Cooking the Books: We try three recipes from the latest cookbooks
The Spanish cuisine of Jose Pizarro
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the world of Spanish cuisine, then this mouth-watering offering from restaurateur José Pizarro is a great choice. Filled with traditional recipes that cover everything from tortillas to Iberian pork, Spanish home cooking is the result of decades of authentic home cooking. In the few weeks I’ve had the cookbook, I’ve spent most of it imagining all the Spanish fiestas now at my fingertips.
As for testing, I decided to go with lentils with potatoes and chorizo (it wouldn’t be a Spanish cookbook if chorizo didn’t make an appearance or two, after all). Now I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect to be wowed by a dish that looked like a potato stew but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The mix of vegetables fried in chorizo oil, meat in broth simmered with bay leaves made for an incredibly tasty dish. The only complaint I have is that I didn’t do enough. Lunch the next day was also divine.
The cookbook is split into four sections – vegetables, seafood, meat and sweet – so there’s something for everyone. My only criticisms are that the book would have benefited from a section on traditional Spanish ingredients to have on hand, and most of the dishes err on the side of complexity, ingredient-wise. Some simpler recipes that can be made quickly and Spanish cuisine will be perfect.
Lentils with chorizo and potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
250 g (9 oz) chorizo, sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, chopped
300 g (10½ oz) large floury potatoes, cut into quarters or large chunks
1-2 fresh bay leaves
250 g (9 oz) puy lentils, rinsed
1L (34fl oz/4 cups) fresh chicken broth
150 g (5 oz) morcilla, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crusty bread, for serving
Heat the olive oil in a deep casserole dish (Dutch stewpot) over medium heat. Add the chorizo slices and cook until browned on both sides. Once cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate, leaving the reddish oil in the pan.
Add the onion to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until slightly softened, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the carrot, potatoes and bay leaves to the pan and cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the lentils, then the broth. Season well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until lentils are softened but still crisp. The mixture should still be quite fluffy; if it is a little too dry, add a little broth. Return the chorizo to the skillet, along with the morcilla, and cook, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes. Serve in warm bowls with crusty bread.
Morgan McGlynn’s Modern Cheese Board
I love cheese. Crumbly Feta, creamy Bleu de Saint Agur, hazelnut manchego – anything cheese-related, I’m in for it. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to meet cheese expert Morgan McGlynn’s The modern cheese board.
As the name suggests, it has every style of cheese board you can imagine. Want something for your summer solstice party? Do. Something full of French delights? Do. Smorgasboard? Rainbow colored boards? Beyond assembling delicious masterpieces, there is also a wealth of cheese-related knowledge. From the science of flavor pairings to how to cut each type of cheese, you’ll come out a lot wiser.
I opted for the “cosy night in” cheese platter, which paired a number of cheeses, including Gouda, Brie and Gruyere, with lots of fresh fruit. Although I couldn’t get my hands on gorgonzola dulce, the other cheeses were delicious and went great together. Paired with rosemary crackers…amazing.
I actually caught Covid while writing this article, so sitting in my chair with a cheese platter for one really helped when I was feeling sorry for myself. All recipes come with pairings and suggestions and if you don’t like a cheese, there are always plenty of other options to replace it. So if you’re looking to fulfill all of your cheese fantasies, look no further than The modern cheese board.
Cozy evening on a cheese platter
100g (3½oz) fresh goat cheese log
200g (7oz) Gouda cheese
200g (7oz) Gruyere cheese
150 g (5½ oz) Gorgonzola Dolce
200g (7oz) Brie
1 red apple
100 g (3½ oz) red grapes
50 g (1¾ oz) strawberries
50 g (1¾ oz) shelled pistachios
50 g (1 ¾ oz) blueberries 50 g (1 ¾ oz) store-bought red pepper chutney
Bread and crackers:
A handful of light water biscuits
2 sprigs of thyme
Cut a few slices of goat cheese log, cut the Gouda into long pointed triangles, the Gruyère into sticks and the Gorgonzola into cubes. Keep the Brie whole.
Cut the apple into thin slices and halve the grapes and strawberries.
To assemble: Starting from the top left, place the cheeses on the board in the following order, Gouda, Brie, Gorgonzola, Gruyère and goat cheese. Be sure to leave space between each cheese. The Gouda and Brie triangles should point towards the center.
Then, fill in the spaces between the cheeses. Place the sprigs of thyme between the Gouda and the Brie then sprinkle the pistachios in the gap between the Brie and the Gorgonzola. Stack the strawberries in the space between the Gorgonzola and the Gruyère and arrange the apple at the bottom of the board between the goat cheese and the Gruyère. Place the grape halves between the goat cheese and the Gouda. Sprinkle the blueberries into the empty spaces in the bottom half of the tray.
Place the red pepper chutney in a small ramekin and serve alongside the platter with the water biscuits. Garnish with thyme.
Green Kitchen: Fast + Slow by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl
Result of their blog Green Kitchen Stories, Green Kitchen: Fast + Slow is a great book if you’re looking to introduce more vegetarian options into your life. As the name suggests, the recipes are a mix of quick meals you can have on the table in minutes and slower meals when you have something a little more show-worthy.
No two recipes are the same – you can make chocolate waffles with granola butter one day and pumpkin, caramelized onion and kale quiche the next. The breakfast section (only one out of six) immediately wowed me with the harissa fried eggs on toast. This wonderfully spiced dish does what it says on the tin – just seven minutes (yes, I timed it) and I had quite a meal prepared. And what a great meal it was – spicy and earthy because of the harissa paste and turmeric; Fresh Icelandic yoghurt and nice yolks of eggs.
Just a little advice from your humble reviewer – don’t eat this dish without a knife and fork or you’ll stain your fingers a lovely shade of neon yellow. If you’re like me, you really need to commit to having more vegetables in your life – this cookbook did the impossible and actually got me excited to break out the carrots and broccoli.
Baked harissa eggs on toast
2 slices of bread (we like a good rye sourdough, but you get used to it)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons harissa (preferably pink harissa)
2 large free-range eggs
4 tablespoons of Greek yogurt
Pinch of salt
A handful of dill, leaves picked and chopped
Variants: You can also serve it in a bowl with yogurt and greens if you don’t like bread, as a variation of Turkish eggs.
No harissa? You can replace it with another chili sauce, such as sambal oelek, gochujang or sriracha.
Toast the bread in the toaster.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Add the spices and harissa and stir with a spatula, or tilt the pan slightly to mix everything together. Crack your eggs into the pan and fry them for a few minutes until the whites are golden brown and the eggs are cooked to your liking.
Spread the yogurt on the toasted bread slices, then top each with an egg, as well as the remaining harissa oil. Sprinkle with salt and a good pinch of dill and serve.