Not since the Moro books came out have I found a more accessible book on Spanish cuisine than Rick Stein’s Spain. Though he confesses in the introduction:
"The recipes are not always completely authentic. They’ve been slightly altered to reflect my memory of how a particular gazpacho or paellas tasted, or equally how something that was overcooked, stale or just badly prepared could have tasted if they’d tried harder. You’re getting my Spain, in other words."
I would argue that must be the goal of keen cooks anywhere. When it comes to home-style Spanish cooking, it’s all someone’s interpretation anyway and I like how appealing all of Stein’s recipes sound. Right from the start he paints a mouth-watering picture of ‘hake cooked in fragrant albariño wine with peas and asparagus', and ‘wild mushrooms quickly fried in olive oil then served with an egg yolk to stir in as a sauce', accompanied by vivid photography that brings to life a road less travelled around Spain. The Catalan section for example is peppered with anecdotes from the people he’s met and cooked with in the region and covers a little of everything from basic pa amb tomàquet and escalivada to fideuà and a barbecued rabbit with tomato, picked chilli and cauliflower salad courtesy of the Michelin-starred Hispania restaurant in Arenys del Mar. Above all he makes you want to cook, which I think you’ll agree, is really the point of a cookbook.
Most importantly, all the recipes I’ve tried work. These include my best ever seafood paella and a chicken and fennel arroz caldoso (soupy rice), a simple but massively tasty papas aliña con melva de almadabra (potato salad with tuna and olive oil), chickpeas with chorizo, baby gem and pea salad with a lemon vinaigrette (marvellous with roast chicken in the summer) and scrambled eggs with asparagus, wild mushrooms and truffle oil, which I served recently as a breakfast treat with cava reserva.
It’s all easy to follow, unpretentious stuff and despite kitchen shelves that are literally sagging beneath the weight of an ever-growing cook book collection, I tell you hand on heart that Rick Stein’s Spain has quickly become my go-to read when I want something fast and fabulous to eat.
Rick Stein’s Spain is available on amazon.co.uk priced 25 pounds.