The Spanish Kitchen: Ingredients, Recipes, and Stories from Spain Hardcover – May 1 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Part cookbook, part travelogue and part history lesson—albeit an engaging one—this volume offers an epicure's tour of Spain, with recipes. It's divided into chapters by region, each focusing on a specific ingredient (or two) that is a source of local pride and providing a brief, food-oriented history. In the chapter on Castile-Madrid, for example, Chinchón garlic is the ingredient of choice, and recipes include Garlic and Chile Shrimp, and Spicy Monkfish with Saffron and Chilies. Other chapters go from savory to sweet, as in the La Rioja chapter, which features pears in Duck Breast with Honey-Spiced Pears, Pears Poached in Moscatel and Spices, and Rioja Pear Cake. The Valencia chapter showcases oranges in Toasted Bread with Garlic and Orange, Hake in Orange and Saffron Sauce, and Delicias (an almond and chocolate confection). Recipes are generally simple and often rustic; there just aren't enough of them (only 75). The color photos by Peter Cassidy are honest; they don't try too hard to make things look modern or slick when they simply are not. Together with the text, they provide an authentic look into Spanish cuisine and the areas where it is prepared. (Aug.)
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About the Author
Calrissa Hyman is an award-winning food-travel writer and restaurant reviewer whose work has appeared in the Times, The Telegraph, Country Living, Food and Travel, Waitrose Food Illustrated, Manchester Evening News and Carlton Food Network's Simply Food. She has twice been nominated for the prestigious Travelex writing award and in 2002 was awarded the title Glenfiddich Food Writer of the Year. She is the author of The Jewish Kitchen and Cucina Siciliana also by Conran Octopus. This is her third book --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The subtitle to the book, `Regional Ingredients, recipes, and stories from Spain' is a much closer picture of the book's contents. It consists of 17 chapters for the 17 regions of Spain, and begins each chapter with a story about a `signature' ingredient from that region. With my rudimentary knowledge of Spanish `terroir', I find some of the selections appropriate, such as the obvious pairing of Valencia with oranges. However, I find some pairings pretty arbitrary, as when Mallorca is used as a basis for discussing black pigs and sobrassada (a type of cured sausage). According to the excellent `Pig Perfect' by Peter Kaminsky, the center of pig culture in Spain is in the western Extramadura region, for which Hyman presents `pimenton de la Vera' (red peppers, pimento, and paprika). Like so many ingredients, as Hyman says herself, sweet peppers and pork are practically a universal ingredient for Spain. There may be a bit less pork in the beef-eating north, but its all a matter of degree. I'm especially puzzled why Hyman doesn't include Serrano ham as a central ingredient, as it is commonly considered equal to or even superior to the more famous Italian prosciutto de Parma among European dry cured hams.
I'm also a bit puzzled by Ms. Hyman's take on geographical names, especially when it comes to the Spanish Island groups. Instead of referring to the Balearic Islands or the Canary Islands, she uses the name of one locale within each island group, Mallorca and Tenerife respectively.
Each region and speciality gets about four pages of text to talk about the featured ingredient(s) and six to eight recipes. Certainly not enough room to cover in depth one of the world's most important and influential cuisines.
This book is actually far more interesting as a set of clues to where one may wish to visit in Spain. The especially good (and well-LABELLED) photographs add a lot to the book. So, if you want a good culinary source, go to Casas or Barrenechea, or Mendel or Anya Von Bremzen's `The New Spanish Table'. If you really like to read about Spanish food, this book strikes me as a cross between a travelogue and a collection of newspaper articles on Spanish food which is, however, not as successful as the classic `The Food of Italy' by Claudia Roden, which WAS a collection of newspaper columns.
Nowadays dishes such as tortillas, fried potatoes and flan are made throughout Spain. That's almost the case with gazpacho and paella too. People throughout Spain buy their bread fresh, often twice daily. They fry in olive oil. They grill over charcoal and wood on the grid and griddle. They simmer stews in earthenware pots. They store with vinegar. They use the pestle and mortar. But that's as far as it goes for a national cooking and food tradition.
So it's no surprise there's no such thing as THE SPANISH KITCHEN. Instead, there's a cook's delight of REGIONAL INGREDIENTS, RECIPES, AND STORIES FROM SPAIN. The book therefore has chapters on each of the country's 17 regions. Each chapter tells the growing and history of the best-known food of each region. Each has delicious recipes using that particular food. Each explains what it is about regional growing and cooking that makes the particular food the best of its kind.
What makes me like this book the most? It's the fact it's so easy to get here substitutes for each of the foods. Author Clarissa Hyman warns the taste may not be the same as the real, home-grown food. But almost-the-real-things are still good enough. For she tells what's special about the food. And it's easy to copy that in whatever's found as substitutes.
So, for example, Andalucia's raisins plump up a lot in liquid. The Basque country's Atlantic white tuna has little lactic acid spoiling flavor and texture. Cantabria's anchovies aren't heat-treated. They stay semi-perishable. The cured taste therefore depends on tins being kept in cool places and regularly turned over. Extremadura's peppers are sharp, because they're smoked in small sheds for 10-15 days. Murcia's rice is firm and soft. The reason's good water in a ratio of 3-3-1/2 or 4-4-1/2 to 1, depending on the brand.
The reader therefore can track down either natives or imports to use in the recipes. For something that stays with me from this book's that a lot of what we think as food of Spain didn't start out native. A lot came originally from somewhere else. The ancient Romans brought garlic. The ancient Celts brought pigs. The medieval Moors brought oranges and rice. The explorers of the Americas brought peppers. These and other imports naturalized so successfully they seem like beautifully natural parts of Spain's landscape.
The recipes go with beautifully mouth-watering photos. The instructions are easy-to-follow. The book is so well done it's on my New Year's resolution list. I'll be working my way through each of the 75 simple, elegant recipes.