Spain has been a host to Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, and the most influential of all, the Moors – they invaded the land, especially the Southern part, in AD711 and stayed for nearly 800 years.
The invaders soon introduced Middle Eastern and African delicacies to Spain and influenced the traditional cooking methods and many popular recipes. It is very easy to identify their fascinating Moorish background in all of them. A large number of words have Arabic origins: aceite (oil), arroz (rice), almendras (almonds) and almuerzo (lunch).
New ingredients were brought to Spain, such as aubergines, lemons, oranges, saffron, pomegranates, figs, cinnamon and nutmeg, which are all vital in Spanish cooking.
When the Catholic queen and king, Isabella and Ferdinand conquered Granada in 1492, the Moors and the Jews who worked for the Moors were driven out of the last Moorish kingdom in Spain, however it is evident that the Sephardim, the name given to the Spanish Jews (meaning Spanish in Hebrew), left a few marks on Spanish cooking. For example, the cocido, which is a national dish of Spain, stew of meat with chickpeas, originates from the Jewish adafina, the Sabbath casserole.
Pork and pork products, which were never consumed before, due to the religious belief, became the main ingredient in Spanish cooking in this period. Most importantly, it became a statement of loyalty and proof that the ordinary people were converting to the Catholicism.