Top critical review
13 people found this helpful
on 6 February 2012
I just don't get this book. Like others, I bought it on the basis of the 5 star recommendations, and was terribly disappointed. The recipes were bland, often fiddly for no particular culinary benefit (e.g. gratined boiled eggs: boil the eggs; shell them; separate the yolks from the whites; make a bland white sauce and add the egg yolks to it; slice the bottom off the egg whites so that they sit stably in a dish; fill the egg whites with the sauce; cover the eggs with the rest of the sauce; cover that lot with breadcrumbs and brown in a hot oven). Give me boiled aggs on toast for preference any day.
It reminds me of the worst of British cooking in the 1950s and 60s. Poor Spaniards if this is really what they eat. And to think that just a bit further east of them, across a bit of the Med, the Italians enjoy such fantastic food.
There's a lot of frying, and also a lot of naff ingredients like tinned peas and soups.
Many of the recipes were Spanish takes on well-known European dishes, like cheese souffle, bouillabaisse, beef casserole in beer, and lasagne. Even the paella recipes were bland compared to the one I use regularly, and called for long-grained rice rather than shorter-grained paella rice.
Yes, there are a lot of recipes in the book. Very very few photographs (be warned, anyone who likes to choose their recipes by photos - as it happens I don't) but I liked the (occasional) illustrations. That's about the best I can say for it. Oh... there were quite a few salt cod recipes, but again they sounded very bland and in any case I just don't get what all the fuss is about salt cod. There are lots of fish recipes but often ones where the adding in of fussy ingredients would, I think, detract from the flavour of good freshly-caught fish.
I was also very dubious about the recommendation, made throughout the book, to use bicarbonate of soda to soak beans before cooking. I thought that bicarbonate of soda is supposed to destroy pepsin (thus interfering with your digestion) and it also destroys important nutrients and vitamins, especially thiamine (Vitamin B1).