Spain: The Cookbook

Image of Spain: The Cookbook
Release Date: 
April 17, 2024
Phaidon Press
Reviewed by: 

“the definitive book on Spanish cookery.”

“In this book, Simone and Inés Ortega offer us a wealth of gastronomic experience and wisdom and it will quickly transport you to the heart of Spain,” writes Ferran Adrià, former head chef of the legendary El Bulli restaurant who is considered one of the best chefs in the world, in the introduction to Spain: The Cookbook.

“This is a timeless book. When you read it, you suddenly realize the glories of the food in front of you, those that, until now, you've not fully appreciated. Ours is a splendid cuisine, born out of the pleasure of eating, and it is also one that is perfect for those who have little time to cook, but who don't want to give up the enjoyment of eating well and, thus, of feeding their souls as well as their stomachs.”

A huge and wonderful door-stopper of a book with almost 1000 pages, much of which are recipes, drawings, and photos, this is the definitive book on Spanish cookery. It’s hard to imagine a recipe or one similar that can’t be found within the pages. Because the information contained here is so voluminous, finding what you want is made easy in the way the recipes are divided into such chapters as “Cold Plate Suggestions,” “Fried Dishes, Savory Tartlets, Little Turnovers and Mousses,” and “Eggs, Flans and Souffles.”

In the chapter, “Menus from Celebrated Spanish Chefs,” there are recipes from chef/restaurateur José Andrés who has restaurants in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York, and Las Vegas; José Manuel Pizarro, restaurateur and author of such cookbooks as Spanish Home Kitchen; and Carme Ruscalleda, the chef-owner of Carme Ruscalleda near Barcelona. Among the recipes she shares are those for her Apricot Sponge and Quick Prawn Soup.

Lively sketches by Javier Mariscal, some 500 in all, accompany full-color food photos and illustrate not only such dishes as Caviar canapes and roasted mixed vegetables but also how to cut up an octopus or de-fin a fish.

The 1080 recipes vary in complexity though many are exceedingly accessible. Sausages in Cloaks (Salchichas Encapotadas) and Eggs en Cocotte with Mushrooms both have only five ingredients and Soft Cheese and Paprika Canapes just three. Some of the dishes won’t be familiar to most American home chefs such as Hare with Chestnuts, Woodcock with Cognac, and Lambs’ Feet with Tomato. But even if we’re not going to cook such fare, it takes us further into our exploration and understanding of Spanish cuisine.

Originally published over 40 years ago under the title 1080 Recetas de Cocina, millions of copies have been sold, and it’s easy to understand why. The cookbook is both compelling—a page-turner—as the authors take us into the home kitchens of their country, and informative with menu plans, cooking tips, and a glossary.

Author Simone Ortega was considered to be one of the foremost authorities on traditional Spanish cooking and had a career in food writing that spanned more than half a century. Her daughter, Inés Ortega, is also a food writer and collaborated with her mother on subsequent editions of the cookbook.

It’s easy to see why the popularity of this cookbook, which is said to be found in almost every home in Spain, endures. Its recipes and illustrations beckon us to expand our skills in Spanish cuisine.