If you were to ask most non-Iberians to name a Spanish dish, they would more than likely say Paella or Tapas. Ask about Portugal, some may know it is a recipe that contains bacalhau, salt cod. Beyond that, very few understand the diversity of the food that these two countries have to offer. The food has been influenced by both the nature of the land, and by their history. In Elisabeth Luard's book, The Food of Spain and Portugal, we are taken throughout both countries on a culinary journey of discovery. Once you read this book you begin to understand the vast range of dishes in these two countries.
The book is divided into Spain and Portugal. Within each, the chapters are along regional lines. So Spain contains chapters on Andalusia, The Levante, The Balearics, Catalonia, The Basque Country, Galicia, Asturias & Cantabria, Navarra & Le Rioja, Aragon, Castile & Leon, La Mancha & Madrid, Extremadura and, finally, The Canary islands. The Portugal section has chapters for Oporto & The Douro, Entre Douro e Minho, Tras-os-Montes & Alto Douro, Ribatejo, Beiras & Beira Litoral, Estremadura & Lisbon, Alentejo, Algarve, Medeira & the Azores. One thing is certain, this book improves your geographical knowledge of the two countries!
While local knowledge is great, we are reviewing a cookery book. So, what about the recipes? Well, Elisabeth Luard has set the criteria that the recipes have to be both authentic and taste good. So, within each region, she has selected around a dozen dishes that truly represent the region. So, within the Catalonia region, you find recipes like rossejat de fideus a la marinera, or seafood noodle paella. Yes, I had to mention Paella, didn't I? Some of the recipes that have caught my I are: langostinas amb mayonesa (langoustines with mayonnaise), olla podrida (stupendous bean-pot), bolhinos de bacalhau (salt-cod fritters with parsley and onion and caldo do poveres (poor man's broth with greens.
While I love the above recipes, don't think they are the only good ones in the book. The book is full of great, authentic recipes that show just how diverse the food of Spain and Portugal is.