Spanish food has a similar heritage to Italian cuisine: to me, it’s all about seasonality and not messing around too much with great-tasting produce. Spanish dishes have a little more spice to them, but the ingredients are the stars of the show: paprika, roasted red peppers, olives and ripe tomatoes.
One of the dishes I love at Nieves Barragan’s Spanish restaurant, Sabor, in London is lardo with anchovies and picos, which are little mini breadsticks. It’s so simple, just three ingredients, but so delicious.
I think Barragan is one of the best Spanish chefs in the UK, along with José Pizarro, who recently celebrated 20 years in London. They let the flavours speak for themselves. If I’m ever looking for an authentic Spanish dish, it’s their books that I’ll go to. They cook like I do: they’ve learnt from their parents and grandparents.
Spanish cured hams are really special: chorizo has a real kick to it and beautiful oil comes from it when you fry it slightly. It gives heat to the butter bean stew below and adds an extra dimension of flavour: it’s essentially a glamorous pork sausage.
Like a lot of stews, this gets better the next day when the flavours have infused. I’d be tempted to eat the leftovers cold the next day for lunch.
The empanadas are a great sharing dish – to serve as nibbles, to eat as a snack as a packed lunch, almost like a Cornish pasty, or to bring to a barbecue as a summer canapé.
The work is in making the dough and the filling, but you can make them ahead, throw them in the oven and they’re done (you can even freeze them). The gazpacho is also something you can make ahead and keep chilled in the fridge as a summer starter.
I began serving prawns with roasted almonds and romesco sauce years ago at The Connaught, and this dish is perfect for sharing around the table outdoors: the bright orange colours really evoke summer for me. Keep the heads of the prawns on, prepare to get messy and suck out all of the juices, infused with heat, pepper and chilli. ¡Salud!