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Moorish Influence of Spanish Cuisine

I was reading a great book I checked out from the Library last evening called The New Spanish Table and I became fascinated by those dishes listed as being deriven from the times during which the moors controlled Spain.

Is anyone familiar with certain dishes which could qualify and or historical information on this topic. Saffron - za'fran - arabic for yellow.

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  1. Pinchos morunos comes to mind - kind of a paradox, in a way since it's pork with Moorish spices, at least in name.

    1 Reply
    1. re: salutlemonde

      Yes! This was the very dish decribed in the book

    2. I'm not too personally familiar myself (yet!) with specific food info that could help you, but I highly recommend Penelope Casas' cookbook, The Food and Wines of Spain, for not only amazing recipes, but great information about the dishes, including historical stuff. Actually, all of her books are terrific. If you can't find it in the library, I can lend you my copy. Here's a link to the amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Foods-Wines-Spa...

      Oh, and I just found a cool site with an "Ask Penelope" page which has some interesting info as well: http://www.tienda.com/reference/askpe...

      1 Reply
      1. re: chocolateninja

        ... and you can buy most Spanish ingredients at La Tienda as well. I ordered Padron peppers from them once (in summer of course) and they were great.

      2. Of the Spanish cookbooks that I have, The New Spanish Table seems to devote most attention to this subject. There are 9 entries in index for Moorish.

        1. You'll find quite a lot of crossover - particularly in Andalucian cuisine. Not only do you have the old moorish influences on Spain, but Spain still colonises parts of Morocco.

          This is a pretty good cookbook that crosses over - from London restaurant owners Sam & Sam Clark:


          1. It should also be noted that well before moorish influence, Iberia had been subjected to plenty of North African and Easter Meditterranean influences. For example, Spain's distilling and wine making tradition including the Solera method come from Carthage aka Cartagena (modern day Tunisia). Even prior to that you have the Phoenicians making as much of an impact as the Greeks & Romans did.

            What I am trying to say is that even if Moorish is the label of choice used to describe Spain's culinary traditions that originated in North Africa, the Levant etc., you really can't dissassociate Spanish cuisine from those earlier influeces. In fact, I bet if you look at Spains most independent & indigenous cooking traditions like the Basque & Galician you will still find it impossible to restrict those influences.

            1. Among other influences, the Moors brought rice, lemons, limes, artichokes, spinach, sugar, sherbet, marzipan, cumin, carraway, eggplants among other foods with them to the peninsula.

              Years ago, a book I was reading quoted some visitor to Muslim Spain who couldn't believe how the Moors ate. Everything was cooked in olive oil and had onions and garlic in it. The writer then commented that this description could apply to much Spanish cooking today.

              You might find the following articles of interest. The first looks at the arabic roots of many words in English. The third article argues for the profound effect of Arab cuisine on Mexican food.






              5 Replies
              1. re: Ed Dibble

                I find it hard to believe those things didn't arrive prior to the moors.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  I think rice and sugar are always associated with the Moorish conquest. The linguistic evidence indicates that there was no common term for any of those things I listed in my previous post in the romance language that became Spanish; so it is likely that the foodstuffs and their names arrived with the Moors or sometime afterward.

                  While the Greeks and Romans had some citrus, most modern cultivars developed after the fall of the Roman Empire.

                  Grapes and wine-making are of course very ancient, but again the linguistic evidence indicates that distillation of alcohol (arabic word) in an alembic (arabic word) did not happen before the Moorish conquest.

                  A major non-food crop that also come into Iberia at that time is cotton (another arab root).

                  You also need to remember that the Iberian peninsula was in a pretty chaotic state for the 400 years or so before Islam arrived. The Roman empire was breaking down, northern barbarians were rampaging and settling, and trade and commerce were in steep decline. Not the sort of situation that leads to learning about or planting new crops.


                  1. re: Ed Dibble

                    The Vandals, Suevi, Alans (a non-Germanic people) and the Visigoths swept across Iberia in waves. The Vandals swept across North Africa and the islands and became a kind of latter-day Punic empire of the western Meditteranean. Still, the barbarians left little cultural marks in Iberia; they got pretty assimilated, and quickly. The Byzantines even reconquered part of the peninsula for a few generations, with less ill effect than the disaster the befell southern Italy from them (southern Italy never fully recovered from the Gothic Wars of Justinian).

                    The Basque people(s) remained throughout all of this. A fixture, as always.

                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                      I think sugar actually came from India, by way of the Moors.

                      1. re: salutlemonde

                        As did cotton. I'm not saying that all this stuff was invented by Moors or even Arabs - but just that they brought them to Iberia.