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The Cuisines of Spain
It’s the third largest country in Europe and has strong
historic links to North Africa. It faces both the
Atlantic and the Mediterranean, has mountain ranges, deserts and
fertile plains. Madrid, its capital, is the highest in Europe and
Spanish style is respected world-wide. It’s a land of diversity and
The landscape of Spain has helped it maintain a multitude of cultural
and culinary traditions. Each village might have a typical celebration
dish entirely different from that of its neighbour. Each family will
have its own interpretation but all will have common threads – quality
of ingredients and flavour.
Spain has offered so much to the dining tables of the world. Tapas are
a universal favourite, paella is now found in every Mediterranean town
or village, and who would want to live without Spanish olive oil? They
produce more in Spain than any other country.
The author of The Cuisines of Spain, Teresa Barrenechea, was born and
brought up in the Spanish Basque region in the north west of Spain. She
moved to New York City as press attaché to the Spanish
delegation of the United Nations. In 1991 she opened Marichu which was
considered as New York’s finest traditional Spanish restaurant. Her
previous book, Basque Table, was awarded the National Gastronomy Prize
If you have visited Spain then you would have tasted fine restaurant
food but perhaps, and this is probably true of every nation, you would
have eaten better and more authentic food in private homes. You might
not get that chance unless you kidnap a taxi driver or befriend your
hotel concierge so a good cookbook will be your next-best option. The
Cuisines of Spain could be that very book.
There are certainly dishes here that will be familiar to you - paella,
for example. But Teresa offers four varieties all hailing from the
Valencia region. Fideua is a seafood paella made with pasta. It has
similar ingredients to the more common rice-based seafood paella but
that rice is replaced with macaroni or angel-hair pasta.
Empanada Gallega (Bread Pie from Galicia) has a number of alternative
fillings and all of them are enticing. Empanada de Berberechos has
cockles and peppers, and Empanada de Sardinas has sardines and onions.
The pie I’d choose for a cold winter night with the TV (or log fire if
you are lucky) would be Empanada de Lomo. This has a rich and warming
stuffing of pork and chorizo with a sprinkle of extra paprika and
tomato sauce for good measure.
If you are a fan of the French Crème Caramel then you are sure
to love Crema Catalana. Whilst the traditional French version is turned
out on a plate and has caramel incorporated into the custard, the
Spanish version remains in its dish, has a hint of cinnamon and a crust
of caramel. The Cuisines of Spain offers a simple method for achieving
a good result.
This is one of my favourite books on Spanish cooking. The photography
by Christopher Hirsheimer and Jeffrey Koehler is marvellous. The
recipes are tempting and there is plenty of history and anecdote for
each one. The Cuisines of Spain will be sought after by lovers of real
Cookbook review: The Cuisines of Spain
Author: Teresa Barrenechea
Published by: Ten Speed Press
Price: $40.00US, £38.00