s also ideal terrain for producing delicious wine. Made from the region’s characteristic Xarel•lo grape, red and white wines take on a fruity, aromatic flavour known for their acidic punch.
Local tip: Sip on a glass in the wine’s birthplace – there are several wineries in the area that offer tours of their vineyards and cellars.
A versatile condiment to drizzle on almost anything
You’ll find this zesty sauce on meat and in traditional xatonata salads that include cod, tuna, anchovies and olives. Toasted almonds and hazelnuts provide a nutty base to a tomato base that’s flavoured with peppers, olive oil, chilli and garlic.
Local tip: Tuck into a xatonata salad along the so-called Xató Route, which runs along the Garraf Coast and through the mountains south of the city.
Peus de porc (Pork trotters)
Pig’s feet transformed into a tender delicacy
These pieces of pork meat are slowly softened in a stew, along with garlic, onion and a tomato sauce. They’re plated up simply and with some sauce, or diced up into a steaming stew.
Arròs negre (Black Paella)
A seafood dish with a tinge of difference
On first glance, this deeply tinted concoction looks like a black paella, although the resulting flavour is, undoubtedly, squid. The ink gives the rice its intense hue and scattered through it, you’ll find succulent mussels, prawns or clams, mixed in with onion, tomato and garlic.
Local tip: Barceloneta’s seaside location gives this neighbourhood the edge on sourcing tasty seafood. Several restaurants specialise in different rice and paella dishes.