SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: ‘Spanish Cooking Uncovered: Farmhouse Favourites’ by Paco de Lara and Debbie Jenkins

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There are so many recipe books available these days, and to be honest, I am put off purchasing any of them. I am no cook; I am not a fan of spending time in the kitchen, and the thought of following a convoluted set of instructions for an hour puts me off dinner completely. Spanish cooking is great for people like me; there are many great flavours and the simplicity means everyone, including the cook, can look forward to a meal.

The story of Grandma María Luisa is one that could have easily never been told. María Luisa, suffering from serious asthma problems, took her doctor’s advice and moved to their family finca (country home) in Murcia in the 1930’s, in an effort to improve her heath. When the Spanish civil war broke out in 1936, María Luisa stopped marking her regular trips between the finca and Valencia, and stayed in the (relative) safety of the country home while the nation underwent a cruel transformation. Like for so many around Spain during this time, life became increasingly dire and families needed to become inventive and self-sufficient if they were to have anything to eat. The war had a devastating effect on all industries, leaving people to survive with next to nothing. After the end of the war in 1939, the following decade brought little more than hardship and starvation to much of the population. María Luisa took on a challenge and was able to help her family by creating recipe ideas to help them through an impossibly difficult period in their lives.

Today, the family finca is an ecotourism farm, and during renovations, María Luisa’s grandson, Paco de Lara, came across old papers. He had stumbled upon over 2,600 wartime recipes in María Luisa’s beautiful handwriting. Combined with María Luisa’s ideas and techniques, these terrific recipes have been transformed into 80 traditional Spanish recipes that anyone can undertake, 70 years after they became a symbol of creativity in a harsh landscape. These recipes were created when food was at its simplest; fresh vegetables, meat, poultry, all healthy options that give the cook and the family an opportunity to enjoy Spanish food at its best. The best part is that Spanish cooking is uncomplicated. This is no book that will have you hunting for many ingredients to create a meal; this is food at its most honest, with wonderful flavours that won’t send your wallet into a spin.

The book details life at the finca during the civil war, and while the recipes have been updated for modern cooking, a few little details about cooking in the 1930’s prevail for your enjoyment. The book is filled with both photos of the recipes and life at the finca.  María Luisa’s Farmhouse Favourites garners no pretensions, just good food, healthy eating, all created by the spirit of a woman with a will to be proud of.

Buy Spanish Cooking Uncovered: Farmhouse Favourites on Kindle and on paperback through Amazon (great Kindle price!), and copies are available at everyone’s favourite English bookstore, Offside Librería  – Calle Torrija 8, Madrid.

See more about Debbie Jenkins at nativespain.com and ecotourism at Finca Torrecillas

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