The Real Taste of Spain
By Jenny Chandler
Pavilion/Anova Books – £20.00
There are good cookery books and there are bad cookery books, and luckily this one by Jenny Chandler, falls within the realm of the former. Having studied Spanish and Catalan at Bristol and Barcelona Universities, the authoress certainly knows her way around the literature of Spanish cuisine, which is all the more evident in this wonderful book, The Real Taste of Spain
From the renowned Boqueria in Barcelona, to the tiny village markets of rural Spain, market life and fresh regional products are indelibly at the heart of Spanish life and cuisine. Realising, as well as understanding this, Chandler has put together her second book of Spanish gastronomy – her first, The Food of Northern Spain,
was published by Pavilion in 2005 and was short-listed for the prestigious Andre Simon Award.
As she states in the opening of her Introduction: ‘’The key to Spanish home cooking is its honesty,’’ and it is said honesty, which is the quintessential theme of this book. Broken into eleven sections (such as shellfish, charcuterie, eggs and dairy etc), Chandler unveils a menagerie of delicious meals and snacks – of which all the ingredients appear easily attained, of which all appear relatively easy to make. I had a go at garbanzos con morcilla (chick peas with black pudding), and within half an hour, perhaps less, I surprised myself at having rustled up an altogether different, yet really light and tasty meal. A meal I’d have never thought about making before, as the amalgamation of its two prime ingredients isn’t something I’d previously considered. And as Chandler points out: ‘’chickpeas with black pudding may be served as a hearty breakfast for the hungry early risers, or as a lunchtime snack for businessmen or tourists,’’
Apart from the recipes themselves, what I also found interesting about The Real Taste of Spain is the insight and the background behind almost every meal. For example, of coca de trempo (vegetable coca), Chandler writes: ‘’Coca is the Spanish answer to pizza – a thin dough topped with delicious vegetables or even a sugary crust, but unlike its Italian cousin very rarely containing cheese. It is sold by the slice from bakeries and market stands all over Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. Although it would make a delicious lunch or picnic dish, I have yet to get a piece home. There is something delightfully decadent about scoffing it on the street, straight from the greaseproof paper.’’
Peppered throughout with some really terrific colour photography care of Vanessa Courtier, the layout of the book is as easy to follow, as it is inviting. Replete with a list of marvellous mercados (markets) – both fixed and municipal – there is also as section called ‘the store-cupboard,’ which, as Chandler writes, is an open imperative in relation to the subject: ‘’A well-stocked larder transforms both shopping and cooking into much simpler and more enjoyable tasks. You have more time, more scope for spontaneity, and throwing together pre-dinner nibbles or a last minute supper is never a problem. This small selection of key, non-perishable ingredients will bring the true flavour of Spain to your table.’’
Indeed it does.
Indeed it (already) has.