Culinaria Spain: A Celebration of Food and Tradition, edited by Marion Trutter, highlights the varied regional cuisine of Spain in 380 pages and over 1,000 photos. In addition to the traditional recipes, this book provides a closer look into the culture and history that has helped to shape the fascinating country. The most recent edition was released on August 15, 2015. Check out my other Culinaria reviews: Culinaria Greece and Culinaria Hungary.
Marion Trutter is a freelance journalist, author, and editor. She studied communication, Spanish literature, and American Studies in Munich, Germany.
Chapters are divided based on region: Cataluña (Catalonia), Islas Baleares (Balearic Islands), Aragón, Navarra, La Rioja, País Vasco (Basque Country), Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia, Castilla y León (Castile-León), Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Valencia, Murcia, Andalucía (Andalusia), and Islas Canarias (Canary Islands).
Each chapter includes an introduction to the region with the area highlighted on a map. The first Spanish cookbooks originated in Catalonia and were written in Catalan (Libre de Sent Soví in 1324, Libre del coch by Rupert de Nola in 1520). The Balearic Islands are sometimes referred to as a continent in miniature due to the varied landscape and culture over a small area. Aragon is home to extreme climate conditions with hot, dry summers and long, hard winters. Navarra has the famous Pamplona with the San Fermín festival featuring the bull-run through the streets every morning. La Rioja is the smallest region on Spain’s mainland with an abundance of wine, fruits, vegetables, sheep, game, snails, mushrooms, and household goods. País Vasco was inspired by French nouvelle cuisine and is known for its gourmet dishes featuring fresh and pure ingredients. The coastline of Cantabria provides an abundance of seafood and they are known for their anchovy specialties. Asturias, a region of farmers, shepherds, and fishermen, produces over 30 recorded varieties of cheese. The often overcast Galicia celebrates festivals throughout the year according to the Christian calendar. Castilla y León is a melting pot of Jewish, Arab, and Christian cultures that heavily influences the local cuisine. Madrid was chosen as the capital of Spain in 1561. The scarcely populated Castilla-La Manche is a plain in the heart of Spain that often sees drought and hot sunshine. Northern Extremadura is known for making the best Pimentón, paprika powder. The famous paella originated in the Valencia region by agricultural workers. Murcia is home to one of the oldest settlements in Europe. Andalucía grows over 60% of Spanish olive oil. The subtropical Islas Canarias were once thought to lie on the edge of the world.
There are cultural insights scattered throughout the pages, such as hunting for truffles and mushroom varieties, a closer look at the wine producing regions, popular Spanish tapas, a guide to snails, sweet treats, the Spanish cheese industry, the harvesting of saffron, sausage specialties, salad variations, olive cultivation, the impact left on the country from Arab rule, and a guide to both local and exotic fruits.
The photography is provided Günter Beer. There are over 1,000 beautiful photos in a variety of sizes of Spanish scenery, food, and people. Many of the recipes include a photo of the finished dish. Step-by-step photos accompany some of the recipes, such as how to prepare a fish (Alfonsino Frito- Fried Alfonsino Fish), assemble a tart (Tarta de Santiago- Galician Almond Tart), open a sea urchin, and eat a lobster (Salpicón de Lubrigante- Lobster Vinaigrette). There are even more photos alongside the lists of popular Spanish ingredients, such as cheese, tapas, fish, and sausages.
The name of the dish is provided in Spanish and English. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. The index at the end of the book is arranged according to recipe for easy access.
This book is a great choice for those wanting to learn about Spanish cuisine and culture. You will find some of the more well-known Spanish dishes (Sangría, Crema Catalana- Catalan Cream, Croquetas de Pollo- Chicken Croquettes, Paella Valenciana, Tortilla de Patatas- Potato Omelet) alongside others that aren’t as common outside of Spain (Perrechicos Fritos- Sautéed St. George Mushrooms, Perdiz con Chocolate- Partridge in Chocolate Sauce, Pollo con Langosta- Chicken with Spiny Lobster, Huevos al Modo de Soller- Fried Eggs Soller Style, Tumbet- Eggplant Bake). Seafood lovers will enjoy the abundance of fish and shellfish recipes. There is also a nice variety of appetizers, desserts, pastries, fruits, vegetables, soups, stews, salads, meats, poultry, eggs, and rice. There is only one drink recipe provided, Sangría. Many of the dishes have ingredients easily available to the average home cook. A few require access to an International market/deli featuring Spanish and Mediterranean ingredients. Having a reputable seafood market is also a plus. Some of the more difficult to find ingredients include Spanish blood sausages, black truffles (I have yet to actually buy these, but have seen them locked away in a glass case at Wegmans), various seafood, and game.
Sorbete de la Rioja is a red La Rioja wine sorbet seasoned with orange and cinnamon. The mixture is combined with beaten egg whites and frozen into an almost slush-like consistency.
No ice cream machine required for this recipe. The mixture is transferred to a metal bowl, placed in the freezer, and whisked every hour to break apart the ice crystals and thoroughly combine.
Keep in mind that this recipe uses raw egg whites and alcohol that is not cooked off.
You can serve the sorbet on its own in chilled glasses garnished with fresh mint leaves or in tall glasses with chilled Cava (Spanish sparkling wine).
Of all the recipes, this one was a favorite for me and other women in my family. I absolutely loved enjoying the wine in icy form. The warming spices were perfect for winter.
I also made Fideus a l’estil de Lleida (Noodles Lleida Style), Piperrada (Bell Pepper Omelette), Casadielles (Walnut Popovers), and Pechuga de Pollo a la Naranja (Chicken Breast with Oranges).
Fideus a l’estil de Lleida from Cataluña is a pasta dish made with fideos, short vermicelli. The pasta is cooked in a tomato sauce with sausage and seared pork chops until tender. It was perfect for a weeknight meal and the whole family loved it.
Piperrada is a bell pepper omelette from País Vasco. Beaten eggs are poured over a a mixture of onion, garlic, prosciutto, bell pepper, and tomatoes and cooked until set. It was easy to make and perfect for brunch or a light lunch. It was a favorite in particular for my daughter.
Casadielles are walnut pastries from Asturias. A simple butter pastry is cut into rectangles and filled with a ground walnut mixture seasoned with sugar, honey, and aniseed. They are fried in oil and topped with confectioners’ sugar. I went with the variation of brushing the pastries with an egg wash and baking until golden. This method still yielded a nice, flaky crust.
Pechuga de Pollo a la Naranja is another easy to make dish hailing from Valencia. Chicken breasts are browned on each side, then simmered in a pureed carrot orange wine sauce. The chicken was cooked perfectly and it was a wonderful weeknight meal. I served the chicken with rice.
Disclaimer: I received this book from H. F. Ullmann Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and statements are my own.
Sorbete de la Rioja (Rioja Wine Sorbet)
Adapted from Culinaria Spain: A Celebration of Food and Tradition
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
Scant 1 cup (200 milliliters) water
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup (250 milliliters) red La Rioja wine
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 egg whites
Mint leaves for garnish
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into a clear syrup. Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Allow to cool.
In a medium metal bowl, whisk together the cooled sugar syrup, red wine, and orange zest.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the red wine. Cover and place in the freezer. Whisk the mixture about every hour for three hours to break up the ice crystals and keep the mixture fully combined. Allow to continue to freeze until desired texture.
Before serving, whisk one more time. Serve in chilled glasses immediately garnished with mint leaves.