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Tapas

Published by Sarah Horrocks
Published on 31 October 2008

During hot summers most of us prefer to pick at food over a drink than sit down to a large meal, and the Spanish are the kings of this game with their famous tapas. Mini versions of gourmet delights, dozens exist in all sorts. Enjoying as many tapas as possible is a Spanish national sport.

More than just finger food

You may believe that tapas are the equivalent of nibbles or finger food, but they're much more sophisticated than little cubes of cheese.

Tapas are miniature versions of traditional Spanish dishes such as: gazpacho, meat or fish kebabs, glazed vegetables and tartare. The portions are generous - they're not just pre-dinner nibbles!

Easy on the eye

The pleasure of eating comes through the eyes first and tapas, with its sparkling colours and careful presentation, is no exception to the rule. Care is also taken in the choice of tableware, coloured glasses, beautiful plates, pretty little spoons, etc.

Create mini kebabs with toothpicks and geometric shapes with cutlery laid out in shapes. Colour is essential, so experiment with vegetables (red, green and orange), fresh herbs (for a touch of green), spices (paprika or pepper), sauces and dips (tapenade, hummus, green or red pesto, etc.).

Recipes

It’s difficult to define one type of Spanish cuisine as each region has its own culinary specialities, and tapas are no exception. Fish and shellfish, meat and dried meat, rice and summer vegetables, chilli, garlic, peppers...the possibilities are endless and so are the variations. To help you, here are basic recipes for the most classic tapas:

Spanish omelette
The classic potato omelette

4 eggs, 500g potatoes, oil and salt.

Cut the potatoes in slices. Place them in a high edged pan, cover with oil and cook with a lid on. When the potatoes are cooked, mix them delicately with beaten eggs and cook the tortilla over a low heat in a little oil. Once the top layer is cooked and golden, take it out and put it on a plate. Add more oil to the pan, return the tortilla upside down and finish cooking. Enjoy sliced, hot or cold.

Jamón con queso

Serves four. 250g smoked Serrano ham, 200g Torta del Casar (Southern Spain cheese), 1 tomato, 20 round slices of bread, 2 dried tomatoes, 10 black olives, oil and vinegar.

Cut the dried tomatoes and black olives in little pieces, mix in a bowl and add a little oil. Peel and cut the tomato into round slices. Cut the ham and cheese into thin long slices. Make a vinaigrette with oil and vinegar. On half of the slices of bread place a slice of tomato, a slice of ham and season with the vinaigrette. On the other half of the bread, place a slice of cheese and sprinkle with the mixture of dried tomatoes and olives.

Patatas bravas
Potatoes in spicy sauce

Very simple to make, this recipe requires new potatoes, olive oil, salt and spicy sauce.

Peel and cut the potatoes in big cubes and fry in the olive oil. Add salt. Once cooked, place them on kitchen paper to drain them. Prepare the hot sauce: mix a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, a little tomato purée, one tablespoonful of mustard and a dash of tabasco. Cover the potatoes with the sauce while still hot and serve.

Calamares a la romana

Fried squid

500g squid, 250ml milk, 100g flour, 1 egg, 1 packet of yeast, 1 lemon, parsley, oil and 5 tablespoons of water.


Wash the squid, cut them into round slices and dip them in the milk. In a bowl, mix 50g of flour, yeast, egg yolk, a tablespoonful of oil and 5 tablespoonfuls of water. Add salt, beat until you get a smooth paste and set aside for 30 mins. Beat the egg white into peaks and add carefully to the batter. Drain and dry the squid, dip in the remaining flour and then the batter. Fry the squid in moderately hot oil, drain and decorate with lemon and parsley.

Ensaladilla rusa
Potato salad

Cut a panful of potatoes into cubes and mix with mayonnaise. Add carrots, green beans and peas. You can also add tuna, hard boiled egg, asparagus, chilli, olives, garlic or prawns. Decorate with slices of red pepper.

Check out the rest of our tapas recipes!