It’s not glossy and it’s not by a celebrity chef, but Janet Mendel has written a quiet masterpiece. Ana gave me this as a present on July 24th, 2000 and my now battered and dog-eared edition has stood the test of time, many moves and scrutiny by the most demanding public – Pepita, my suegra (mother in law) and fantastic cook.
Mendel leads the reader through her own introduction to the Spanish kitchen in the days when the pestle and mortar still sounded every day and then charts the often bewildering ingredients and possible substitutions for every dish. Taking into account regional variations (which can differ from hamlet to hamlet) she manages to encompass the richness and variety of Spanish cuisine. The glossary is magnificent – I even use it for translations, and the index is a brilliant example of cross-referencing that many, much more expensive, books could do with copying.
Some of my favourite recipes from the book are:
Mojo colorado (also known as Mojo Picon) a sublime sauce from the Canary Islands usually used served with potatoes, but fantastic with everything from fish to a slice of toast (I usually make this in a large mortar as Ana is addicted to it and I need to at least double the ingredients given).
Patatas a lo pobre (Poor man’s potatoes)
Xato – a salad with a fantastic sauce which is subject to fiercly disputed competitions every year and even has a Ruta Xato tourist route in Catalan coastal villages
I could go on and on but now I’m getting hungry – if you are looking to recreate the authentic taste of Spanish cuisine in your kitchen wherever you may live I can’t recommend this book too highly. Get it here, pour yourself a glass of wine and get cooking.