The Catalan Kitchen
From Mountains to City and Sea – Recipes from Spain’s Culinary Heart
Author Emma Warren’s life path changed while travelling through Spain as a young backpacker. It was in Catalunya and on the Balearic Island of Mallorca that she put down her backpack and learnt to cook professionally, specifically, Catalan cuisine, and to learn Spanish and the Catalan language. She’s been hooked ever since.
She says, “To cook Catalan food is to immerse yourself in the seasons, to understand the importance of local produce and how food connects us all. It reminds us how to share, be part of a community and to learn and practise the very art of living.
“Catalunya is a welcoming place. Life there is generous, familiar, open and sharing, and you can take it into your heart and feel you’ve discovered it all on your own. It’s a personal affair, which can be as intimate and sophisticated as you like, and the love in return is always unconditional and everlasting. This all-embracing approach to life is extended to the Catalan attitude towards food and, as a result, much of the province’s produce and local dishes are respected, nurtured and revered.”
The essence of Catalan cuisine has formed over time, through invasions and occupation, religious preferences, farming practices and climate, and she explains these factors have produced a modern cuisine that is eclectic, surprising and edgy, with Catalunya home to more Michelin stars than any other region of Spain, but it’s a cuisine that still has a strong backbone of much-loved rustic and simple dishes.
The region is famed for its seafood and pork products, its fresh produce which remains seasonal, and traditional cakes and sweets. Some of the dishes may be new to you, but most are photographed which can help for a first attempt. Emma gives recipes for essential sauces and bases such as picada, romesco and sofregit, and explains substitutes for hard-to-find ingredients, but if you can, use Spanish olives and olive oil (or specifically, oil from Catalunya if you can find it), sherry vinegar, flaky sea salt, jamon, chorizo and smoked pimento (paprika), to give your dishes an authentic background.
The hard cover book has around 100 recipes with full-page colour photos, good chapter introductions and assorted location shots. This is Emma Warren’s first book, and it is a credit to her, photographer Rochelle Eagle and the production team at Smith Street Books.
I’ve chosen a recipe featuring broad beans, peas and radicchio, with tarragon and mint, a ginger, lemon and sherry vinegar dressing and a crumble of ricotta on top, that’s Catalunya in a nutshell – some familiar ingredients, a fresh approach, surprising tastes and utterly delicious.
And Crema Catalana, an easier version, perhaps, of France’s classic crème brûlée.
The Catalan Kitchen: From Mountains to City and Sea – Recipes from Spain’s Culinary Heart
Author Emma Warren Photography © Rochelle Eagle | Food styling © Lee Blaylock
Smith Street Books, October 2018 – AU$ 55, NZ$ 65