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Rick flies the nest for big Spanish test; Chef and TV presenter searches for the heart of tasty rustic cuisine.

IF Rick Stein is a typical senior citizen, it''s no wonder we''re thinking of raising the age of retirement. At 64-years-old, the 'Padstein'' chef and presenter is still going strong, and more likely to be found searching out Spanish cheese in a mountain cave for his latest TV show than pondering his pension.

I''ve been going to Spain all my life, but for many years the word tapas in Britain didn''t refer to anything remotely Spanish, he explains, as we chat about his latest series and book, Rick Stein''s Spain. In this country you''ll be in for a wait, whereas in Spain, the prep''s done beforehand and the service is like lightning. But proper tapas is appearing in Britain at long last."

To make his four-part series, Stein left his famous Cornish seafood restaurants behind and travelled to find the heart of Spain''s rustic, ingredient-led cuisine.

The way to spot a great tapas bar is to check out the menu," says Stein. "It''s got to have Iberico ham. That''s absolutely the centre of any tapas, you''ve got to have good ham.

Here is one of his recipes from the new book: WHITE GAZPACHO WITH GARLIC, SPRINKLED WITH GRAPES (for 6) Ingredients: 200g slightly stale, crustless white bread; 800-900ml ice-cold water; 15g thinly-sliced garlic; 100g blanched almonds; 150ml olive oil; 4 tbsp sherry vinegar; 24 seedless white grapes, halved; salt Method:? Break the bread into a bowl and sprinkle with 400ml of water. Soak for 30 minutes.

? Put the bread into a liquidizer with the garlic and almonds, and blend to a smooth paste. Add the olive oil, vinegar, one tsp of salt and enough water to give the soup a good texture.

. ? Tip the soup into a large bowl and season to taste. Chill for two hours.

. ? To serve, ladle the soup into chilled bowls and sprinkle grapes into the centre of each. Drizzle over a little more olive oil and serve.

Rick Stein''s Spain, 8pm, Thursdays, BBC Two.

The book is priced pounds 25

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Rick Stein cooking in Spain. Above, white gazpacho with garlic sprinkled with grapes
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Jul 16, 2011
Words:350
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