Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucía is now out!This builds on my three previous cookbooks, and taps into my 15-plus years of living in Barcelona and travelling to nearly every one of Spain’s provinces.
It’s a large, personal book that I began in 2009 with a break to write Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes. But really, work on the book began when I moved to Spain in 1996.
From the craggy Catalan coastline to the undulating, red-soiled hills of Andalucía, the diversity of the Spanish countryside is without rival. Its cuisine directly reflects this landscape, with each region celebrating its own ingredients and culinary traditions. I gathered the country’s many time-honored dishes and age-old culinary customs, and distills the Spanish table down to its essence—food that is prepared simply but full of homemade flavors, and always meant to be shared.
Each chapter is an ode to Spain’s delightful kitchen, from gazpachos, salt cod, and poultry, to savory and sweet conserves. The story of the country is told through 200 recipes from classics like Shellfish Paella, Artichoke Egg Tortilla, and creamy Flan to delicacies such as Chilled Melon Soup with Crispy Jamón and Monkfish Steaks with Saffron. Dishes from Spain’s leisurely multicourse meals and simple tapas alike celebrate seasonal ingredients: wild mushrooms, asparagus, and local game. Sidebars trace Spain’s rich culinary traditions, taking us from ancient Moorish cities to the arid fields of the Castilian countryside, and allow us to meet the people who still, with devotion, cultivate them. Accompanying these are hundreds of evocative photos of the markets, orchards, green hills, and fishing ports from which this delicious cuisine originates.
Add to this a thorough glossary that includes techniques such as preparing snails, using saffron, and making perfect fish stock, as well as a helpful source list. Novices and veterans of the Spanish kitchen alike will gain a deeper understanding not only of Spain’s cuisine but of its culture.
The New York Times named it among 2013’s dozen best cookbooks:
Home cooks who want to branch out geographically are in luck. Japan, Thailand and Spain come into focus in unexpected ways in three highly attractive books that seamlessly blend pleasure and instruction. You can read them with profit, then cook adventurously. The few steps to a stove have always been the cheapest and fastest form of travel.
Jeff Koehler does justice to another regionally complex country in SPAIN: Recipes and Traditions From the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucia (Chronicle Books, $40). The author, a food writer who has lived in Spain for many years, focuses on roots cooking, the simple, flavorful dishes that warm Spanish hearts.
Koehler is an expert guide, providing highly informative headnotes to each recipe, often explaining regional variations in the same recipe and suggesting some clever tips. In his recipe for clams with oloroso sherry, for example, he suggests substituting dry white wine with a little brandy if sherry isn’t at hand. These pages abound in seductively rustic dishes like pork baked in a salt crust and served with fruit compote, chestnut purée or a blue cheese sauce.