Andalucia is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and it is basic to the region’s cooking. A popular breakfast is toasted bread covered in virgin olive oil.
Fried foods are invariably, if not exclusively, cooked in olive oil. Even some sweets are fried in olive oil, such as roscos (aniseed-scented rings), and empanadillas (small pasties filled with sweetened and spiced pumpkin).
All of the provinces of Andalucia produce excellent olive oil, but some carry the ‘quality’ label denominacion de origen (D.O.). These are Sierra Magina and Sierra de Segura in the province of Jaén, and Baena and Priego de Córdoba in the province of Córdoba.
Gazpacho has its origin as a simple, ‘peasant’ food, consisting of bread, olive oil and crushed garlic. Today, gazpacho is still basically bread, olive oil and garlic but to it are usually added tomato, cucumbers, onions, green peppers and vinegar or lemon juice to bring out the flavours.
There are still traditional gazpachos to be had if you are willing to search around for them. The gazpacho of Málaga is white, made from bread, olive oil and garlic, plus crushed blanched almonds and served with muscatel grapes.
Most olive trees produce fruit destined to be crushed for oil, but some varieties are favoured for table olives, in particular the manzanilla and gordal. Other varieties are cured in the old, traditional ways and flavoured with garlic, thyme and fennel. Andalucian markets often have stalls selling a wide variety of olives.