I am enjoying reading this book. Be warned it is over 600 pages. The first many pages explain the history of Spain (and thereby the food influences). I have learned alot of things I didn't know. From what I've read of the recipes so far, many of the recipes are not difficult or 'sophisticated' but are most likely quite authentic although, to be fair, I am only 1/3rd of the way thru the book and I still have to read salads, meats, poultry etc. All in all, if you want to know Spanish food, I would recommend this book. Based on what I've read, I will likely purchase another book by this author.
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90 of 96 people found the following review helpful
With 600 pages and a very general title, the book sets the expectations very high. Is the author able to deliver?Aug. 1 2011
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The hyperbole in the product description calls this book one of the most important books on Spanish cooking during the last 50 years. How does the book measure up? I own a number of Spanish cooking books, so in addition to comments on Roden's book, please also find my recommendations.
This is a decent book about traditional Spanish food, but it lacks the passion so apparent in The New Spanish Table (or for that matter the author's own The New Book of Middle Eastern Food). I think you learn more about Spanish food by reading that book, because its informal and youthful style (i.e. cramped with info, side bars, inserts, loads of smaller less artistic photos). Off course, if you want to learn about the Spanish regions and their specialities, you should pick up Culinaria Spain. However, Roden does teach us a bit about the strong early Muslim influence as well as the different regions. Roden's history lesson is largely confined to pre 20th century. Unfortunately, you do not get any understanding of how Spanish cooking has changed during the last 50 years. Another solid book that tries to do pretty much what Roden is trying to do is The Cuisines of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking - a much better choice (more focused description of regional differences, more recipes, regional origin of all recipes noted).
The book is too designed by the publisher for my liking; e.g. lots of professional photos (but why a brown tinting on all of them?), big white spaces (who came up with the silly idea of having 3-4 cm margins??), and very safe recipes. This would be a good gift to a more conservative person that likes food a bit toned down, but still nice. (In contrast, the first book mentioned above would be a good gift to a more passionate person who just likes to cook.) I am not trying to belittle Roden's book, but cooking is more fun with passion (e.g. Andres's Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen or his DVD. Check him out on youtube if you are not familiar with him.)
I am also disappointed by having only 180 recipes in a book of 600 pages. The book has a lot of intro text so the comparison isn't totally fair, but still pretty fair. There is just too much fluff in this book. Compare with the author's early book on Middle Eastern food having 800 recipes on 500 pages. Also many of the recipes are too basic, like chicken stock, aioli and mayonnaise. Those recipes should be put at the end and not given full page treatment. Alternatively, more detail could have been provided; e.g. how pestle and mortar makes the sauce different, how to make it without eggs. Things need to be taken to the next level.
I don't think this book is directed to people who love to cook. There are just too many short-cuts described (e.g. doing aioli with bought mayo) and the author giving approval to all these short cuts (probably on request of the publisher). Also, the recipes do not contain any tips of how to really get the best out of the ingredients. The recipes are very straightforward, all additional complexity removed. Some people might like this approach but somebody who loves to cook would like to know the details that lead to perfection and an enlarged skill set.
If you want more recipes per page I would suggest the books by Penelope Casas. Probably best to start with her first book The Foods and Wines of Spain, which will contain the classics. Her Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain and La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain follow the same style. (I am not familiar with her subsequent books). Her recipes are a little bit more traditional in preparation, but the author is not Spanish and she is very careful in spicing the dishes. Compare with The New Spanish Table that is not afraid of spicing the dishes. I don't know who is closer to the "original" if there is an original.
Finally, I do not recommend 1080 Recipes unless you want a book written for Spanish housewives
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Spanish Cooking at Home Plus a Great TravelogueJune 29 2011
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Claudia Roden's breakthrough book, 'A Book of Middle Eastern Food' was not only a landmark work on one of my favorite cuisines, it was also a wonderful reminiscence of Roden's family history as Sephardic Jews who settled in Egypt. For Sephardic, read 'Spanish' and her credibility as a writer on this Mediterranean cuisine becomes clear. The first 120 plus pages contain a region-by-region overview of Spain's multi-ethnic food culture, ranging from signature agricultural products to 'bred in the bone' dishes. I very much agree with previous reviewers that the recipes she has selected accord well with what I have eaten and enjoyed during my travels in Spain. I also feel that this is the best overall book for a Spanish family (speaking English fluently) to select for their own cookbook. The great dishes, the expected dishes are here--from a homemade range of stocks through soups...well, to nuts! Famed convent-based recipes for egg and almond pastry 'bites' are here. We all have had them and we all have wished we 'knew how' to recreate them at home. Now we can! We can also share a thumbnail sketch of each region's history, their hopes for independence or autonomy or their roles in creating today's vibrant, modern Spain.
Why only four stars? I cook seriously (as does Roden)but I may be a bit 'jaded', a bit more interested in 'knockout' recipe and flavor or texture ideas. This book is wonderfully traditional. Her prose is not as rigorously edited as it used to be and there are some repetitions that pall on the careful reader.
Roden has also become a culinary 'goddess' by dint of her unremitting hard work and her text has acquired a bit of baggage: she is modest enough to feel she needs to recognize all the people in Spain who have helped her along the way and through the years. Notable names are dropped but there are also magic moments when she recognizes, for example, the president of a local gastronomic society of men, a man of humble origins but of enormous self-study and acheivement and a man of noble hospitality. 'Visiting' good people who love good food is one of the pleasures served up by this book; a pleasure seldom found elsewhere.
Obviously, I had to add this book to my collection and I feel you won't be sorry to do the same. For those who are seeking something a bit less ambitious and a bit more path-breaking, may I suggest Jose Andres' works 'Made in Spain' or 'Tapas?' The dishes he offers make me want to get in the kitchen and cook something for dinner tonight!
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely DelightfulJune 8 2011
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If you have ever returned from a trip to Spain longing to go back ... not for Guadi's sculptures or the sun drenched beaches or for the wild nightlife, BUT just for the amazing food, well this book is for you. I love Europe, but what I love most about Europe is the amazing food, and Spain is no exception. I have always believed that great food come from a fusion of different cultures (to wit the amazing cuisine of Turkey) and Spain is a great example of my view. The European, the Moorish, the Christian, the Muslim, the Roman, all of these influences, combined with one of the most perfect climates in the world have created a national cuisine unlike any other.
The great news is that you do not have to shell out a fortune at El Bulli to experience the wonders of Spanish food. Indeed the foods and dishes portrayed in this book are well worth the high price. I normally do not like paying a lot for books, and prefer Kindle books, but here I will make an exception.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This is why Claudia Roden is one of my favorite cookbook writersJuly 11 2011
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This book is basically everything that makes a Claudia Roden book -- personal stories, history, and much more -- combined with some truly beautiful Phaidonesque food photography. It's a doorstop, no question, but it's worth trying to schlep it around just to be able to browse through it. The recipes are all marked by area of origin, and are chosen to reflect each area's specialties, such as Valencia's rice, seafood from Cantabria, the Basque country, and the Balearic Islands, Asturias' apples, and Madrid's signature boiled dinner, the cocido madrileño.
The aesthetics are an important aspect of this book; while the text itself is probably about the same or slightly shorter than Roden's other books, the book as a whole was conceived as a coffee table book, with generous (and obviously Phaidon-influenced) food photography. Roden's friends who helped her with the book also get their own introductions in sidebars, along with ingredients and cultural forces that shaped Spanish food from medieval into modern times. (Roden, being Sephardic Jewish, places special emphasis on the Jewish contributions to the cuisine, and makes a special point to cover how Spain has come to appreciate centuries of contributions by Jews and Conversos.)
For a long time -- over twenty-five years now -- Penelope Casas' The Foods and Wines of Spain has been possibly the definitive book in English on Spanish food. It's still an excellent book, but in the years since Casas published her first book, Spanish food has rocketed to worldwide fame as the youngest of Europe's great national cuisines, joining French, Italian, and Greek food thanks to the efforts of both traditionalists and modernists. I don't know that I'd say Roden's book replaces Casas', but the simple fact of it being so far up to date as well as being artistically beautiful just edges out Casas as the book to buy if you're only buying one. (I own both, and I'd suggest you do too, along with 1080 Recipes, which was written in Spain for Spanish cooks, but received a very nice, slightly quirky treatment from Phaidon.) But even if you don't care about any of the above, Claudia Roden is one of the Anglophone food world's great treasures, and frankly a new book by her is really all the excuse you need.
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Another massive hit for RodenJune 19 2011
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Claudia Roden has long been my favorite cookbook author. Her books are well-researched, tasty travelogues, as well as cookbooks. I have thoroughly explored and cooked many of her recipes in Arabesque, The Good Foods of Italy, and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Each and every recipe works perfectly and tastes exactly like the dishes of the region tasted when I traveled there.
I was thrilled to see that Roden recently tackled my favorite cuisine, The Foods of Spain. This massive tome of recipes and information is exactly what I would expect from Roden. The research and information is all-encompassing and the recipes thoroughly explore each region of Spain. So far, I have made a dozen recipes from its pages and they all have turned out beautifully and taste just like the Spanish food of my memory.
Cooking from Roden's recipes is the next best thing to traveling to Spain and eating the fabulous food.
This book is a must for any cookbook connoisseur, traveller, or Spanish enthusiast..all of which I am! The Foods of Spain is my new favorite cookbook, hands down...just narrowly beating out Roden's past books.
Victoria Allman author of: SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain