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If you’re reading this, it means you’re likely already knowledgeable about the array of beautiful food products available across the length and breadth of Spain. But for many of us, the Spanish food and drink we covet feels like the stuff of luxury: it’s barrel-matured Sherry, lovingly cured jamón ibérico, and beautifully vivacious aged cheese.
But to think of all Spanish food and drink as something just to be saved for memorable occasions would be to miss out on a huge number of food and wine products that can stock up a store cupboard for midweek meals, and with a smaller cost than you might think. The trick to eating well on a budget, when it comes to Spanish food, is simply to know what to look for in the first place; to be mindful that often a little goes a long way; and to make use of great-value ingredients and simple but effective recipes.
Stews and braises
Many home cooks turn to hearty stews when looking for value in cooking, and with good reason – thanks to long, slow cooking, a beautiful stew is a great way to pack depth of flavour into a dish made with simple, humble ingredients.
There are many stews that make use of such ingredients. Take Omar Allibhoy’s Patatas Riojanas, for example: a beautiful and simple dish, it harnesses the punchy flavour of the semi-cured variant of Spain’s much-loved chorizo with just a few other aromatic herbs and ingredients, resulting in a delicious meal where, when it comes to the main ingredient, a little goes a long way.
Then there are also dishes like fabada asturiana, a stew of beans, or caldereta de cordero, made with lamb and lamb’s liver. Just a small amount of salt cod, meanwhile, turns a humble leek and potato stew into the traditional porrusalda, a delicately flavoured but hearty and delicious meal, and one that’s great for the whole family.
For wine lovers, Spain is known as a country that punches above its weight both in terms of fine wine and also the more accessible end of the spectrum. Iconic wineries like Bodegas Numanthia and Massandra Sherry are well known among collectors looking to snap up new releases to lay down.
But even Spain’s biggest-hitting and best-known regions have wines at prices that won't break the bank. Take Rioja, for example: while most wine lovers will know the name of this iconic region – and some will know it for beautiful, aged expressions of tempranillo, garnacha and more – it may surprise you to know that many well-known Rioja wines are available in supermarkets and wine merchants offering fruit-forward wines made for drinking now, and that will make both you and your bank account happy!
Elsewhere, if you’re looking to commemorate an occasion with a sparkling wine, Cava is always an exceptional option to draw on, being made by the traditional method. Widely available at all price points, Cava’s full of vibrant flavour and refinement, and with new regulations brought in to the Denominación de Origen last year that make it easier than ever to understand what you’re buying, a little knowledge goes a long way.
Food and wine pairings
Whether at home or out, an exceptional food and wine pairing always lives long in the memory. But this is another thing that isn’t just reserved for luxurious occasions and doesn’t have to come with a high price tag, either.
Drinking a well-made Tinta de Toro with a beautifully braised lamb, for example, is a great way to complement the stew’s rich, deep flavours with a wine that sings with black fruit and spice, while a Fino Sherry is a great choice with a simple plate of Monte Enebro cheese and a few pieces of salchichón. As before, some knowledge about where to find value in both wines and ingredients is as good a way in as any.