One of the first cook books we ever bought was a battered, old copy from Oxfam of Claudia Roden’s, ‘A New Book of Middle Eastern Food’. Published in 1968, it changed the way we ate in Britain by introducing humous, pitta bread, couscous, falafel, taramasalata and baklava for the first time.
We lept at the opportunity to meet Claudia Roden at The Guardian Members Sunday Lunch series last week. Spanish chef Jose Pizarro is hosting lunches with guest chefs and food writers at his new restaurant near Liverpool Street. You get a close-up with the chefs, welcome drinks and a lovely lunch. Jose was a friendly and charming host, explaining the provinence of the Spanish recipes and ingredients. Claudia gracefully mingled around the tables signing cook books, having her photo taken and telling culinary tales while the food and wine flowed.
After starting with drinks and prawn fritters in the sunshine, the Spanish menu featured Inky, black Squid Croquetas and a delicious fresh tomato soup with Jamon Iberico and Manchego – Jose couldn’t get the smokey Idiazabal cheese promised on the menu.
Claudia’s Andalusian Gazpachuelo was a light, saffron-infused fish soup with prawns, potatoes, hake, clams and mussels. I could have eaten it twice, but we had to move on to the star of the show – Jose’s Presa Iberica with Padron peppers and roasted potatoes. The Iberico pork comes from gourmet free-range pigs that live on a diet of acorns. It’s simply grilled and sliced ‘medium rare’ but in reality served somewhere between pink and red. It was meltingly soft, juicy and full of flavour, but the meat is so dense and rich there was no way we could finish it. A happy hound in Tottenham had a very tasty doggy bag that night!
We finished off with Crema Catalana, fresh cherries and mint ice cream – a perfect sunny Sunday afternoon Spanish feast. It was a great foodie experience and good value for money. Next dates in the Sunday Lunch series are collaborations with Tim Anderson in July and Vivek Singh in October, bringing Japanese and Indian influences – worth checking out.
José Pizarro, 36 Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M 1QS