Monday, 30 November -0001

Pleasures of Spain

The new cookbook from Claudia Roden revels in the traditional tastes and flavours of Spanish cooking

Written by Carolyn Hart

Claudia Roden’s grandmother was descended from Jews who had been expelled from Spain in 1492 and had gone on to live in Ottoman lands. Her friends – mainly from Salonica, Smyrna or Constantinople – were labelled ‘Spaniolis’ in the Jewish community in Egypt, where Roden grew up. When you pick up a cookbook by Roden, therefore, you know that you’re getting not only some terrific recipes in their own right, but also a truly international view of the world and especially of the Middle East – its customs, history and, most importantly in this context, its food.

That also holds for The Food Of Spain, Roden’s latest book. It’s a gigantic tome, full of pictures of this glorious country and stu_ ed with Roden’s trademark sections on the culture and domestic history of the people who have migrated to this part of the world over the centuries. The recipes are based on ‘traditional home cooking from all the regions of Spain’, but presented as they are cooked today.

‘My aim,’ says Roden, who travelled extensively in Spain while writing this book, ‘is to feature the best dishes I could find.’

She had a rule, however: ‘…that there should be a balance between the e_ ort of making a dish and the pleasure of eating it’: a recipe would only get into the book if everyone loved the finished result enough to bother with cooking it. It’s a good rule and one that makes this book particularly accessible to the domestic cook.

On this page are three recipes that give a characteristic ­ avour of the book as a whole… vegetables with a tomato and hard-boiled egg vinaigrette, whole roasted bream with potatoes, and fried goat’s cheese with honey.

The Food Of Spain by Claudia Roden, with photography by Jason Lowe, is published by Michael Joseph/Penguin Books, priced £25.


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A vinaigrette (vinagreta) adds glamour and fl avour to simple boiled vegetables, making them light and refreshing, as well as an elegant start to a meal.

Serves 4


4 leeks

about 500g new or waxy potatoes

250g asparagus

3 fresh baby artichoke hearts, or frozen and defrosted artichoke bottoms


For the vinagreta:

7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar, or juice of ½ a lemon

salt and pepper

2 tbsp finely chopped fl at-leaf parsley

2 firm tomatoes (about 200g), chopped

1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and chopped


Trim and wash the leeks, cut off the green ends and cut each of them into three pieces. Peel the potatoes and cut them in half. Trim the hard ends of the asparagus. Cut the artichoke hearts or bottoms in half.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil and throw in the leeks and potatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the artichokes. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the asparagus and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more until all the vegetables are done. Drain well and arrange them in a wide serving dish. While the vegetables are still warm, make the vinagreta.

Beat the oil and vinegar or lemon juice with some salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in the parsley, chopped tomatoes and hard-boiled egg and pour over the vegetables, turning them so they absorb the dressing well.


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This is the great festive and Christmas Eve dish of Madrid that is now popular in other parts of Spain. I ate it in Asturias, in a restaurant called La Arcea.

Serves 4


one large sea bream (weighing about 2kg), gutted and scaled


1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

8-12 waxy potatoes, peeled

a good pinch of saffron threads

250ml Albariño or other fruity dry white wine such as Riesling

1 lemon, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 tbsp fine breadcrumbs

2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley


Rinse the sea bream and season inside and out with salt.

Sauté the onion in 1 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil over a medium heat until soft and golden, then put in a baking dish large enough to hold the fi sh lined with foil. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes, drain and cut them into thick slices. Add them to the onions, drizzle over 3 tbsp of the oil, add the pinch of saffron threads and a little salt, and mix gently. Then pour in the wine.

Rub the top of the fish with 1 tbsp of the oil and place it in the baking dish with the potatoes around it. Slash it in two places at the thickest end. Cut 1 thin slice of lemon in half and insert a half in each cut. Put 1 lemon slice inside the fish and the rest on top of the potatoes.

Mix the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil with the garlic cloves, breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon of the fl at-leaf parsley, and sprinkle this mixture over the fi sh. Put the fish in an oven preheated to 250C/gas 9 to roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the fi sh is cooked (test using the point of a knife in the thickest part – the fl esh should be opaque right through to the bone) and the potatoes are tender. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parsley.


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The combination of a slightly salty goat’s cheese with fragrant honey is surprising and exquisite. I tasted it in Andalusia but it is also made elsewhere.

Serves 4


about 75g fi ne matzo meal, for dredging

4 slices (about 200g) of hard goat’s cheese about 1cm thick

2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 tbsp olive oil, for frying

a pot of orange-blossom honey, to pass round


Put a good layer of matzo meal on a plate. Turn the slices of goat’s cheese in the egg yolks and use your fingers to cover them well with the yolks, being careful not to break them. Lay the cheese on top of the matzo meal and sprinkle with more matzo meal so that the slices are well covered.

Fry the cheese slices in medium-hot oil in a non-stick frying pan for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, turning them over very carefully with a spatula, until golden on both sides. Lift them out and serve immediately.

Pass the honey round for people to help themselves.


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