The Spanish Home Kitchen
By Jose Pizarro
Hardie Grant Books – £27.00
Memories are essential ingredients in my cooking.
The memory of happiness is perhaps also happiness.
Memories of life in old rural worlds live on in the cooking like ghosts hovering in saucepans.
There really is something about looking at the photo of a Deep-Fried Calamari Sandwich on page 88 of this splendid, if not altogether wonderful cookbook, that makes one wonder why such a simple, yet tasty delicacy cannot be found upon the shelves of Sainsbury’s or Morrisons. Hey, even the author Jose Pizarro is clearly excited: ‘’For me, this is best sandwich in the world, and (top tip) it’s the most incredible hangover food!’’
Might it be just such enthusiasm – that runs through the entirety of this book – which accounts for The Spanish Home Kitchen being such a joyous and mighty fine addition to the shelf of one’s kitchen library?
Albeit, this is a cookbook with a twist, which one comes to realise a mere few pages and photos in – candid photos, presumably of the author’s family; a mixture of small and seemingly random chosen photographs, that spill over the initial few pages. A quality, which for some reason or another, lends a certain delicacy, anchored in, yes, memory: ‘’In this book I want to convey how important memories are in my cooking, how we are recreating and creating each time we cook a dish and add the ingredient of a certain memory […]. The most precious memories stay with us throughout our lives – this brings immense happiness.’’
Moreover, all the colour photographs herein also convey a certain zest and inspiration, including, naturally, those of the menus themselves.
To take just one example, ‘Potatoes With Rice and Salted Cod’ on page 120 – where even the plates on which this dish is served, look terrific: ‘’At the end of summer, when the seasons are changing, my mum makes her impressive chilli pepper ristra (a bundle of vegetables hung up to dry) which will last for the whole year. I’ve always loved to see them drying on the terrace: to me, they represent proper rural Spain. We start using the chillies as early as the autumn. The picture of this dish was taken on a gorgeous autumnal afternoon on my brother and sister-in-law’s land, and it was a beautiful day. My mum cooked the dish, and it was the first time she’d used her peppers that year: it was spectacular. I’ve been cooking this dish next to her for many years, and in this recipe I’ve tried to capture her method exactly. I think it’s almost the same, but you know – I’m sure she adds something when I’m not looking to take it to that (M)other dimension. I don’t know what it is: I really don’t.’’
Beneath this personal explanation (which accompanies every menu herein) to the left in slightly smaller print, is the list of ingredients, whilst to the right, in slightly bigger print, are the cooking instructions. Again, this is the format throughout, that I found assists readers of The Spanish Home Kitchen navigate their way around – both simply and quickly.
Covering five prime areas: Vegetables, Fish & Seafood, Meat and Sweet, this hardback cookbook enables one to dabble in Spanish cuisine without feeling the need to overtly impress.; which all told, is something of a recipe in itself.