Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: The Catalan Kitchen, by Emma Warren

A journey through Catalan cuisine, featuring recipes from the vege patch, mountains, sea and more.

From mountains to city and sea - recipes from Spain's culinary heart

The Catalan Kitchen is a prime example of how high-end cookbooks distinguish themselves from the cheap tomes found on newsagent shelves. The stunning photography and introductions to each section and recipe create an appreciation of the food, place and people.

With food photography primarily by Rochelle Eagle, the book journeys “from mountains to city and sea”, offering dishes that range from Pica Pica (meaning “to pick”, more commonly known as Tapas) to meals that come from The Vegetable Patch, The Coast, The Countryside and Modern Barcelona, finishing with sweets, broths and sauces.

At more than 250 pages, this is a hefty but welcoming edition to any cook’s library. It explores both traditional recipes and meals influenced by other cultures. It also caters to those external factors like time, which can influence our choice of recipe – you can spend a day in the kitchen or whip up a Microwave Sponge Cake for six (page 219).

Warren’s style is conversational but focussed and interesting. She provides context and history to many of the recipes, and gives credit where credit is due to other chefs.

There are so many delicious looking recipes throughout the book, catering to vegetarians and meat loves alike. The instructions are simple to follow and, for the most part, the ingredients are easy to find locally. Our own Central Markets is a goldmine for anything you may not be sure about. Dive into a pizza or paella then sing your satisfaction to a Musician’s Dessert. Hola!

Samfaina (Ratatouille), page 76

The wonderful colours of the ratatouille before cooking.

Warren explains that a samfaina is a Catalan version of the French ratatouille or Spanish pisto. Usually served with fish, the samfaina is also a hearty meal on its own. Flavoured with cloves, thyme and vinegar, the chunky vegetables and tomato base make for a flavoursome main course. It’s simple to make, with most time spent chopping the vegetables. The result is a colourful dish that was enjoyed equally by my vegetarian and carnivorous friends.

Ensaladilla Rusa (Russian Salad), page 39

The Russian potato salad, also known as the Olivier after the chef who created it.

Despite its Russian origins, the introductory paragraphs to this interesting potato salad tells us that it’s a popular side dish served in Catalan canteens and at buffets, tapas bars and even found packaged on supermarket shelves. It’s a plain, simple salad featuring carrots, peas and tuna, dressed with a raw egg-based Maionesa (mayonnaise) found on page 245 of the book. I found the dressing too bland for my tastes, and I struggled mentally with consuming raw egg so would opt for a more flavoursome supermarket mayonnaise in future. The salad itself is quite satisfying however. I used up the last of my frozen mint peas instead of plain peas, which gave the salad more depth. This is a great recipe to take along to a BBQ or family gathering, and is one I’d happy make again with my tweaks.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster Australia
Released: October 2018
RRP: $55 hardcover

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