Tuck into Tapas!
The word “tapa” translates as “cover”. Tapas traditionally may have been a complementary piece of sliced ham served on top of a glass of wine, but we know tapas today as small portions of food.
Tapas in Spain is one of the best-known customs across the world. Indeed, no tourist or Spaniard can resist these small bites of Mediterranean gastronomy. There are all kinds of tapas, from a small snack—fried potatoes, nuts or olives—to a true miniature feast.
So what are the origins of Tapas?
One of the most popular stories claims that, back in the 13th century, King Alfonso X of Castille found that, while he was recovering from an illness, he could only eat and drink in small amounts – resulting in one of the first forms of tapas.
According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were thin slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners created a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.
Other stories claim that because tapas bars used to be standing-only affairs, people who ordered a snack had nowhere to put their plate but on top of their glass – hence the tradition.
Another source claims that some sneaky tavern keepers discovered that, if they covered cheap wine with a plate of strong cheese, their punters, in a state of confusion, wouldn’t notice how bad the beverage was.
These are a few of many different origin explanations but whatever the true origin tapas’s influence has spread the world over. In some bars and restaurants in Spain and across the globe, tapas have evolved into a more sophisticated cuisine. Tapas can be combined to make a full meal. In some Central American countries, such snacks are known as Bocas. In parts of Mexico, similar dishes are called botanas.
My own tapas is called a less refined ‘choosing tea’ and is a great way for the family to experience tastes of new creations made and eat as much or as little as they like – making it fun and interesting.
Create your own tapas feast with our top 5 recipes (and an extra sweet treat) and then head over to our Pinterest board for more inspiration. Also, watch this space as we are launching our new Spanish chicken with chickpea recipe box with everything you need to feed 4 people with.
Recreate this popular Spanish tapas dish at home with our recipe, complete with a classic paprika tomato sauce.
- 750g potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 3 vine tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, to serve
Heat a large pan of salted water until boiling, add the potatoes and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain really well then spread out to dry on kitchen paper
Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Spoon 3 tbsp olive oil on a large, non-stick baking tray. Add the potato and toss to coat. Roast for 40-50 minutes or until crisp, turning now and again so they get evenly golden
To make the sauce, heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic gently for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Tip in the remaining ingredients and season. Simmer for 20 minutes until thickened.
To serve, season the potatoes with salt then spoon into a warm serving bowl (or bowls). Spoon over the sauce, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Spanish Stuffed Peppers
Prep time: 20mins
Cook time: 1hr
Slow roast red peppers filled with chorizo, baby tomatoes, lots of garlic and a sweet sherry vinegar glaze.
- 4 red peppers
- 150g pack cherry or baby plum tomatoes
- 1/2 ciabatta loaf, or similar, cut into 2.5cm chunks
- 3 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 140g chorizo, cut into chunky slices
- 4 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 4 tbsp good-quality olive oil
- Pinch of sugar
- Parsley (optional) and more bread, to serve
Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Halve the peppers through the stalk, then cut out and throw away the seeds. Sit the peppers snugly, cut-side up, in a casserole dish, or two if needed. Halve any larger tomatoes, then divide them, the bread chunks, garlic and chorizo between the dishes.
Drizzle over the vinegar, then the olive oil, and season with pinches of sugar, sea salt and ground black pepper. Bake for 30 mins, covered until the peppers are tender and collapsing a little. Remove, uncover and cook for a further 30 mins. Leave the peppers to cool a little, then scatter with parsley, if you like, and spoon onto plates, scooping out any extra juices. Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the juices.
Goat’s cheese and piquillo pepper croquettes
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
This tapas staple made with goat’s cheese and peppers is also a perfect canapé, ideal for serving as a party nibble.
Recipe and image source: www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk
- 75g unsalted butter
- 100g plain flour, plus extra for coating
- 400ml semi-skimmed milk, hot
- 150g soft goat’s cheese, chopped
- 2-3 piquillo peppers, finely chopped
- 2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
- 125g dried white breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
To make the filling, melt the butter in a medium pan, then add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Gradually pour in the hot milk, stirring to form a thick white sauce. Bubble for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat and fold through the goat’s cheese and piquillo peppers. Season, then cover the surface with cling film and chill until solid.
Once cool and firm, shape the mixture into 2cm balls, using wet hands, then put on a baking sheet or plate lined with baking paper. Freeze until solid (about 3 hours).
Carefully roll each ball in flour, then in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs. At this point, you can refreeze the croquettes until ready to cook (see Make Ahead, left).
Fill a deep saucepan or wok with vegetable oil and heat until it browns a cube of bread in 30 seconds. Add the croquettes, in batches, and cook for 2 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, keeping them warm while you cook the rest. Serve straight away.
Spanish Green Beans and Tomatoes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 45mins
A traditional Spanish side dish that I’ve served at parties for many years. But it’s a simple, tasty dish anytime!
Image and recipe source – allrecipes.co.uk
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1kg fresh green beans, cut into 2.5cm lengths
- 800g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
- 3 tbsp pinenuts
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt & pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat if garlic begins to brown. Add green beans, then continue to cook and stir until bright green but not quite tender, about 4 minutes.
Mix in tomatoes, lemon juice and pinenuts, and season with chives, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer gently uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.
Tomato & Butter Bean Dip
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15mins
Pair this simple Butter Bean Dip with a bag of pita chips or a loaf of crusty bread, and you’ve got the perfect campfire appetizer to hold everyone over until dinner. Cannellini beans will also be a great substitute.
Image and recipe source – www.freshoffthegrid.com
- 1 shallot
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 400g tin butter beans, drained
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 60ml olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Handful fresh parsley, chopped
- Pita chips, crusty bread or pita crackers to serve
Mince the shallot and garlic. In a cold skillet, add the shallot, garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and tomato paste. Saute over low heat for a few minutes, stirring often, until the oil gently bubbles.
Add the paprika and stir. Add the drained beans, red wine vinegar, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir to coat the beans and cook for another minute or so to warm the beans.
Remove from the heat, add salt to taste, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with pita chips, crusty bread, or crackers.
Churros with Hot Chocolate Sauce
Make these Spanish sweet treats for a comforting dessert or breakfast. The rich, indulgent hot chocolate sauce is also delicious over ice cream.
Image and recipe source – www.olivemagazine.com
- 100g unsalted butter, diced
- 175g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp orange flower water, optional
- Zest from 1/2 orange, grated
- Sunflower oil, for frying
- Golden caster sugar, for sprinkling
- 150g dark chocolate
- 150ml double cream
- 1 tsp unsalted butter, softened
To make the churros, tip the diced butter into a saucepan, add 200ml cold water and a pinch of salt. Put the pan over the heat to melt the butter and bring to the boil. Sieve the flour and baking powder together. As soon as the water boils, remove it from the heat and quickly stir in the sifted flour and baking powder. Beat the mix with a wooden spoon until smooth and it comes away from the sides of the pan in a smooth mass.
Tip the mixture into a bowl and cool for a couple of minutes. Then gradually add the beaten eggs one at a time, beating well until the mixture is smooth, glossy and drops reluctantly from a spoon. Add the orange flower water (if using) and grated orange zest, and mix until combined. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave the batter to one side to rest for 30 minutes.
Finely chop the dark chocolate and tip into a bowl. Pour the double cream into a small saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, dulce de leche, butter and vanilla extract, and bring to a simmer. Stir until smooth then pour over the chopped chocolate and stir again until the mixture is combined.
Fill a large saucepan no more than one-third full with oil. Heat until it reaches 180-190C (or a cube of bread browns in a minute). Fit a large piping bag with a large star-shaped nozzle and fill with batter. Once the oil has come up to the temperature you can start to cook the churros. Pipe 2 or 3 finger-length strips of batter directly into the pan cutting off each strip with a pair of scissors. Do not cook more than this in one go or the oil will cool down dramatically and your churros will be heavy and greasy, rather than crisp, golden and light.
Cook the churros for about 45 seconds to one minute on each side until golden and crisp. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, drain quickly on kitchen paper and sprinkle liberally with caster sugar. serve with thick hot chocolate dipping sauce.