Traditional Spanish Cooking by Janet Mendel – review

Traditional Spanish Cooking “One of my favourite books… it is such an inspirational book, with a good recipe on almost every page.” That’s the view of Simon Hopkinson of The Independent and half an hour spent with this volume and you will feel equally impressed. This is the winner of the André Simon Award and was shortlisted for Glenfiddich Food Book of the Year. Seems like the approval for this one is universal!

The author, Janet Mendel, is an American journalist who has lived in Andalusia for more than thirty years so she obviously has first hand experience of her subject. The recipes have an authentic feel to them and seem just like the real Spanish food that some of us have had the privilege to eat in homes and small family-run restaurants. There is diversity here that you don’t find on the Costas where full English breakfasts and meat pie “like mother used to make” is sometimes the order of the day.

The charm of Traditional Spanish Cooking is that we not only have the recipes but also their context in Spanish daily life. The complexities of a breakfast in Spain give an idea of the rhythm of meals. The country is an ancient culinary melting pot with regional differences that reflect the influence of many civilisations that came, saw and left vestiges of their own traditions.

Traditional Spanish Cooking presents us with dishes that are simple to prepare but which take advantage of fresh and seasonal produce. This is country cooking at its best with marvellous combinations of flavour and texture, aroma and comfort. What could be better?

Moorish Kebabs (Pinchitos Morunos) owe their origin to the Muslims who conquered Spain and brought with them their spices (as well as tiles, baths and a nice line in fountains). Pork is the meat of choice for these skewers in modern Spain but lamb or veal would have been used by the Moors. The Spanish housewife can buy the spices already blended, such is the popularity of these kebabs. You will probably have all you need already on your spice rack so no need to book that ticket to Madrid.

We are talking about Spain so you would expect a recipe for Paella. In fact there are three distinct and authentic examples here. Valencia Paella Rice with chicken or rabbit and snail; Paella with Seafood, although it still contains chicken; and Noodle Paella which has white fish and prawns, with the usual rice being replaced by spaghetti.

Traditional Spanish Cooking is a gem of a book full of delicious and sometimes surprising dishes. Great value for money.

Traditional Spanish Cooking
Author: Janet Mendel
Published by FrancesLincoln
Price: £ 14.99
ISBN 0-7112-2677-6


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018


See more books by Janet Mendel here