Gazpacho is everywhere in Seville - restaurants, cafés, tapas bars, and most home fridges. This is not your chunky salsa-like gazpacho, though! Sevillian gazpacho is an emulsion of fresh, bright vegetables (tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, and garlic), sherry vinegar, and best-quality olive oil. There are infinite variations - some of them regional, some of them simply a matter of personal preference and family recipe loyalty - but this version is classic Sevillian gazpacho. Its very simplicity is what allows the flavors to shine - you can actually taste the sherry vinegar and the olive oil. Gazpacho is traditionally more of a drink than a soup in Andalusia, created by peasant farmers as a refreshing, quick, and inexpensive meal to stave off the heat of summer. Christopher Columbus brought tomatoes back from South America (via Seville!), so gazpacho didn’t exist prior to the Spanish colonial period. Its forebearer, though, is called ajoblanco - a mixture of bread, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and garlic. Some people insist that gazpacho should also include bread, but it’s a highly controversial matter! Our version omits bread and most frills, simply garnished with a drizzle of olive oil. (No gluten, vegan).
This composed salad is a classic that you might find in any restaurant or tapas bar in Seville. There is no specific recipe for the salad itself, but it’s usually a bed of curly endive with a multitude of vegetables and sweet citrus, dressed with a savory sherry, garlic, and a boiled egg-yolk and tarragon vinaigrette. Here, we use capers, olives, red onion, navel oranges, and Iberian tuna. Although the sweet and salty combination in this salad is common in all of Andalusia, the tarragon makes it truly Sevillano (tarragon is uncommon in the rest of Spain). Tuna is another distinctive feature of the salad - tuna fishing has a long and storied history on the Costa de Luz, just to the southwest of Seville along the Atlantic coast. Fishermen still use the almadraba technique of communally hauling huge nets to the surface to harvest bluefin tuna; check out the link in the resources below to read more about it and see photos of this incredible process. (Contains fish, egg; no gluten).
Another typical tapa, this colorful dish features carrots marinated in sherry vinegar, garlic, and spices, and then topped with some excellent olive oil. The oregano and cumin are reflective of the Moorish origins of this dish, with nearly identical versions of this recipe found across the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco. That said, the spicy pimentón and parsley are essential ingredients throughout Spain. The pimentón is the Spanish derivation of yet another contribution from Peru and Mexico - chile peppers - brought by Christopher Columbus to the Spanish monarchs in Andalusia. Carrots themselves are native to Persia (modern day Iran and Afghanistan), and were originally white, and fairly devoid of nutrition - they were mainly cultivated for their leaves and seeds. Genetic mutations produced the familiar orange variety we use today, and long-ago farmers selected for those mutations, though white carrots are now quite chic! (No gluten, vegan).
Espárragos con Ajoblanco
We mentioned ajoblanco as the predecessor to gazpacho, and here we use a slightly creamier version of this traditional soup as a sauce for bright, crisp asparagus. Wild asparagus is native to Spain, and still collected to be used in traditional Andalusian cooking, although cultivated asparagus has replaced the wild version in many of these dishes. While it originated in the Eastern Mediterranean region, it was cultivated by the Greeks and Romans for thousands of years, and spread throughout Europe during Roman colonization. Grapes are a common topping for ajoblanco, and here we’ve roasted them to contribute a subtle sweetness to this dish. (Contains gluten, almonds; vegan).
Alcachofas con Jamón Serrano
The artichoke is one of Spain’s most beloved vegetables (well, actually it's a flower from the thistle family) and there are countless variations of artichoke tapas - fried, marinated, grilled, stewed… you get the point. This version, which is common in southern Spain, is simply prepared with garlic, olive oil, jamón, eggs, and parsley. Southwest Spain is also famed for its jamón Ibérico de bellota, a ham made from the black Iberian pig that is raised on an all acorn diet. It’s widely regarded as the best cured ham in the world, with price tags going up to $500 / pound! We’ve used the more readily available jamón serrano, which is traditionally dry-cured for 18 months at high elevation (hence jamón serrano = mountain ham) (Contains egg; no gluten).
Espinacas con Garbanzos
This is another classic tapa Sevillana and you’ll find it on virtually every menu, especially during Lent. It is a flavorful stew of garbanzo beans, spinach, and tomatoes, thickened with a paste of toasted bread and almonds. The spices here hint at the North African culinary influence in the region - cumin, peppercorns, and cayenne come together to make this one of the heartier tapas on the menu. Garbanzos (chickpeas) are one of the earliest cultivated legumes, with evidence that they were used in Turkey about 7500 years ago. Their exact path is not precisely known, but they quickly spread across the Roman Empire throughout Europe - gaining an especially strong foothold in France and Spain. Today, they are one of the most important pulses in Spanish cuisine, and a main ingredient in many dishes. (Contains gluten, almonds; vegan).
Solomillo al Whiskey con Patatas al Horno
While pork loin in a whiskey sauce may not seem very Spanish, it is perhaps simultaneously the most and least traditional dish on the menu. Countless theories exist as to how this unusual combination of flavors (at least in Spain) came to be - one postulates that a cook ran out of red wine and substituted whiskey instead. The most probable, though, was that it originated in a tapa bar Cafeteria Rioja in the late 1960s. A prominent Seville lawyer asked the chef to recreate a dish enjoyed in Paris and, after many attempts, landed on garlic, brandy (not whiskey!), lemon juice, and butter. Nowadays, it’s so ubiquitous that the quality of a tapa bar is based on their whiskey sauce - it’s come to define the local dining scene and countless restaurants riff on the classic. It’s typically served with french fries, but we prefer crispy pimentón roasted potatoes to soak up all that delicious sauce. (Contains dairy; no gluten).
Tortas de Aceite
These tortas (part cookie, part biscuit, part bread!) are an iconic Sevillano treat. The basic ingredients are flour, yeast, salt, and a good amount of olive oil. From there, one can add any combination of flavors or toppings - sometimes they are savory, sometimes sweet. In our version, we’ve added anise seed and anise liqueur, in addition to citrus zest, cinnamon, sesame seeds and a small amount of sugar. The resulting pastry is not too sweet, and lightly flavored with liquorice and orange. The tortas originated in Andalusia, and have been popular since the 1800s, but in recent years, they’ve gained worldwide popularity, thanks to an enterprising young Sevillana woman and her family. In 1910, Inés Rosales began making the tortas based on an old family recipe, just outside of Seville. She sold the tortas and her business quickly grew. By 1934, Inés Rosales’s Tortas were famous throughout the country, with sales of over 6 million tortas! The family sold the company in 1985, and now you can find Inés Rosales Tortas de Aceite in supermarkets around the United States; though there are multiple flavors, the product has remained true to its original Sevillano roots. We’ve linked an article about this company’s incredible growth in the resources section below. (Contains gluten; vegan).
There is perhaps no better pairing with Sevillian tapas than Sherry - not the sweet cream sherries or Californian ones, but rather the bone-dry, incredibly complex result of palomillo grapes aged biologically under flor (yeast) in an intricate solera system for years. A result of maritime trade, when wine would be fortified with brandy to last long voyages without spoiling, it was popularized when Sir Francis Drake raided the Port of Cádiz just an hour south of Seville and brought it back to England. There are several different types of sherries, and it can get confusing, but here are three that work with our menu!
This is the lightest type of sherry, normally aged between 2-10 years under a protective layer of flor (yeast) which gives it a bone dry, salty, yeasty, and almond-y flavor. If you’re only trying one sherry tonight, this is the most versatile. It pairs exceptionally well with the gazpacho, the ensalada Sevillana, and the zanahorias aliñadas. Refrigerate for a few hours and serve at 44-48F.
Essentially, amontillado is aged fino sherry. After the protective layer of flor dies, the wine is allowed to oxidize (age) giving it an amber color and has notes of hazelnuts, spices, and wood. It pairs wonderfully with the espárragos con ajoblanco, alcachofas con jamón serrano, and espinacas con garbanzos. Refrigerate and remove 30 minutes before serving so it’s at 53-57F.
On the other end of the spectrum from Fino, oloroso sherry never develops flor and is aged with oxygen for 5-25 years. The sherry develops notes of nuts, tobacco, spices, and leather that pairs fantastically with the solomillo al whiskey (or blue cheese or chocolate if you have some at home). Refrigerate and remove 30 minutes before serving so it’s at 53-57F.
Over 30,000 orange trees line the streets of Seville, filling the air with azahar (orange blossom perfume) in the spring. The trees, whether in blossom or fruit, are a defining feature of the city, though the oranges themselves are so bitter that they are - for the most part - shipped to Britain to become marmalade. If you find a spot at a tapas bar in the late spring as the twilight stretches onward to 10pm, you might notice the smell of the orange trees in the late evening air. The orange trees are part of the deeply Moorish legacy of Spain’s Andalusia - at the southernmost end of the Iberian Peninsula.
In 711 CE, Muslims from North Africa traveled across the Strait of Gibraltar and captured the Iberian Peninsula, which comprises modern-day Spain and Portugal. Prior to Muslim capture, the region was an outpost of the Roman Empire, and while there are Roman ruins around Seville, they have largely been eclipsed by Moorish structures. Under Muslim rule, the territory was known as al-Andalus, and was a flourishing economic and cultural center. Seville (Ishbiliyah at the time) served as the capital of al-Andalus for several Muslim rulers. Over time, and for a multitude of reasons, Muslim power in the region declined, and European Christians began to make inroads into al-Andalus. In 1492, Spain won the Granada War, and al-Andalus became the Spanish region of Andalusia. Almost eight centuries of Islamic rule left an indelible stamp on the region; a Muslim influence is visible just about everywhere you look - the architecture, the food (the oranges originated in the foothills of the Himalayas, and made their way to Seville with North African Muslims in the 10th century), the music, the literature, and even the great Sevillano tradition of flamenco. While Jerez de la Frontera - just one hour south of Seville - has been a winemaking center for over 3000 years, it was the Muslims who introduced distilling to Spain, which directly led to the production of sherry, the signature wine of Andalusia.
The Alcázar of Seville is one of the most iconic examples of this intermingling of Islamic and Christian influences. The palace, as it currently stands, is the result of centuries of construction and renovation, and it contains architectural elements of Moorish, Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance origin. The Alcázar is the oldest palace in all of Europe that remains an official royal residence, though the lower level, courtyards, and grounds are open to the public. It has been the backdrop of many popular movies and TV shows, including Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven, and Game of Thrones.
Seville’s climate is Mediterranean - the winters are mild, while the summers are extremely hot and dry. In summer, average daytime temperatures inch close to 100 degrees (F). It stands to reason, then, that Andalusian cuisine is also typically Mediterranean - light and fresh, devoid of heavy sauces and spices. The cuisine features lots of fresh garlic and parsley, lemon, seafood, olives, and olive oil. Pork was eaten only rarely for years - due to the long history of Islam in the region - but is fairly ubiquitous today, with Iberian cured ham considered a delicacy all over the world. The gastronomic pace of the day is important if you’re planning an evening out: a light breakfast of coffee and toast, and la comida between 2 and 4pm. La comida is the most substantial meal of the day and often followed by a short siesta, then tapas or a light dinner later at night - restaurants and bars generally don’t even open for dinner until around 8:30pm or later. If you’re looking for entertainment, you might go to a flamenco bar, have a few more tapas, and catch a show starting around midnight.
Tapa comes from the verb tapar, which means “to cover”, and the first tapas were simply slices of bread, or perhaps a saucer with a slice of ham, placed over a glass of wine to keep the flies out. While tapas and drinks are a combination found throughout Spain, the tradition originated in Andalucia, and in Seville specifically; many people insist that Seville’s tapas scene is the best in all of Spain. Sevillanos have elevated tapas to an art form, and one can easily make an entire meal or evening of tapeo (which translates fantastically to “the act of going bar snacking!”), especially if you have partaken of the traditional late comida and pursuant siesta in the afternoon.
Tonight’s meal includes several tapas typical of Seville, so pour yourself a drink, dish up your tapas, check out some of the incredible flamenco performances that we’ve linked in the resources below, and enjoy the meal! Salud!
Featured Recipe: Solomillo al Whiskey con Patatas al Horno
Ingredients for the Solomillo:
600 g pork loin, cut ¼-3/8 inch thickness (the pre-sliced pork loin at your local grocery store works too)
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but skin still on
200 ml whiskey
200 ml chicken stock
30 ml lemon juice (~ 1 lemon)
30 g butter
½ tsp ground cumin
Extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tsp Cornstarch, diluted with 2-3 tbsp water
Season the pork with salt and pepper and let it marinate for 1 hour. We typically use 1 tsp (5g) of salt and ¼ tsp (0.625 g) of freshly ground black pepper per pound of meat
Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a skillet, set it to medium high heat, and add the medallions so they brown. Remove and set aside. You don’t want to over cook the loin, just long enough to get some color
Lower the heat and add the head of unpeeled garlic to the same pot and cook until it’s golden brown. Add the whiskey and turn the heat to high so the alcohol evaporates. Add the stock, lemon juice, butter, and cumin. When it gets back to a boil, add the cornstarch slurry to thicken until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Start with 2 tsp of cornstarch and add a third if needed
Remove the garlic cloves and put the medallions back into the pot and cook over low heat for 5 more minutes or until the pork is just cooked through
Ingredients for the Potatoes
2 lbs large golden potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ thick rounds
1 tsp Pimenton de la Vera, either sweet or spicy
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 tsp salt + some more for sprinkling
¼ tsp pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 450F
Coat the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and pimenton
Roast the potatoes for ~45 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they are crispy. Sprinkle with some salt
To serve, place the potatoes on a plate and ladle over the whiskey sauce and pork loin. Enjoy!
Recipes Inspired By:
Matt Goulding’s Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture is a great starting point to learn more about different regional Spanish cuisine
The Cooking of Spain and Portugal by Peter S. Feibleman and the Editors of Time-Life Books is a classic Iberian cookbook (in English)
Andalusia: Recipes from Seville and Beyond by José Pizarro
This collection of photos of the Alcázar of Seville.
This article delves into the history of flamenco, its Muslim roots, and its evolution over time.
These are some of the most renowned flamenco performers of all time.
El Yiyo is a young flamenco phenom, blending classical flamenco dancing with inspiration from pop music and dance.
The story of almadraba fishing for bluefin tuna on the Costa de Luz.
The story of Inés Rosales tortas de aceite.