Book review: Basque: Spanish Recipes from San Sebastian & Beyond

25 March 2016
Book review: Basque: Spanish Recipes from San Sebastian & Beyond

Basque: Spanish Recipes from San Sebastian & Beyond

By José Pizarro

Hardie Grant Books, £25

The Basque region of Spain has gained a status in recent years for being the home of both invention and tradition, with a culture built around the celebration of food. This new book is a beautifully arranged collection of memories from chef-restaurateur José Pizarro, now firmly ensconced in London with three restaurants.

As you read on, there is the overwhelming sense of the simple generosity of Basque food, tried and tested over centuries, celebrating the best ingredients as they arrive in season. The first sweet baby peas, served with mint, chorizo, fried bread and a crisp fried egg, is a dish I defy anyone not to like.

José shares many tips: the call to suck on a prawn head, a secret worth sharing with the uninitiated, or why its fine to overcook your broad beans. He repeatedly cuts back to only the most necessary ingredients, such as the salt and oil to dress the beautiful tomatoes picked straight from his father's garden. It is clear this book is not just about food, but the memories which make each ingredient and dish so important.

The puddings, José says, are a result of the Basque's proximity to France and its surplus of locally grown nuts. Again, simplicity reigns with dishes like intxaursaltsa (literally walnut sauce), chestnut flan and caujada (junket) with honey and walnuts.

What I like most about this book is the personal touch and feeling that José welcomes the reader into his world. Dishes like porrusalda (leek and potato soup) and alubia de Tolosa (beans of Tolosa) are clearly soul foods that don't need any twist or embellishment.

This cookbook has already taken its place on my shelves alongside The River Cafe Cook Book and 1080 Recipes, where it can be frequently dipped into until the dishes are committed to memory as family favourites.

By Peter Weeden, head chef and partner, Newman Street Tavern

If you like this, you may enjoy these:

Seasonal Spanish Food, José Pizarro

Barrafina: A Spanish Cookbook, Eddie Hart, Sam Hart and Nieves Barragan Mohacho

The Food of Spain. Claudia Roden

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