For those who visit us, the mark that six centuries of Muslim/Arabic presence has left on Seville can easily be seen through the architectural legacy we can enjoy today. The Giralda, possibly the most universal and well-known symbol of the city, bears witness to this.
However, what is probably not so clear to many people is the impact that this legacy has had on our cuisine. Bites of history that can be tasted in the numerous tapas bars aligning our streets, and which in many cases make up the daily meals of many Andalusian and Sevillian homes.
Of all these dishes, there is one which due to its name, seems to be intrinsically linked to the recipe’s Arabic past: the pincho moruno. This typical tapa, consisting of small pieces of pickled and roasted meat placed on a wooden or metal skewer, doesn’t actually have Arabic origins, but it is reminiscent of the way the ancient inhabitants of Al-Andalus used to conserve meat. Between the 7th and 13th centuries, the use of salt and vinegar to preserve meat for long periods of time was commonplace. This process was normally used for lamb, but also for beef and even chicken. This elaboration would allow the meat to be seasoned with many different spices before being cooked, in much the same way it is today.
Another example is fried aubergines, extremely visible on the menus of many bars and restaurants around our city, which continue to be a very typical product in different Mediterranean countries, especially those of the Middle East. Here, it is common for them to be served with either honey or salmorejo.
Salmorejo and the world-famous gazpacho both trace their origins back to the cold and warm soups the Mozarabs prepared from a base of bread, vinegar and oil. Later on they would start to include garlic and, after Columbus’ voyages to the Americas, even tomato. It seems that this method of using bread as a primary ingredient would, after a gradual ‘drying’ process applied the recipe, lead to the evolution of current day migas in their many different forms. Although, it must be said that the Muslim version did not contain any pork products, something exclusive to the Christian population, with other types of animal fat being preferred.
Lastly, the dish that a well-know furniture store has internationally marketed as a symbol of Swedish cuisine, meatballs, are also a delicacy of Arabic cooking. The word for meatball in Spanish, albóndiga, which refers to the shape, or ball, is of Arabic origin. Since then it has been used to mean a ball of seasoned minced meat.
If after reading this quick review of the tradition and influence the Arabic world has had on our cuisine someone is yet to be convinced, they have the opportunity to stroll along the streets of Santa Cruz and breath in the aroma of its bars and restaurants, treating themselves to a moment of relaxation and enjoy the rich gastronomy on offer.
And for those who wish to further explore the neighbourhood:
- El rey de los pinchitos, in Triana.
- Casa Ricardo, for fried aubergines with miel or salmorejo.
- Eslava, very close to Casa Ricardo, for gazpacho.
- Alboroque, also in Triana, for meatballs.