Angela Clutton reflects on the latest gathering of the Cookbook Club, which this month focused on Monika Linton’s The True Food of Spain
I’m going to kick this off with a story about my own contribution to our Cookbook Club sharing table: meatballs with tomato sauce and black olives. I wouldn’t normally, but my experience chimed with a few others’ across the Cookbook Club group. As does (with a serious lack of modesty, but it wasn’t my recipe, so the kudos really goes to Monika Linton) the ‘“wow, now that is delicious”, which so pleasingly ensued.
As I was making the sauce, I was worried it was a bit too carroty. I often don’t like the results of blending tomato sauces, either, and I nearly skipped the olives completely because I had forgotten to buy them and so often they end up pushed to the other side of a plate anyway. I know, Monika, I know—all I can say is, I’m sorry. And also, it turned out, wrong: the result was sauce mellowly sweetened by the carrots, with a glorious texture and sunset sky colour. Thank goodness I did a quick dash out back into the Market for shiny and plump black olives, as dotting them into the finished dish was unquestionably right and it would have been lacking without them.
Lesson duly learnt: even for the more experienced of us, following and trusting in recipes that are new to us can sometimes be hard, but the results can be—in the right writing hands, and Monika’s are that—well worth it.
Heart and cockle warming
A fabulous Spanish feast of Brindisa delights was shared among the Cookbook Club. There was wild mushroom pie, its layers of mushroom varieties divided by pancakes. The pressure was on for its cook when I cut into it in front of everyone—but both nerves and pastry held as it sliced like a dream. Tolosa bean stew with chorizo proved why sausage and beans are an enduring hit in so many cultures, and this was a heart and cockle warming take on that.
Iberian ham croquettas came ready to be deep-fried, which gave the opportunity to show how easy—not to mention tasty—doing that can be; tortilla with chorizo and pepper was, by consensus, one of the best members had had; elegant piquillo peppers, stuffed with creamy wild mushroom rice, had been cooked using vegetable stock rather than the recipe’s chicken, so became a vegetarian hit.
Almond biscuits were still-warm from the oven and so beautifully bundled in paper and string, I was loathe to open them. Less so when the parcel revealed exceptional looking, and tasting, versions of biscotti. The orange and almond cake was a relief—not too sweet—and a rice pudding dish showed us how different, in a really great way,the Spanish version can be from the typical British.
The depth of Spanish food
You will hopefully get the sense from all this of how the recipes in this mighty book evoke the depth of Spanish food. That is something Monika so wonderfully expands on in The True Food of Spain, with her stories of Brindisa producers and insight into produce.
This is a fabulous book to cook and eat from, yes—but by common agreement across the Cookbook Club members, it’s also one we will return to again and again, as a resource and reference. To Monika and her Brindisa family: gracias.
5th December: Cookbook Club festive feast