Nacho Manzano is best known in the UK as the executive head chef of Ibérica, the chain of stylish Spanish restaurants he helped launch in 2009 in London and which now has branches in Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow. But this book focuses on the food at his two Michelin-starred restaurant Casa Marcial in the tiny hamlet of La Salgar and the surrounding region of Asturias in northwest Spain where Manzano was born and continues to live and work.
The rugged, mountainous landscape is beautifully captured in Lobo Altuna’s images, which are almost worth the price of the book alone, and illustrate the first half of the book that tells Manzano and his family’s story. What is now one of the leading modernist restaurants in Spain began life after the Spanish Civil War as a cider mill and shop selling traditional wooden clogs run by Manzano’s great grandmother. In the 60’s, Manzano’s father Marcial ran it as a bar with food until finally Manzano and his sister Esther opened Casa Marcial in 1993.
The second half of the book contains recipes for the restaurant’s ’60 best dishes’ organised into vegetables and rice, fish and seafood, poultry and meat and desserts and fruit. Signature dishes include ‘house scrambled eggs over torto’, a deep fried maize flour flat bread typical to the Asturias region that Manzano put his spin on at the tender age of 15 when he topped them with eggs flavoured with caramelised onions and local Cabrales blue cheese; and ‘rice with pitu de caleya’, a take on a traditional Asturian feasting dish made with the local free range pitu de caleya or village chicken, a formerly neglected ingredient that Manzano has championed to become the Spanish equivalent of poulet de Bresse.
Given that the Manzano family have their own fishing grounds (although La Salgar is in the Sierre del Sueve mountains, it’s just 6 kilometres from the Bay of Biscay) it’s no surprise that just under half the recipes in the book are dedicated to seafood. Manzano takes a fin to tail approach with refined and stunningly presented dishes such as cod tripe with red pepper consommé and pil, the classic gelatinous sauce made with the cod’s skin and bones.
Manzano is a truly individual culinary mind and Asturias is a fascinating and under reported gastronomic region; Casa Marcial makes a fine introduction to both.
(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review rating: 4 stars
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Photography by Lobo Altuna
€38, Planeta Gastro