Cookery Feature - A Taste of Spain in Ireland

With all the ‘will we won’t we’ nerves this year, there’s been something comforting about considering alternatives to the traditional celebrations - and looking forward to cooking something unusual after the festive season. Thinking about other cuisines at a time of constraint is liberating, allowing you to travel freely in your head, where there are none of the restrictions that real life journeys currently entail – and re-live happy experiences abroad, or perhaps in atmospheric restaurants that evoke a foreign culture authentically through food.

So where better, or more authentic, to begin than with a book from Jp McMahon’s ever popular restaurant Cava Bodega in Galway, a city that still thrills to its 16th century links with the Spanish Armada. Jp has always been mad about all things Spanish, especially the food, and - although he now presides over the EATGalway restaurant group (which includes the fine dining star, Aniar) and is famed for all sorts of other projects, notably his wondeful annual Food On The Edge international chef symposium – it started with Spain and Cava Bodega has been an ongoing favourite with diners since opening in 2008.

In 2014, Jp launched the first edition of his celebration of Irish food and culture, Cava Bodega Tapas, A Taste of Spain in Ireland. Fast forward to 2021 and he has just launched the fourth edition of this much loved book. Offering 110 recipes (including 12 new to this edition) it’s much more than just a recipe book, as it has evolved in tandem with the restaurant and not only features dishes that diners at Cava Bodega have enjoyed over the years but also reflects changes in our own food culture. True to form, while Spanish ingredients used for authenticity where no local Irish equivalent exists, seasonal, local ingredients are used wherever possible.

New additions include pinchos like romesco with apple and almond and scallop
and baby fennel with saffron aioli
, fish dishes including clams with Salsa
and meat dishes such as a chicken and chorizo skewer with Dillisk crispy
onions and truffle mayonnaise
- but many will head straight for the desserts, and the decadent Basque cheesecake… There’s also an introduction to Spanish wines, with a
focus on natural, organic and biodynamic wines, which is fascinating as well as helpful.

Cava Bodega Tapas, A Taste of Spain In Ireland, Fourth Edition, €30, is available from Cava Bodega, Middle Street, Galway; Tartare Cafe + Wine Bar, Lower Dominick Street, Galway; Aniar, Lower Dominick Street, Galway; Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, Middle Street, Galway; and online

ALL RECIPES FROM Cava Bodega Tapas: A Taste of Spain in Ireland by Jp McMahon (4th Edition)


800g potatoes
1 small onion, diced
handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
flour, for dusting
1 lemon, to garnish
olive oil
Salted Cod
500g cod fillet
sea salt
Lemon aioli
2 egg yolks
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
250ml rapeseed oil
sea salt

1. For the salted cod: Cover the cod liberally in salt (ensure to salt both sides of the fish) and leave in the fridge for 7 days. On the seventh day, remove the cod from the salt and rinse thoroughly. Place the cod in a suitable container and cover with water for 12 hours. During this period, you can leave the cod at room temperature and change the water after 6 hours. After the cod is desalinated, discard the water and place the cod on an oven tray and bake in a 180°C oven for 12 minutes. Remove and allow the cod to cool. When the cod is cold enough to handle, flake the fish, ensuring to remove any bones.
2. Peel the potatoes and place in a pot. Cover with water and bring to the boil, then simmer until a knife can pass through the potato. Do not overcook the potatoes as they will take in too much water. The best thing to do is to remove the potatoes from the heat the minute a knife can pass into the middle of the potato. Strain the potatoes and allow to cool and dry in the sieve.
3. Mash the potatoes. At Cava, we prefer to pass them through a moulin (mouli-légumes/vegetable mill), this gets rid of any tough elements from the inside of the potato. You can pick up a hand moulin from any good kitchen supply store.
4. Fry the onion in a little oil on a low-medium heat. You don’t want the onion to brown, only to become soft and translucent. This should take about 10 minutes on a low heat.
5. In a large bowl, mix together the cod, potato, parsley, and onion. Shape into balls (about the size of a golf ball) and allow to rest in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours.
6. To make the aioli: Place the egg yolks, lemon juice and mustard in a large bowl. Whisk and then begin to add the oil very slowly and gradually. Keep whisking until the oil and eggs have emulsified. Season to taste.
7. Heat your deep fat dryer to 175°C. Roll the cod cakes in flour and gently lower the cod cakes into the oil. Fry until golden brown.
8. To serve: Dry the cod cakes on some absorbent paper. Place the aioli in a ramekin and serve the cod cakes beside them. Garnish with some lemon.


If wild duck is unavailable, farmed duck breats from a producer such as Skeaghanore West Cork Farm; Thornhill Duck, Co Cavan; Rings Farm, Co Kilkenny; or Silverhill Duck, Co Monaghan can be used instead. [GC]

150g black pudding, roughly diced
50g pine nuts, toasted
50g sultanas
100g butter, cubed
a few sage leaves, finely sliced
200ml PX sherry
a small bunch of cavelo nero, stalks removed, cut into squares
4 medium mallard breasts, scored
olive oil
sea salt

1. In a large frying pan, warm some oil. Add the black pudding and pan fry until crispy. Then add the pine nuts and the sultanas. Toss together with 50g of the butter. Add the sage leaves and the sherry and reduce to a thin glaze. At the last moment, add the cavelo nero and toss the lot together.
2. For the duck: Season the duck with salt and allow to come up to room temperature. Heat some olive oil in a suitable pan. When hot, add the duck skin side down and sear until the skin is nice and crispy. Turn the duck over and fry for another minute. Then add the remaining butter and baste. Cook until the butter is brown and foaming. Remove from the heat and check the duck. I find medium-rare is best. If you’re happy with the temperature of the duck, set it aside in a warm area and allow to rest.
3. To serve: Spoon the black pudding mixture into the centre of a shallow bowl. Carve the duck and divide over the four dishes.


An ingredient that is more familiar to chefs than home cooks, beef cheek is a tough muscle due to the animal's constant chewing - but it tenderises beautifully through long slow cooking, producing a melt-in-the mouth texture and great flavour. [GC]

1 red chicory, quartered
25g butter
handful almonds, roasted
olive oil
sea salt
Beef cheeks
2 large beef cheeks
1 carrot, peeled
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
a small handful of flat-leaf parsley
500ml stout
sea salt
Cheese sauce
75g Tetilla cheese rind (you can use a soft cheese rind such as Durrus instead)
350ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
sea salt

1. To cook the beef cheeks: Trim the beef cheeks of all sinew. Season liberally with sea salt and place in an oven proof container. Place the vegetables and parsley around the cheek and cover with the stout. If the cheeks are not covered completely top up with a little water. Place in a 160ºC oven for 3 – 4 hours until completely tender. You will know when they’re done as a knife will pass easily through them. Remove the cheeks and strain the sauce. Reduce the sauce by half or until it coats the back of a spoon.
2. For the cheese sauce: Place the rind in the vegetable oil and leave in the fridge for 1 week. Taste the oil after a week. If it still needs more flavour leave it for longer. Remove the rind before using. Drop the two eggs into boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove immediately after the 3 minutes and place in ice water. Crack the eggs open into a jug. Season with some sea salt. With the aid of a hand blender, blend the oil and the eggs together. This is like a mayonnaise, so be sure to add the oil in gradually. If the sauce gets too thick you can let it down with a little water. Place in a small plastic bottle or a piping bag.
3. Pan fry the chicory quarters in a little butter and oil until soft and wilted. Add the almonds and season.
4. To serve: Slice the beef cheeks and warm in a pot with the sauce. Place the chicory and almond mix on the base and the cheeks on top. Arrange a few dots of the cheese sauce around the beef. Finish with a little grated almond if you wish.

CREMA CATALANA (serves 6) 

Crema Catalana owes its origins to the French classic Crème Brûlée (literally, burnt cream). Sometime in the nineteenth century, Catalan chefs adopted this French dessert (which is made with vanilla) and prepared it instead with lemon, orange, and cinnamon. Traditionally, this dessert was eaten on Saint Joseph’s Day (19th March) although nowadays it is consumed at all times of year. It goes well with Cava Bodega’s almond biscuits.

1 litre cream
2 cinnamon sticks
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
6 egg yolks
90g caster sugar
50g brown sugar, for caramelising
2 gelatine leaves

1. Bring the cream to the boil with cinnamon sticks and zest.
2. Upon reaching boiling point remove cream from the stove. Set aside and allow flavours to infuse for 5 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, add the caster sugar to eggs and whisk until creamed.
4. Pour the warm cream slowly over the eggs. Do not over whisk as you don’t want too much air in the mixture.
5. Set the mixture over a pot of boiling water (bain-marie) and gently warm the mixture until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. This will take about 30 to 40 minutes. Be sure the water does not come into contact with the bowl, or the mixture will curdle.
6. Bloom the gelatine leaves and add to the custard mixture. Strain mixture though a fine sieve and pour into 6 suitable round dishes.
7. Allow to chill for 4 hours in the fridge.


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