At the market

Supermercados and smaller shops, the tiendas are ubiquitous, but the market is still the nicest and the best place to really appreciate the flavour of Spanish food. Bustling housewives, straw baskets in hand, throng the counters heaped with glittering fish, looking for the day's best buy. Above the butchers' stalls hang freshly killed rabbits, chickens and partridge. There are wire baskets heaped with fresh country eggs and bowls of paprika-flavoured lard to spread on bread. Great slabs of beef share space with miniscule baby lamb chops.

The changing cornucopia of fruit and vegetable stalls is a cooks' inspiration. Ropes of garlic bulbs, branches of bay-leaves, strands of dusky dried chillies, vats of seasoned olives and string bags of nuts and dried fruits form a backdrop for the array of glistening fresh produce. The variety of fruits and vegetables available is astounding. Many markets also have stalls where spices and herbs are sold. From these treasure chests the vendor scoops bits of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, aniseed, cumin and saffron, and herbs from the mountains, both culinary and medicinal.

Click on the items in the menu (pun intended) to the right for more information and bilingual shopping lists.