Authentic recipes, history and stories from every region on the Iberian peninsula.

The Food of Spain and Portugal (Kyle Cathie, 2004) celebrates the regional dishes of one of the world's great cuisines. Photographs by Jean Cazals.

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." 

Sopa de lentejas con conejo 

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.
Serves 6

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

The chestnut was a storecupboard staple in the forested regions of Spain until the arrival of the potato, a Peruvian native whose nutritional makeup is almost identical. The combination is popular in pig-territory, Extremadura and the high sierras north of Seville, where the summers are blazing and the winters icy.  The finishing flavouring of fresh leaf-coriander, cilantro, while unknown in the rest of the Spain is peculiar to those regions which came into contact with the pig-herdsmen of Portugal.
Serves 6-8

500g chickpeas, soaked overnight
250g dried chestnuts, soaked overnight (or 500g fresh, skinned)
2 tablespoons diced serrano ham-scraps or a short length ham-bone
250g belly-pork, diced small
2 tablespoons olive oil or fresh pork-lard
3-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2-3 large carrots, scraped and chunked
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
To finish
2 small turnips, skinned and chunked
1/2 small green cabbage or a handful mustardy greens (rocket, turnip-tops), shredded
Olive oil
Chopped cilantro or parsley


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).
Serves 4

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
To finish
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.

                       Migas doces
               Egg-custard with walnuts and cinnamon

A rich, eggy Christmas speciality whose name is translatable as ‘sweet breadcrumbs’ but which is nothing more or less than a fluffy egg-nog thickened with freshly-gathered walnuts (the migas), flavoured with cinnamon.  Proportions for the custard are roughly 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to each egg. It’s only worth making in quantity.
Serves 10-12                      

12 eggs
350g (12 oz) sugar
(optional) small glass white brandy or flavoured liqueur
To finish
250g (8 oz) shelled fresh walnuts, skinned
Powdered cinnamon for dusting

Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the sugar and the optional brandy till well blended and light.  Set the bowl on a panful of simmering water and whisk over the heat till the mixture thickens like a sabayonne.
    Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.  Fold in most of the walnuts, roughly crushed, and pour into a bowl or individual glasses. Top with the remaining walnuts and finish with a generous powdering of cinnamon.
    Paste’is de Santa Clara   
            Santa Clara cheesecakes           
In Beja at Eastertime, the pasticceria opposite the convent of Nostra Signora de la Consolacion, where the Portuguese nun wrote her “Five Love Letters to a French Cavalier”, was crowded with ladies who take coffee and cakes.  The display of pastries in the glass cabinet which stretches the length of the shop was crammed with sugary treats: paste’is de Santa Clara, little pasties filled with a sweet almond and chickpea paste, a speciality of the Convento da Esperança; marzipan figs in little paper cases, queijadas, cheesecakes - paper-thin pastry-shells filled with curd cheese, sweetened, set with very yellow egg; a yellow madeira cake, almondy, with a walnut on top; little castle-puddings; pasteis de arroz - rice-pastries - and ring cakes, including a very dark honey cake, butter cake and nut cake.  Awaiting collection by customers who had ordered in advance were the folares de pascoa - round breads of various sizes set with whole eggs, and a salamander-shaped bread of whose provenence no one seemed quite certain - perhaps because of an awareness that the origin was not quite as the church would have wanted.
Makes about a dozen little pasties

The filling               
250g sugar
125g ground almonds
75g cooked chickpeas, mashed
6 large egg yolks and 1 egg white
125g butter
2 tablespoons pumpkin jam (see page 000)
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves
The pastry
200g (6 oz) plain flour
1 large egg yolk
50g (2 oz) butter

Bring the sugar gently to the boil in a heavy pan with 300ml (1/2 pint) water and boil steadily, stirring with a wooden spoon, till the syrup forms threads when you lift the spoon from the pan - the fine thread stage.  Stir in the almonds and mashed chickpeas, bring back to the boil, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
    Meanwhile make the pastry.  Sieve the flour into a bowl and work it to a soft dough with a tablespoon or two of warm, lightly salted water.  Leave for 10 minutes, then roll it out into a long thin strip on a floured board with a floured rolling pin.  Spread the butter on two thirds of the pastry, then fold the unbuttered section over to cover the middle third of the pastry. Fold the remaining third over to make a small parcel.  Roll it out and fold it over again in the same way. Repeat - the pastry has now had three foldings.  Leave to rest for another 10 minutes, then roll it out again.  Cut into rounds with a cookie-cutter or sharp-edged wineglass.
    Finish the filling.  Whisk the egg yolks with the egg white and stir it into the cooled syrup.  Bring all back to the boil and stir in the butter and jam. Beat the mixture over the heat for 10 minutes or so, till it pulls away from the bottom of the pan.  Allow to cool a little.

    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.


A few reviews:

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