Rice was introduced into eastern Spain in the 8th Century by the Moors. Paella, the famous one-dish meal that is one of the great dishes of Spanish cuisine, was first created in the Mediterranean coastal city of Valencia. Rice is a staple of Caribbean food, and dishes like Pelau in Trinidad, Cook-upin Jamaica, and Seasoned Rice cooked with pork, salt beef, chicken, vegetables, herbs and spices in Antigua and Barbuda are all dishes in the same satisfying tradition as Paella. Our seasoned rice dishes would pair well with Rioja from the DOC region in the north of Spain. In these wines the Tempranillo grape makes a slightly more full-bodied style, with the Garnacha (Grenache in Southern France) producing spicy, medium bodied reds. These wines blend with the spices in the dish, but won’t overwhelm it.
In the north of Spain rice dishes give way to heavier soups and stews. Estofado is a hearty Catalonian pot roast of beef, prepared with ingredients that are commonly used in Caribbean cooking: carrots, garlic, onions, and cinnamon, ground paprika, and crushed tomatoes. The Spanish dish is simmered in red wine until it acquires a rich, deep flavour, and is often served with soft cooked cornmeal, or polenta. In Caribbean cooking, rich beef stews are often served with fungee, our soft cooked cornmeal dish. Similar dishes include Fabada, a rustic one-pot Asturian bean stew from the mountains of northern Spain. It is slow cooked for hours with white beans (fabada), chickpeas, salted pork and black pudding (morcilla) or blood sausage, made with pig’s blood. The ingredients used to make Spanish morcilla are similar to those used to make Antiguan black pudding, including rice, lard, onions, garlic, blood and spices.
The heavy stews of northern Spain are paired with the great concentrated wines from the Tinta de Toro grape, a strain of Tempranillo from the Toro region close to the Portuguese border. These wines show great depth of character with a hint of cinnamon and warm spice from being aged in oak. They would pair well with our hearty Antiguan beef, oxtail and bean stews.
The Castile-Leon region in northwestern Spain is known collectively as “the land of roasts”. Roast lamb is a specialty, and so is slow-roasted suckling pig, cooked with thyme and bay leaves. Another specialty of the region is young goat or kid (cabrito), roasted over mesquite wood and cooked in its blood. Traditionally the male kid is “sacrificed” before it is 3 months old, and its tender meat is highly prized. Another specialty, roasted Castilian lamb, is a classic dish found north of Madrid, and is a favourite meal on Sundays, when families head out of the city to enjoy the clay-pot cooking of the countryside. In Antiguan cuisine goat and suckling pig are dishes prepared for celebratory meals, often roasted over coals or slow cooked in traditional clay coal pots.
The wines from the Ribera Duero and Douro regions of both Spain and Portugal produce stellar quality wines that are a perfect pairing for hearty stews and roasted meats. These are very hot regions, producing big, full-bodied wines with plenty of fruit and nutty components. The wines from Portugal sometimes offer a slight aroma of port. As an alternative, the wines of Priorat DOC, with their ancient Garnacha plantings, produce very concentrated wines that can stand long periods of ageing, and when released will meet and complement any roast meat dish with ease.
By the end of the 15th Century in every European country with a sea coast, fishing came second only to farming as a way of life. The discovery of new fishing grounds in Newfoundland attracted fishermen from all of these countries, including the French, Portuguese and the Basques from northern Spain. The cod was cured at sea, and a ”triangle trade” developed, linking trading in cod to slavery and rum. Poor quality cod was traded to feed slaves in exchange for sugar, molasses, cotton, tobacco and salt. The finest salt cod was brought back to European markets for sale.
In Portugal today there are said to be more than 1,000 recipes for salted cod (Bacalhau). It is still a great favourite in the regional cuisines of Spain, especially in the Basque country and in Catalonia. It has been a staple food for centuries because of its keeping qualities, and has long been linked to Catholic tradition, and the dietary restrictions of Lent. Salt cod occupies a place of honour in the history of Spanish gastronomy. Bacalao a las Viscaina or Biscay style Salt Cod is made by cooking salt cod fillets in a sauce made with onion, tomatoes and red peppers. The flavours and ingredients of this dish are almost identical with those used in the preparation of salt fish in Antigua, except that in the Antiguan dish the fish is flaked. In Jamaica salt fish is cooked with ackee, and is that country’s national dish.
The wines of Vinho Verde in northern Portugal, and similar wines on the Spanish side of the border in Galicia Rias Baixas produce some of the world’s best examples of wines made from the Albarino (Alvarinho in Portugal) grape. They are racy, with acidity and freshness, showing bright citrus and crisp apple notes. They pair well with salted cod dishes, and with most shell fish. Another successful pairing with salt cod would be the sparkling wines of the method Cava, produced in Penedes, around Barcelona. These wines, produced from the Paradella and Xarello grape, have a depth and nutty character with fresh apple and sometimes pear notes. Their sparkling character will bring life to any gathering.