The Altean Gastronomy
Altea, a town with a great fishing tradition, has managed to survive on fish and vegetables from its origins. Everything the sea and land can provide has always been made the most of by its local people.
Altea’s gastronomy is therefore based on fish, shellfish and vegetables in the elaboration of its most typical dishes.
Every elderly person, settler or descendant who still live in Altea has a “recipe book” of grandma’s daily homemade dishes, if only by heart.
Among the most typical recipes, we can find “arròs amb fessols” (rice with kidney beans) or “arròs amb fessols i polp” (rice with kidney beans and octopus) dishes. These two similar popular rice dishes from sea or land are only differentiated by the addition of octopus or a variety of vegetables, depending on which area each family’s ancestors had lived.
The paella is also a typical Altean rice dish. In many homes, cooking paella is quite a ritual on Sunday lunchtimes. Friends and family happily get together to share an aperitif or “picaeta” while the tasty paella cooks and then gather around it to eat it from the paella pan itself.
Different Types of Paellas and Rice Dishes:
It is now common to see the “Paella mixta” (mixed paella), usually cooked with rabbit and/or chicken and vegetables cooked with shellfish, too. Shellfish was never added as an ingredient in the old days, being neither accessible nor affordable or available enough in those days, so strips of red pepper or other types of seasonal vegetables were added to the paella instead.
The “paella d’ aladroc” (paella with fresh anchovies) is well known in this beautiful town. This tasty paella, with just a few ingredients ( cauliflower, fresh anchovies, artichokes and broad beans), is typically cooked in the winter season when these seasonal, fresh ingredients are easily available, although it is easily found with other types of vegetables all year round.
“Arròs amb ceba” (rice with onions) is also easily found in Altean homes all throughout the year. This simple, delicious rice dish is only made with onions and peppers. Oily fish may also be added for extra flavour.
Rice with lobster is a very popular dish for those with the most exquisite palates. With its incomparable taste and delicate elaboration, this rice is available all year round.
There are also other rice dishes like the “caldero marinero” , a fishermen recipe created when away at sea for several days, “arròs a banda” ( rice cooked in fish stock,with the broiled fish served aside) and “arròs amb peix” (rice with fish), etc.
There are as many rice dishes as ingredients and recipes, but these dishes are the most typical rice dishes to be found in the town of Altea.
“Cocas” and “empanadas”:
In addition to its rice dishes, Altea can also offer its traditional “cocas a la llumà”, (open focaccia style baked bread with bits of sausage, pork strip, anchovy and green tomato). “ a la llumà” refers to the cane stick that was set light and placed next to the “coca” in an outdoor oven while baking to give it its golden crust. They may be purchased at every Altea Bakery on Thursdays, the day it is eaten, except at some neighbourhood fiestas where they are also offered on one day of their celebrations.
Another type of “coca” is the “coca farcida” (stuffed “coca”) which is a covered “coca” with a tomato, red pepper and onion filling sandwiched between two layers of pastry.
Other delicious specialties are the “bollos de bleda” (Swiss chard dumplings) or ” bollos de farina de dacsa” , a kind of fried dumplings stuffed with spinach and pieces of anchovies or black sausage. They are very filling and are normally cooked and served on cold winter days.
Typical Cookies, Buns and Pastries:
Some typical sweet dishes are the orange cookies, pre-Easter buns and the “ passtisets de boniato” ( sweet potato pastries) for Christmas.
Conserving this traditional cuisine is what makes our great local gastronomy special. All our dishes, whether from land or sea, mostly become fusion dishes. Many restaurants elaborately prepare these carefully conserved dishes in Altea today. Welcome to our gastronomic culture.