Anyone who knows us will know our recent passion for Spanish tapas - well, I say recent, Andy has finally won the war on small plates and a variety of options, with 'lunch' as he calls it being a social affair where we create dishes together and sit down for a meal and discuss the day, rather than glue our eyes to the television and forget to watch (or even taste) what we eat. This morning a copy of Spain Buddy's recipe book dropped in to my inbox (PDF-style) courtesy of author Elle Draper, and it is with a little excitement that I start to read through this e-book on Spanish food.
Elle lives in southern Spain, in a beautiful village in the hills of Almeria. The book was inspired by the extensive range of ingredients readily available in Spain and while some of the recipes are authentic, others are inspired by the time Elle has spent in Spain. All are suitable for cooking at home, and will welcome a little bit of Spanish sunshine to your table.
I got as for as the intro and I have decided I already like Elle. Her down to earth humour shines through in a few simple lines, and a quick flip to the website had me chuckling away as I type - 18 marriages - you are going to have to visit Spain Buddy to find out more on all those weddings.
I digress, as is the way when something catches my attention. Anyway, the e-book, the recipes, pig's liver! Yes, really, the first recipe is for Ajopringue (stewed pig's liver). With over 100 recipes to choose from Elle started with liver. And I love it. In our house it is in the freezer, and pig's liver does it for me. I am not so keen on calves or lambs as they do not bring back memories of weekends with my Nan. Liver in gravy was a staple favourite, and the liver was the cheapest option when it came from pigs.
According to the book, the Spanish are a 'nation of carnivores, and nothing goes to waste'. That suits me just fine. If you are going to eat meat make sure it comes from a good source and that everything is made use of. So the Ajopringue is on my list, and easily adaptable for my gluten- and dairy-free diet as I can substitute the cream for tomato frito, and make my own breadcrumbs from a dry (aren't they all?) loaf of gluten-free bread. And best of all, no one will want to share this dish so I get to eat the lot Andy. Small plates eh?
I finally managed to get past my love of liver and can say the first section of this e-book is devoted to meat and poultry. Thirty simple to follow recipes, with easy instruction and great tips for portion size. I haven't yet discovered something I couldn't make and eat...
Nope, hang on, I got as far a Caracoles en Escabeche, or Snails in a Spicy Sauce. Having tried snails not once but twice, just as I have oysters, I see no reason to go back for a third helping of either. But each to their own, and as I look through the meat and poultry section further I discover Carrilladas (Slow-cooked Pork Cheeks), Chorizo con Vino Tinto (Andy's favourite of Chorizo in Red Wine) and even Conejo a la Cazadora (Hunter's Rabbit). As a child we had rabbits in the back garden, pet rabbits that were bred for the pot. As a family of seven it was cheap, accessible yet fresh organic meat. It is nice to see it on the menu and in the book. If you have yet to try rabbit, give it a go, you may be pleasantly surprised (unlike snails).
The wonderful thing about all these recipes is that they can be adapted for my specific dietary needs, without taking away any taste. Like a good painting, it is never wrong or painted over (I am told), just added to, so you can make the recipes more yours in any way that suits. It allows for experimenting on a small scale, and although meat based, most dishes are served in such portions that it makes for a lighter meal. The meat and poultry section also includes many light meat recipes such as Green Beans with Garlic and Serrano Ham, or Baked Ham and Eggs (yes, I know they have Spanish names too but it is a lot of typing).
For the Fish & Seafood section we are introduced to 21 dishes, and informed that with so much coastline Spain is able to offer amazing fresh fish recipes. Here in the UK a quick trip down to Brighton will suffice for us (any excuse), to pick up some 'fresh from the sea' produce. However some of the recipes mean I will need to source some good salt cod too as it is featured in some that catch my taste buds firmly. Seafood is something we find we are cooking less often but now we have an excuse to try something new.
For vegetarian options or just to include some vegetables in to the mix there is a selection of 22 recipes that work well alone or as a tapas selection. And I have now found an extra use for all my dried free-from bread - Pan con Tomate y Ajo (Garlic and Tomato Toast). A good glug of olive oil is going to make frying this bread a delight. There are also staple favourites like the Spanish Omelette, Aubergines with Cane Honey, and Garlic Mushrooms, but there is also a selection of recipes we would not have thought to try - but will now.
Sauces, Soups, Side Dishes, and Salads are in abundance with 29 unique recipes included. The Easiest Salad reminds me of Elle's humour as the method for the tomato, sweetcorn, olives and lettuce ingredients reads: - Mix it up - Chuck it on a plate - Serve. Simples!
Sweet treats get a look in - complete with calories but as they say, they are treats. Now, my work though Discover Cacao means I know where to get the good chocolate and I can always find a good substitute cream so I am all over the Spanish Swiss Roll because the recipe is also flour-free. There are 16 sweet treat recipes, each as yummy sounding as the next. Follow this with a few nibbles recipes and drink options (because this book would not be complete without a basic Sangria recipe), and you have the start of a beautiful new relationship with food.
But don't take our word for it. Get in touch with Spain Buddy and buy this e-book yourself. At a cost of €4.99 it is chock full of recipe ideas for an amazing tapas time.
Although originally born in York, Elle Draper spent most of her life on the South Coast, growing up in Gosport before heading to Southsea - via Fareham and Southampton - before leaving for Lanzarote in 2006. Elle now lives in Almería in Mainland Spain, having moved there in 2012.