From the introduction: "Close your eyes and imagine yourself under the shade of an olive tree with the shores of the Mediterranean just over the curve of the hill. Imagine too, that someone - a native of this land - is preparing your meal. What shall it be? The choice is wide. Creamy white beans from the slopes of Asturian hillsides, slow-simmered with garlic and olive oil, flavoured, perhaps with a ham-bone - nothing much, you might think - until the cook explains with shining eyes that this particular ham-bone is from a particular breed of pig and is cured in a particular way which makes it like no other ham in all the world. Or perhaps you might choose a dish of rice from the marshes of Valencia, a paella coloured and perfumed with saffron grown in the red earth of La Mancha, Spain's high central plateau. Or a dish of chickpeas cooked to a nutty sweetness with the deep crimson peppers cured in the smokehouses of Old Castile. Or you might prefer pork and shellfish seasoned with fiery chillis cooked in a cataplana - Portugal's shell-shaped cooking-implement which gives its name to the recipe. Or, if the sun is high and the breeze is cool and you have a mind to stay in the shade, you might choose a thick-crusted speckle-crumbed loaf to eat with the a slice of well-aged manchego cheese, or a slab of cornmeal bread, broa, to eat with the soft-centered cheeses of Tras-os-montes."
Lentil soup with rabbit
Lentils, one of the most ancient of the Mediterranean's cultivars, are the fast-food of the pulse-tribe. They don't need soaking and take only an hour to cook. Spanish lentils are large, greeny brown and cook to a floury softness - no one would give a thank-you for the bullet-hard lentils of Puy. What you need for a soup is a lentil which will absorb the virtues of other flavourings - meat, herbs, ham - and then soften and melt till it thickens the broth.
500g (1 lb) large greeny-brown lentils
1 wild rabbit, jointed (or 1k/2lb hutch-rabbit joints)
4 tablespoons pork lard or olive oil
250g (8 oz) salt-pork or unsmoked bacon, cubed
3-4 garlic cloves
500g (1lb) ripe tomatoes, scalded, skinned and chopped
2-3 green celery sticks, chopped
1-2 carrots, scraped and chopped
6 peppercorns, roughly crushed
2 dried red peppers (ñoras) or 1 tablespoon pimenton
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano
2 large waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
To serve (optional)
2-4 hardboiled eggs, quartered
Morcilla or chorizo, diced and fried crisp
Bread cubes crisped in olive oil with a little garlic
Pick over the lentils, rinse under the tap and remove any tiny stones. Rinse the rabbit joints, put them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little vinegar. Leave for half an hour, then remove and pat dry.
Heat the lard or oil in a roomy saucepan or casserole and fry the cubed pork or bacon, garlic and rabbit joints till everything takes a little colour. Add the lentils, 2 litres of water and all the remaining ingredients. Bring to boil, turn down the heat, lid loosely and leave to simmer gently for 50-60 minutes, till the lentils are soft and beginning to collapse into the broth. Add the potato, bubble up again and cook for another 10 minutes, till the potatoes are perfectly tender.
Serve in deep bowls with the optional extras - quartered hard-boiled eggs, crisp slices of morcilla, garlicky croutons - for people to add their own. Accompany with a young red wine, nothing grand: a little acidity aids digestion. Spoon-food, a meal in a bowl - no need for anything else. Well, maybe fruit - a juicy peach, figs, grapes.
Garbanzos con castañas
Chickpeas with chestnuts
Drain the chickpeas and chestnuts and put them in a roomy stewpot with enough fresh water to cover. Bring to the boil and skim off any foam which rises. Meanwhile fry the pork in the olive oil or lard till well-browned. Add the garlic and let it take a little colour.Tip the contents of the fryingpan into the stewpot, add the remaining ingredients and bring all back to the boil. Turn down the heat, lid and leave to bubble gently for an hour or two, till the chickpeas are perfectly soft and the chestnuts have collapsed. Lid loosely throughout, add boiling water if necessary and don't let the broth come off the boil or the chickpeas will never be tender.
Add the chunked turnips and bring back to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then stir in the shredded cabbage or mustardy greens. Cook for another 5 minutes, till the turnip is tender. Taste and add salt. Finish with more olive oil and chopped cilantro or parsley.
Fava e funcho
Broad beans with fennel
A fresh and elegant combination of young broad beans and wild fennel, this a popular summer dish throughout Portugal. In winter, it can be made with beans from store and flavoured with dried fennel stalks. In summer, the usual flavouring is young fennel fronds, though bulb fennel will do as long as it has plenty of green and you dice the roots small before adding them to the pot. Good as a midmorning snack, or serve as a light supper with quartered lettuce hearts and grilled sardines (the season lasts from May to October).
500g shelled, skinned broad beans
2 fennel bulbs, including the fronds
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 thick slice streaky bacon, diced
1 large bunch spring onions, trimmed and chopped
4 thin slices cornbread (broa), toasted
Prepare the vegetables first. Shell the beans and skin them they’re a little on the leathery side. Trim the fennel bulbs, reserving the frondy ends, and slice vertically.
Heat the olive oil in a shallow heatproof casserole, and stir over the heat for a few minutes, then add the vegetables. Season, bring to the boil, turn down the heat, cover loosely and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, adding a few drops of water as needed. Bubble up to thicken the sauce, then stir in the chopped fennel fronds or dill. Spoon over slices of grilled wood-oven bread, or hand the bread separately, as a mop.
Preheat the oven 200C/400F/Gas6. Drop teaspoons of the filling on one side of each pastry-round, dampen the edges and fold over to make a half-moon. Transfer to a buttered baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes, till puffed and golden. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.
Elisabeth Luard's The Food of Spain and Portugal is beautifully written, lavishly illustrated and packed with the fascinating food history of these countries, as well as delectable recipes. Tom Parker Bowles, Mail on Sunday
No cookery writer knows Spain better... a beautiful addition to every kitchen. The Independent.
If you were to buy one book on Iberian cooking, this should be it. The Daily Telegraph.
Luard's writing is always elegant and her food is excellent. The Times.