Spanish cookbooks

Time Out reviews the best new Spanish recipe books to bring sunshine to your suppers

Spanish Flavours

José Pizarro, Kyle Books, £19.99

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‘Spanish Flavours’ is the second book from the chef José Pizarro, proprietor of two Bermondsey Street eateries: José (a tiny tapas bar), and the more expansive, equally hip restaurant, Pizarro.

The book is a collection of regional recipes from his native Spain. It’s divided regionally, from the north, with its hearty winter dishes, to the south, with its lighter, summery fare. The porky, potato delights of the central plains are also explored, as are the rice dishes of the eastern coast and the healthy, simple cooking of the Canaries and Balearics.

It’s a personal book rather than a survey of Spanish cooking, but there’s enough information about Spain’s food history and traditions to give a taste of what the cuisine is all about. Pizarro knows his ingredients, having worked for the Spanish food importer Brindisa before striking out on his own. He’s also travelled widely in his homeland and has as much regard for the traditional home cooking of rural Spain as he does for the cutting-edge creativity of restaurant chefs working in cities such as Madrid, and the cocina vasca nueva of the Basque country.

His skill lies in knowing when to inject a bit of ‘nuevo’ into trad dishes: the recipes here are neither strictly modern nor traditional. Pizarro’s version of the classic chilindrón, a spicy pimenton and red pepper stew from the Navarra/ Basque region, is based on beef, rather than the traditional lamb. The recipe was easy to follow, and the finished dish packed a flavourful punch. His salmorejo (a thick tomato and bread soup with lots of garlic and a zap of sherry vinegar, typical of Cordoba in southern Spain) includes bits of fried jamón and black or green olive on top – simple but delectable. The recipes are imbued with vivacity. They have a modern spin, but have not been robbed of their essential Spanishness. They really work, too – not always the case with chefs’ recipe books.

Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 2178: May 17-23 2012

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