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The Book of Tapas – book review

21 May 2010 by

The Book of Tapas
By Simone and Inés Ortega
Phaidon, £24.95
ISBN 9780714856131

Simone and Inés Ortega's new tome, The Book of Tapas, is so yellow it should probably have come with free sunglasses. Its recipes are printed on warm yellow pages, topped with rich red headlines. And the cover is also decked out boldly in Spain's national colours.

But despite appearances, the mother and daughter team probably need do little to reinforce their credentials as the doyennes of the Spanish cookery book. Their 1080 recetas, first published in 1972, is regarded in many quarters as the all-purpose Spanish cookery bible and is a popular gift at Spanish weddings.

The Book of Tapas, on the other hand, zeroes in on a culinary tradition which originated as free bar food served alongside drinks in Andalusia, southern Spain. Its 250 recipes are divided into sections covering vegetable tapas, egg & cheese tapas, fish tapas and meat tapas. Each of these is then subdivided into "hot" and "cold".

None has an illustration alongside it, although there are four ample photography sections showcasing a selection of the dishes, as well as an extensive A-Z of Spanish ingredients at the front of the book with both English and Spanish names (just in case you had forgotten what a tomato or an anchovy looks like).

The nature of the food means that recipes are, for the most part, pretty simple. In fact some, such as chorizo cooked in red wine, barely need explaining at all.

But things get more interesting at the back in a guest chefs section, which sees chefs from around the world, including Ferran Adrià's brother Albert Adrià as well as Sam and Sam Clark, the team behind London's Moro restaurant, submit their own recipes.

Suggested dishes include little sherry pastries filled with tuna and piquillo peppers (Frank Camorra), and Iberian ham and foie gras cones (Alberto Herraíz).

Overall, the book is an exhaustive archive of traditional recipes, doubtless useful to domestic cooks and as a reference to any chef aspiring to produce authentic tapas. But it could have benefited from a greater number of recipes at the more adventurous end of the scale.

See our recipe for chicken and ham terrine from The Book of Tapas >>

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