I have quite a big cookery book collection, one of the many benefits of previously having worked in the book industry for nearly three decades, and I can roughly divide them into three categories: the ones that are pretty, but I’ll never cook a single dish from them because the ingredients are too outlandish or expensive and the recipes and methods too complicated, the ones that I read mainly for inspiration and cook the occasional dish from and, lastly, the ones I use all the time and go back to time after time and will cook most of the recipes in them.
Eivissa, the brand new cookbook by Anne Sijmonsbergen, is firmly in the third category, one of those cookbooks where you can’t wait to get home and into your kitchen to try out one of the many mouth-watering recipes. This is definitely one that will stay on the top of the pile.
Anne is a cook and farmer who moved to Ibiza over 10 years ago and bought with her husband a 450-year old finca (farmhouse) in the Sant Llorenç Valley, the land surrounded by hills and bordering the Santa Eularia River. Today the organic farm produces apricots, peaches, cherries, plums, grapes, citrus fruits, almonds, walnuts, avocados, peas, beans, garlic, potatoes, onions, chard, spinach, leeks and dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Anne supplies many of the top chefs and restaurants in Ibiza with her produce and the recipes in the book are inspired by chatting to those chefs and other producers, cooking with them and swapping recipes and ideas.
Anne is also a huge fan of foraging, and depending on the season will go out and find mushrooms, wild asparagus, wild garlic, berries and other goodies nature offers throughout the year. Add to that meat from traditional farms and seafood from local fishermen as well as artisan products like olive oil, honey, preserves, charcuterie, cheeses, vinegars and, of course, the famous Ibiza sea salt. This salt is one of Anne’s cornerstone flavour quartet, the others are pepper, lemon and vinegar (aged sherry, if possible).
Ibiza has seen a bit of a food revolution in recent years and there are many markets and shops selling, as well as some world class restaurants using, all this wonderful, seasonal and sustainable local produce.
Divided into four chapters, reflecting the seasons, and with beautiful photography by David Munns, this book caters for every taste: from cold and hot soups, colourful salads, delicious vegetarian dishes, meat roasts and chicken casseroles and seafood & fish dishes liked stuffed squid, paella and halibut to Coca Ibicenca breads, mouth watering cakes and biscuits and, of course, fruity desserts and sweets – there really is something for everybody.
As it is summer at the moment (though it kind of feels like we have gone directly from spring to autumn and skipped summer altogether), I picked as my first three recipes Gazpacho, Tomato Pasta and Peach & Serrano Ham with Cheese Crackers.
I substituted the onion and garlic in the gazpacho for dietary reasons with another half of red pepper & a red chilli and a pinch of smoked paprika. I also added a few more ‘bits’ to have with the soup in addition to the avocado in the recipe: fried chorizo, croutons, chopped black olives and grated cheese. We both really loved this dish, and Anne is right, melon definitely adds something to the gazpacho, making it smoother and less acidy.
The Tomato Pasta dish is also going to become a staple in my kitchen. It is really quick to put it together and on the table and it tastes of summer and the Mediterranean. The black olives are my extra ingredient.
For the Cheese Crackers I substituted the Mahón cheese in the recipe with a mix of Emmental and Parmesan cheese, which worked really well.
We were lucky enough to meet Anne and her husband at the launch party of her book at The Drawing Room at Fortnum & Mason a couple of weeks ago. She is a lovely lady and so passionate about food and what she does, it is infectious. We also had a long chat with her charming mum who had flown in from the USA with Anne’s brother especially for the night. We had a lovely evening, the champagne was flowing and we got to taste some of the dishes from the book which were served as canapés. They were delicious.
Eivissa – The Ibiza Cookbook by Anne Sijmonsbergen is published by HarperCollins Publishers and available from all good bookshops. Try your local independent bookshop!