Having a Sweet Tooth in Spain
by The Tapas Lunch Company
From the TLC Blog
There can be no denying that the Spanish have a sweet tooth.
When in the country, look around you. Any town or city centre is sure to have more than one shop selling cakes, buns and sweets. Even at my local market, set among the fresh fruit and veg stalls, the biggest displays are those creaking under the weight of brightly coloured sweets.
Of course, not all sweet things are bad for you.
Take honey for instance. I never liked honey prior to trying the large jars of it on sale for 5 euros. I still have an aversion to bees, but no longer what they produce.
The La Alcarria region of Spain is home to a pleasant honey that has a very distinctive aroma as it is made with wild herbs. Located between the provinces of Guadalajara and Cuenca this honey has that most sought after certificate of perfection, the Denominación de Origen.
The honey is collected from wild flowers, including lavendar, rosemary and thyme.
In the Ebro Delta of Spain citrus fruit grows aplenty. The finest of clementines are rich in vitamins and taste wonderfully sweet. Again some varieties have passed the DO test, among them clementina fina, the fernandina and the clemenula. All of which are produced in the Ebro Delta and in the wider province of Tarragona.
But clementines are also grown in vast numbers much further south in Spain, including on my doorstep in the fragrant Lecrin Valley of Spain. There is even a fiesta celebrating the sweetness of the oranges and clementines grown here.
What about another favourite in Spain? Nougat. They do not only eat it at Christmas time, when the shops are full of the stuff.
Jijona is located in the capital of Spanish nougat, Alicante. This part of the Valencia region is big on candy and nougat.
Turrón is an institution at the end of each year. Made from toasted almonds mixed with eggs and the aforementioned honey. Blended in a special mill until they turn into a fluid mass. The milled almonds release their oils and are then left to set for twenty four hours.
Today there are many varieties of turrón but some things stay the same. The soft Jijona turrón is known as blando and hard Alicante turrón is called duro. I am not a fan of turrón but I know many people with a sweet tooth who cannot live without it.
Valencia is also known for tiger nut milk or, as it is called, Horchata.
While tiger nuts (chufas) are good for you in their natural form, many servings of Horchata are sweetened considerably before the liquid is mixed with crushed ice. It is often served with cakes called fartons, which are yeast sticks with syrup. Yes, syrup! There we go again with the sweet tooth.
Have you tasted Guirlache? This is an Arab sweetmeat that originated in the Pyrenees. Made of toasted nuts and caramel it is akin to what the younger me would have called 'nut brittle.'
And the Arabs must themselves have had a sweet tooth. For they have also left Spain the joy of Pestiños. Flour, aniseed, eggs, caster sugar and honey are the chief ingredients for these little puff balls of delight. Deep fried in honey syrup, Pestiños are one of the many so called "Dulces de Sárten" (sweets from the frying pan) that are so loved by young. Older neighbours of mine prefer to bake them in the oven.
Either way it is safe to say that Pestiños are probably not too good for you.
But then so much is spoken and written about the healthy Mediterranean diet, it is only right and proper to acknowledge that even food that is probably bad for you can also be sweet.