Book Review: Spanish Cooking for Beginners
Spanish Cooking for Beginners: Simple and Delicious Recipes for All Occasions by Gabriela Llamas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was curious about this cookbook since I don’t have a lot of experience with cooking Spanish food. My first flip-through revealed a pickled tuna fish recipe I’m eager to try, a reminder that I’ve always wanted to learn how to make churros, and a meringue milk ice cream recipe that sounds quirky and fun, especially in the 80 degree weather I’ve been living with lately. I also enjoyed the cultural references, such as the lighthearted theories on the origin of the word ‘tapas’ as well as the custom of enjoying those versatile treats.
I also noticed that Spanish cooking seems to favor potatoes. Since this book is aimed at beginners, that seemed reasonable enough. Potatoes are readily available nearly everywhere, and even beginning cooks have most likely learned a few ways to cook them.
On my second read-through, I tried to view the book through a beginner’s eyes. And this time the view was a little less rosy. I felt the techniques used and complexity level of the recipes were more at an intermediate level. Beginners might be discouraged at having to track down unfamiliar foods and spices. For example, saffron. It’s an expensive spice, and I don’t think many beginners are going to have it in their kitchens. Multiple recipes call for it. I’ve successfully substituted turmeric for saffron many times, but would a beginner know that? If there’s any possibility of substitutions for the more exotic ingredients, this might keep beginners from giving up too soon. Rookie cooks will also be expected to know how to cope with a note that says, “The general rule is 1 part pasta to 2 parts liquid, but this varies with the type of pasta.” They will also be expected to know how to deglaze pan juices, what a bouquet garni is, and the difference between sauté and stir-fry. It’s these sort of details that I feel makes this an intermediate guide to Spanish cooking.
Finally – a few more recipes in each category would be nice (only 8 meat and fish recipes? Only 7 vegetables and salads?) instead of having 10 pages given over to blank lines titled, ‘add your own Spanish recipes’. I’d rather see some of those empty filler pages replaced by recipes, or even better, tutorials on the cooking techniques commonly used in the recipes.
It’s a cookbook with passion and promise, but I believe it would benefit from a tighter focus and empathy for it’s target audience.
My thanks to author Gabriela Llamas, Quarto Publishing Group – Quarry, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.