Tapas: A Taste of Spain in Ireland


by J P McMahon
Cava Bodega, 2014

Every chef and restaurateur wants to produce a cookbook. It’s a great mercy that most of them don’t manage to do so. Indeed, I remember asking the great Rowley Leigh (who not only cooks like an angel but writes like one too) if he had a new book in gestation.

“Does the world really need a new cookbook,” he asked. Rhetorically.

Well, almost certainly not but I’m rather glad that J P McMahon has written his. However, it’s not just a cookbook (although, as a manual of how to make tapas, this a very useful tome); it’s also a hymn of love to Spanish food, wine and culture, to what you might call the usual suspects too, the producers, the foragers the people with – dread word! – passion.

As a guide to the food and wine of Spain, this self-published book is more than adequate. Its buzzing enthusiasm for the subject might, perhaps, have been more effectively expressed with tighter editing but that’s a minor quibble. It’s personal, it’s not one of those glossy, coffee table food books that are dreamed up at editorial meetings. This one tells the story of one man’s discovery of the pleasures of the Spanish table. It’s raw and quite sensual and my copy is staying in the kitchen which is a place of honour.

I have yet to make J P McMahon’s pig’s head fritter but I’m damned sure I’m going to. And I’ll have a bottle of chilled fino standing by.