A little about the recipes and the food contained within. These are my recipes , plagiarised no doubt in a long line in the history of chefs; just another stop on that line, before the train pulls out to the next.
A great deal is authentic, but you must bear in mind that authenticity is a strange word. My authentic is another man’s fakery. This relates to Spain specifically. Spain is not really one country, there are many countries in Spain, many languages, many cultures, layers that overlap and run into each other. And this is just politically. Culinarily it is more complicated; each village, each town has different traditions, different nuances on traditional fayre. I have never come across a nation so proud of their food, heated discussions often erupt over the finer details of a particular dish. So you can see that ‘authentic’ is a word that has many meanings to different people in different places. It is subjective. And so I can say that my food is authentic to me, many Spaniards will regard it as a foreign abomination, but I will not apologise. These recipes have integrity born from me.
Cooking is almost everything to me. It is almost the only thing that relaxes me. But it is more, like a lover, who can irritate as well as inspire. It is a channel for all my emotions, and the end product is as much a result of these emotions as the ingredients. Cooking reflects people and can teach us a lot about ourselves. When I am true to myself, follow my instincts and am content, I can truly excel. I can also pretend, it is after all my profession and often when I pretend, the punters are none the wiser. But when I cook solely for pleasure – although believe me I nearly always enjoy it, be it on holiday, at work, at home or camping – it is like looking in a mirror at myself. How I behave with the food, whether I cut corners or go the extra yard, these all reflect my personality at any given moment. Who ever said the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? This is perhaps why, firstly, being a chef is an insane profession, medieval in the 21st century, but more interestingly it shows that doing the same thing can create different results. If your predominant emotion is anger then your resulting dish will differ than if your predominant emotion is contentedness. The process might be exactly the same, but your movements, your attitude all effect the final result, and so cooking is a kind of window into your emotional make up. And what is more, it can become possible to change your emotional make up through the process, in the same way I imagine, as some people say you can through exercise. God forbid that should happen. At least a sensual pleasure comes from food.
Bread is the most extreme form of this phenomenon. At Cigala, we all make the bread, the recipe is the same: flour, salt, a little sugar, yeast, olive oil and water. But the bread reflects the person who makes it, some are dull and heavy, some are crusty and fluffy inside, some soft all over. Nearly always it is good. I can already hear some smart-arse baker, who really knows his stuff, saying we have too many variables, unreliable ovens, loose recipes. They may well be right but isn’t the point that there are multiple realities and mine regarding cooking is emotional and romantic. So there that is. It is an emotional ride, full of disappointments, triumphs, serenity, tranquility, exaltation. But no words can make me feel happier than seeing an emptied, cleaned plate. That does not lie, does not betray you, it is the holy grail.