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16 years ago. Customers didn’t even want to try the food, because it was made with olive oil! When I tell that to people in Spain they don’t believe it, but, before, some people would go to the pharmacy to buy it here.” IT’S NOT JUST OLIVE OIL that’s – thankfully – been assimilated into our British store cupboards, though; you can’t go into a deli, farm shop or supermarket without noticing all the Spanish ingredients which now line the shelves. “We are lucky that we can get any ingredient that we want; we have everything possible. I can order food now from Spain before 12 here in the UK, and I have it tomorrow at nine o’clock in the morning.” How about 18 years ago, though; wasn’t it difficult to try and create proper Spanish food without such easy availability? “It was more challenging; you had to accommodate the availability around you in your menu. But I use a lot from here now, because I believe in the community: you have to support your community and your country, as your community supports you. “But still I need to be using more, even more, produce from Britain. Because, you know, the pricing’s crazy at the moment – its crazy. The pound and the euro are almost the same. It’s challenging. It’s changing now to create your menu. In fact, I think it’s more challenging now than it was six or seven years ago.” But it’s still far from difficult to recreate those authentic Mediterranean flavours in these less exotic climes; José’s most important Spanish store cupboard staples are all pretty simple to get your mitts on, it turns out. “Always I’d say olive oil, and paprika, of course,” he says. “Then you have the

saffron. That, for me, is the base of everything: good olive oil, good paprika… They use it to flavour and to preserve, you know – think of chorizo. Oh, and the sherry vinegars, they’re important too...” And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting Catalonia in the not-to-distant future? Don’t miss out on some of their best ingredients: “The gambas, the prawns, are stunning. And the anchovies, they are so, so beautiful, so meaty.” But the thing that, for José, really makes Catalan food so distinctive and appealing? Can you guess? “For me, meeting the people is important. I love people.”

Catalonia: Recipes from Barcelona and Beyond is out on 19 Oct (Hardie Grant, £25), and José will be at Topping & Company Booksellers in Bath on 1 Nov;;; photography by Laura Edwards



Crumbs Bath & Bristol - Issue 68  
Crumbs Bath & Bristol - Issue 68