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Catalan main courses

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.

Main dishes:

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.

These are normally served on their own without any vegetable accompaniment. The exception is with grilled meats which are normally served with a guarnició, or garnish of grilled vegetables, usually a pepper, tomato or a baked and reheated new potato. 'Garnish' is the watchword, so don't expect a 'meat and two veg' style meal! Chips are a new phenomenon in this context and as a personal opinion this would get a restaurant a black mark, apart from the fact that it's sometimes really great to get some chips with one's meal!

Conill amb herbes al vi negre ( conejo con hierbas y vino tinto ): - rabbit with red wine and herbs: the rabbit is marinated in red wine and then cooked like a standard casserole with onions, bacon and, ideally, a pigs trotter for smooth. The final, and typically Catalan, addition of a bit of strong chocolate added at the end as a picada . Brandy is also added if wished but not flambéed.

Xilindron* ( chilindron ) lamb stewed with red peppers (NB this dish is also made with chicken): - this is really an Aragonese or Navarran dish, although as this is not too far away from Lleida it is popular. On the subject of lamb: in Spain lamb is preferred much younger than in the UK, indeed lechal means lamb that has only been fed its mother's milk, like veal in Northern Europe. This is a speciality of the central ' Meseta', or table-lands, of Castile rather than Catalonia , although it is available here from specialist butchers. I find lechal meat rather insipid, however, although its tenderness is renowned. Catalan lamb is slaughtered at a later stage, although still much younger than in Britain , and is much sweeter and more tender than British lamb, but it does have a strength of flavour that lechal lacks. The lamb of the Pallars region is famous for its flavour as they feed on wild herbs and shrubs.

Estofat de Bou ( estufada de vedella ) beef stew: in Catalonia this means in a rich dark sauce with chocolate, estufada de vedella in the rest of Spain is less rich. This dish originates in Perpignon in France , an area that was part of Catalonia during its golden years in the XIII and XIV centuries. In general, raising cattle is rare in Catalonia , as in the rest of Spain , due to the climate and beef should be selected with care. Beef from the autonomous breeds that are farmed in the cool high Pyrenees and beef from these animals is labelled as such. Beef from Galicia , in the far north-west of the Iberian peninsular, is also very good.

Galtes * pigs cheeks: really the jawbone with its attendant meat, this is usually simply roasted but often a sofregit enters the dish either in the cooking or as a guarnció . Galtes have delicious smooth textured meat although we've not taken to adding a bit of bacon during roasting as otherwise it can be too strongly flavoured.

Guales *(cordonices) quails: -there are many ways with quails: grilled a la brasa ; with white wine and olives - an Andalusian dish but none the worse for that; or a la vinaigreta - marinated in a light vinaigrette and baked in the oven in a clay pot (see Perdius below). Quails are also served in an escabeche . Note that there is a big difference between farmed and wild quails, both in quality and price.

Llangonissa amb mongetes ( longaniza con judias blancas ) sausages with white beans: -this is a rib-sticking farmer's breakfast/lunch/dinner! Llangonissa is a sausage made with lean solid meat, nothing like The British Banger (but see butifarra blanca ) although this does equate to bangers 'n' mash in the folklore stakes. The llangonissa is either grilled or fried - slowly as they are really solid - and served with white beans enriched with some onion, garlic and the grease from the sausage - excelled in sub-zero winter temperatures!

Peus de porc amb mongetes ( manos de cerdo con judias ) pig's trotters served as above although they have to be grilled, often with breadcrumbs. A common way with trotters is in a pimentón (paprika) based sauce. Trotters are also served stuffed with wild mushrooms in or out of season ( farçits amb bolets or ' rellenas' in Spanish) Halved they are often used to reinforce and add a glaze to many casserole dishes.

Mar i montanya - chicken with lobster in a chocolate enriched sauce. This is classic Catalan cooking - subtle yet gut busting! Farmyard chicken and fresh lobster - actually llangost , a crayfish native to the Costa Brava - is cooked in large chunks and the sauce 'amalgamated' with a picada of chocolate and pine nuts or whatever the chef thinks fit!

Parillada de carns *( parrillada de carne ) mixed grill: this is not really an adequate translation, it's a feast of local meat products, it should contain at least one sausage, poultry, i.e. chicken or rabbit, some lamb, and xurrasco - a cut from the bottom of rib of beef, not unlike a pork spare rib but cut at right angles, delicious. The more different types and cuts of meat there are the better.

Ànec amb figues ( pato con higos ) duck with figs: an archetypical Catalan dish from the Amporda region. The duck is jointed and cooked in a light sauce based on a sofregit or stock, dried figs and wine are added later, often with pine nuts or brandy and with cinnamon. Many of the fruit and meat type dishes are served in winter, using dried fruits. There is a recent trend, however, to serve slightly lighter versions using fresh fruits as they come into season. These work really well.

Perdius vinegreta (or amb vinagre) - partridges cooked in sweet-sour sauce based on onions and wine vinegar: there are numerous partridge recipes throughout Spanish cuisine, this reflects the extent of wild countryside that supports a whole genre of game dishes. Nowadays game animals are just as likely to be farmed although the wild examples are of a better quality and taste.

Pollastre amb alioli * ( pollo al ajillo ) chicken with garlic: a universal dish but with as many variations as there are cooks! Chicken pieces are fried in olive oil and garlic added during the cooking, either whole in their skins (they become very sweet that way but you need fresh garlics with no green stem growing) or crushed - but beware of it burning. Sometimes alioli sauce is added last minute and just warmed through. One often gets chicken, more likely spring chicken, a picanton, grilled with a helping of garlic mayonnaise on the side, which is delicious but not the same dish at all - so it shouldn't be called al ajillo .

Rap amb al cremat - monkfish with 'burnt' garlic: there are two translation problems here; a) monkfish, as the Brits call it, is actually a shark but the British use the term to mean an angler fish as well, whereas rap (spelt 'rape' in Spanish and pronounced 'rapé') refers only to angler fish; b) burnt garlic means caramelised 'just so' not cremated!. Pieces of fish are sealed in oil and reserved, the garlic is then added to the fish stocky oil and sizzled, fish stock is added often with some boiled potatoes and the whole dish reassembled with the fish, usually with baby clams, etc. as a garnish, the colour should come just from the richness from the stock.

Samfaina amb bacala - salt cod cooked in samfaina : after soaking in the prescribed changes of water the cod is dried, cut in chunks and fried gently. Before it is cooked it is added to the bubbling samfaina and served with a green salad, one of the best ways to approach salt cod for the uninitiated.

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.


Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.


See aslo a brief guide to Catalan food by Simon Rice


A guide to food in Spain

A brief guide to Catalan food by Simon Rice owner of this restored Casa Rabassaire which he rents out on the summer.

Cooking styles
Sandwiches & tapas
Special dishes
Rice dishes
First Courses
Main courses
Catalan desserts

See also Francis Barret's guide to food in Catalonia



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