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Spanish delights

SUMITRA SENAPATY relishes the Spanish Fiesta that is on at New Delhi's Maurya Sheraton.


PAELLA IS the first thing comes to anyone's mind when they think of Spanish food, and there are variations on the theme, including a Valenciana with rice, chicken, sausage, and seafood. The spread is obviously Hispanic. More precisely, it is not Mexican, Tex Mex, nor Peruvian. It is Spanish - almost purely. So for a taste of Spain, head straight for the Spanish Fiesta at New Delhi's Maurya SheratonShowcasing his country during the Fiesta, Miguel Nieto Sandoval, Director of the Spanish National Tourism Office says that Indian tourists visiting Spain would actually find it quite a refreshing change. "It is a year-round destination with a Mediterranean climate. Barcelona and Madrid are the gateway cities, but you could board one of Spain's super-fast bullet trains for short trips to Valencia, Cordoba, Toledo and Granada."

Spain is not flamenco, guitar, wine and sunshine only! "Take your pick from shopping for Spanish clothing brands, Spanish jewellery and very reasonable Spanish wines, while imbibing the Spanish culture." El Corte is a popular department store chain offering everything from booking weddings and honeymoons, designer garments, furniture to fresh vegetables, seafood, fast-food snacks and more.

World-renowned Spanish chefs Marcos Bernal and Emilio Piles of the Escuela de Hosteleria y Turismo de Valencia feel that this is a cuisine extremely popular worldwide, and Spanish food is well suited to the Indian palate, as the flavours are strong and the ingredients fairly familiar. Whether tapas are a handful of toasted almonds, squares of bread topped with salty tuna, prawn, an olive or two, quality is always preferred to quantity. During a tapas evening, you choose your dishes with an eye to balance: something solid like a tortilla (classic Spanish omelette) or patatas bravas (chips of new potatoes dressed with a tomato and chilli sauce); something luxurious, maybe a plate of jambon (salt cured ham) and cheese; something delicious - Gambas A La Plancha (grilled prawns with a seasoning of chopped garlic, flat leaf parsley and lemon juice); something seasonal like asparagus, broad beans, baby artichokes; and something showy which takes extra skill-fish fritters or fried calamari. Miguel also tells us that there are over two-and-a-half lakh tapas bars in Spain, as it is a very Spanish way to spend an evening or two - bar hopping with lots of bite-size snacks and wine. Bread and olives accompany tapas, the first for mopping up the sauces, the second to stimulate the appetite while counteracting the effects of wine. The Spanish often pickle their own olives, picked when green, and then cracked, soaked to remove the bitterness and pickled in brine with aromatics such as fennel, garlic and thyme. But the most important accompaniment to them - as to all Spanish celebrations - is that happy state of mind that comes from the landscape and people; the joy found in sunshine, song and sangria. Sketches of Spain are what come to the mind when you think of tapas and paellas - delicious dishes of taste texture and colour. The Spanish Fiesta at Maurya Sheraton is on till this Saturday.

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