Rick Stein's Spain By Rick Stein
BBC Books, £25
The foams and emulsions of contemporary Spanish cooking hold no truck with Rick Stein. It is the old Spain that impresses him, the one that provides memories of simple, but satisfying flavours.
Hence his latest book, Rick Stein's Spain, which accompanies the forthcoming BBC2 TV series, is packed full of dishes that recreate thoughts of "old musty cathedrals, vast horizons and fishing boats somewhere in the Mediterranean unloading wooden boxes of dark red prawns".
The book features recipes from different regions of Spain across the first nine chapters, with the tenth chapter devoted to desserts, which Stein insists are far better than you would imagine by visiting the average Spanish restaurant.
Dishes that appeal include beef rib chop with spicy potatoes and grilled red peppers from the Basque country; barbecued leeks with roasted garlic, tomato and almond sauce from Catalonia; rice with monkfish, saffron and red peppers from Valencia; and Malaga raisin ice-cream with Pedro Ximénez.
Stein likes the fact that Spanish food is generally unintimidating and that many of the cooks he came across in his travels around Spain were not precious about the food, enabling him to provide his own take on recipes. As a result, he admits the dishes may not be completely authentic - the occasional gazpacho or paella has been altered to reflect his memory of how it tasted or even improved when required.
For instance, Stein describes how in the original version of garlic soup with eggs, which he enjoyed in a restaurant in Castilla-La Mancha, the egg is stirred into an intensely flavoured broth of garlic and hot smoky pimentón and finished with a lick of good olive oil.
"When I got to make the recipe, I didn't break the egg up, just lifted it out of the soup and put it on the toasted bread in the bowl then poured the hot garlic and smoky pimentón flavoured broth over it, because I wanted my guests to break into the egg and have the yellow yolk flow into the soup as they ate," he writes.
It may not be the original way, but it is Stein's way and one in which he hopes will create a more enjoyable eating experience, which can be no bad thing.
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