Pepita Aris is an authority on Spanish cooking, both traditional and the lesser known regional dishes. She lived in Spain for many years, writes for magazines and newspapers including Bon Appétit, and she is the founder editor of Taste as well as a contributor to the British edition of Larousse Gastronomique. Pepita has made frequent TV and radio appearances to promote Spanish foods and cooking.
There are 70 or so recipes between the covers of Spanish Cooking, each one supported by a wealth of photographs. This is the style of book that, sadly, I see infrequently. It has step-by-step photographs to give confidence to the debutant cook, as did the old-fashioned 1950s good homemaking (you know the ones I mean) cookbooks. We all love big glossy full-colour shots of exotic cities or ancient urns spilling Provencal lavender, but we equally need some recipe books to get us launched into a life of confident and enthusiastic cooking. This very volume could be your launch pad for Spanish cooking.
Having said how much I love the recipe photography, I should tell you that there are indeed city shots, folkloric dancers, some sheep and a cow, but they are confined to the fascinating travelogue section at the start of the book. These pages will get you in the mood for some delicious Spanish food. The ingredients for those dishes and even the traditional earthenware casseroles to serve them in (your next Spanish holiday souvenirs, and more practical than a straw donkey) are all detailed.
But on to the recipes. They are a vibrant collection of familiar favourites often found in Spanish restaurants outside Spain, and some lesser known ones that might be more often found in regional Spanish homes. Arroz con Pollo is a typical dish of rice, chicken and tomatoes but the addition of ham and chorizo add that unmistakable flavour of the peninsula. There are versions of this dish in restaurants all over the world along with the ubiquitous Seafood Paella, but be assured that these home-made examples will be more easily recognised by a real Spaniard than would those restaurant standards.
Fabada is a regional speciality from the mountains of Asturias on the Northern coast of Spain. This is a hearty stew of sausages and beans with a hint of saffron and paprika. This isn’t beach-hugging tourist fare. This is authentic Spanish food with richness and depth of flavour that is appropriate for cold days. Just a nice glass of Rioja and some crusty bread is all you’ll need to accompany this dish.
There is a little dessert of which I am fond and I am delighted to see the recipe here. It’s Leche Frita, and Pepita suggests it with a Black Fruit Sauce. The literal translation is fried milk but they are in fact deep fried custard with a crunchy breadcrumb coating, and a delicate flavour of cinnamon.
Spanish Cooking is one of the best Spanish recipe books that this reviewer has seen in ages. It’s practical and well written and has a well chosen selection of dishes. None of them are difficult to make but all of them have the air of authenticity. There are recipes that suit every season ad every taste. Plenty for vegetarians and fish lovers and the ingredients are easy to come by. This would be an ideal book for those who are searching for a hand-holding Spanish cookbook. It’s amazing value for money.
Author: Pepita Aris
Published by: Apple Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018