The Spanish Kitchen: Bocadillos, Pitchers of Sangria & Perfect Paella

The Spanish Kitchen: Bocadillos, Pitchers of Sangria & Perfect Paella

7 minute read

Summer Sangria Recipe…

  • 1 lemon

  • 1 lime

  • 1 orange

  • 1 ½ cups rum

  • more...

Bienvenida a Espana! Welcome to Spain, land of savory tapas, perfect paella, sangria that'll give you flamenco feet, and the world-famous La Tomatina Festival.

(For a summer sangria recipe without brandy, see below).

Spain dwells deep within my heart. Not because I'm Spanish--not even close! But because I've walked 800 km across the country, not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times on an ancient pilgrimage known as el Camino de Santiago de Compostela. And with each step I've fallen more in love with this country's traditions, landscape, and--no surprise--its food. 

Walking el Camino has allowed me to indulge in more than one bottle of red wine in the country's famous Rioja wine region. Several of the drool-worthy bocadillo de tortilla de patata (Spanish omelette sandwich). Numerous cups of tart and tasty sangria. Platter upon platter of pulpo a la Gallega (octopus from Spain's Galician region). And creative (and surprising) tapas with every meal. 

In my jaunts off The Way, I've experienced La Tomatina, Spain's annual Tomato throwing festival, face-first--literally! And whatever image that conjured up in your mind is exactly right. Splat! There's no feeling quite like that of a ripe, juicy, sun-soaked tomato hitting you smack in the face. The riper the tomato is, the softer the landing! This fun and fruitful festival occurs every August.

While I may hold a "tourist" perspective of the country, it's been well honed through time and repetition. And my discerning palate makes no mistake about the quality of the nom nom. Of course, like with Thai food, there is no shortage of cafeteria-style versions of the food. It's an apathetic mimicry that exists the world over, everywhere food is to be found, unfortunately. But in Spain, when it's good, or even mediocre, it's always delicious (‘cept for the queso azul, that is!). The Spanish are serious about their food. Even when it comes to roadside sandwiches, there's no messing around!

I'll lead you through a few of my favorite Spanish foods, and then I recommend just visiting the country at your next chance to taste the real thing.

Spanish Paella

Spanish paella for your Sangria

I "met" paella along the Camino de Santiago. I write "met" because I owe my acquaintance with this dish to a man I will forever refer to as Master Paella. Rodrigo (try pronouncing that name in a casual manner with those double rolled r's!) and I stayed in the same albergue one night (an albergue is a communal, dorm-like hostel along el Camino). As often happens on this pilgrimage, a few of us peregrinos chipped in a few Euros and collectively made dinner. Borrowing from the slimmest of pickings of culinary tools available in the hostel kitchen, Rodrigo led us in the construction of the finest paella I've ever tasted. For him, paella is not a meal but a mission; he actually carries a jar of saffron with him, tucked in between a change of clothes in his backpack. Talk about commitment! 

Now typically, paella is cooked up over an open fire on a wide, shallow, wok-like skillet the size of a small Volvo. Unfortunately we had no access to such implements, so we used the largest pan we could find in the joint and placed it over the single gas burner. The fact that the resulting paella tasted as superb as it did is testament to my belief that food cooked with love and gratitude while on pilgrimage is the very definition of fine dining. 

For those of you who don't know what paella is, I'm sorry--and please get yourself well acquainted with it because life is short and should not conclude without a taste of this Spanish delicacy! Paella is a rice-based dish made with saffron, vegetables, chicken, mussels, and shrimp, cooked together with an array of other ingredients and spices. If that sounds pretty ordinary, just try it--you'll quickly change your mind.

Spanish Sangria

Spanish Sangria

We washed multiple plates of paella down with red wine from Rioja and sangria, a mixed, red-wine cocktail with spirits and chopped fruit. Here's a quick, brandy-free recipe for your next backyard shindig:

Summer Sangria Recipe

1 lemon

1 lime

1 orange

1 ½ cups rum

½ cup white sugar

1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine

1 cup orange juice

Slice the citrus fruits and allow the concoction to sit for a couple hours, refrigerated. Then gently crush the fruit to release flavor.

The Bocadillo

Pronounced bow-caw-DEE-yo, this ubiquitous snack is literally just a sandwich. But like the North American sandwich, there is no limit to what can go in between two slices of bread. 

In the case of the bocadillo, the bread is a baguette, and there are a few favorites among Spaniards. My personal favorite is the tortilla de patata bocadillo. Tortilla de patata is an omelette made with fried potato and, in some cases, chopped onion. Another popular bocadillo is jamon y queso--with ham and cheese. 

Observing a local whip together a homespun bocadillo on the side of the walking path in rural Spain amongst fields of sunflowers haystacks is something to behold. Out of a dusty, faded rucksack comes a fresh, ripe tomato, a small bottle of olive oil, and salt. The tomato is squashed and rubbed on the inside of a fresh baguette, followed by drippings of only the finest olive oil. That's the foundation. Various cheeses, hams, chorizo, and other such delights stack upon one another to deliver mouthful after mouthful of the satisfying chew of which only a robust sandwich is capable.


The first time I visited Spain, before I had even the slightest hold on the language, I decided it would be fun to randomly order tapas from a menu and see what arrives. I learned, much to my severe displeasure, that queso azul is blue cheese. As most of you know, there are two types of cheese lovers in the world: those who would inhale blue cheese if they could and people like me who don't go near the stuff. Needless to say, that first tapa wasn't a winner! 

The second tapas plate I ordered was delicious, and then I discovered it was bovine intestine, or was it cow? Either way, the psychological blow of having enjoyed bowels for dinner stopped me from ordering a second plate. Good thing I had cold sangria to wash it down.

I'm making tapas sound a bit unappetizing when actually, they're not, and they're an excellent way to sample small portions of the local cuisine. Who wants to commit to a full plate of something they've never tried, after all? So, next time you're in Spain, order up a jug of sangria or copa de vino and try out a few tapas. If you're vegetarian or vegan, have your translator app ready to avoid any unpalatable surprises!

Stay tuned for our upcoming guide on the World's Best Foods, written from experience, random sampling, and common sense (if we can agree there is such a thing when it comes to food!). We'd love to hear what your favorite food is and why, so let us know!

For more great kitchen tips and awesome deals on exclusive kitchenware, join our Insider's Club.

From our kitchen to yours, enjoy jugs of refreshing Spanish sangria on your patio this summer!

« Back to Blog