Tapas were originally simple little snacks to accompany a drink and might simply consist of a few almonds or olives. Legend has it that when King Alfonso X was ill his doctors encouraged him to eat little and often. He felt so well eating this way that he decreed everyone should eat little snacks across the whole of Spain.
These days tapas can be gourmet delights in their own right and are a well established part of Spanish culture. If you find yourself on a tapas crawl my best tip is to watch what the locals eat before you order. If there are no locals in the bar then you shouldn’t be there either!
There are hundreds of tapas recipes but I have included 3 really simple ones because I find that simplicity works really well when you are cooking for a crowd. These are definitely easy to make but don’t worry because they really deliver on flavour.
If you want to add more variety include a bowl of Spanish olives and maybe some Jamon Iberico. Jamon Iberico, or pata negra, is a ham made from Iberian black foot pigs which roam freely in pastures and feast on acorns, it is air dried (like parma ham) and has a deep, rich flavour.
These recipes all came from Modern Spanish Cooking by Sam and Eddie Hart.
Pimientos de Padron
These little green peppers may not be easy to track down in the UK unless you live near a Spanish deli but you can buy them on-line. For the most part they are wonderfully sweet and salty mouthfuls but, for reasons unknown, about one in every twenty has a chilli kick. This makes eating them a little like a Spanish version of Russian Roulette only much more enjoyable!
Serves 4 – 6
200g Pimientos de Padron
2 tbsps Olive Oil
Course Sea Salt.
Rinse the peppers well in cold water and pat dry. Heat a large frying pan, add the oil and the peppers. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally until blistered and slightly charred. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with a few good pinches of sea salt and serve.
Pan con Tomate (bread with tomato) is a simple, tasty tapa but it really needs to be made with the best of ingredients; ripe, flavourful tomatoes, great bread and extra virgin olive oil otherwise simple might just become dull. They are perfect on their own but can also be topped with a little fried chorizo or some jamon Iberico if you like.
1 loaf of Crusty Bread
3 cloves Garlic – halved
6 ripe Tomatoes
100 ml / 4 fl oz Olive oil
A handful of Chopped Parsley
Salt & Pepper
Cut the bread into slices about 1 – 2 cm thick. Toast the bread and rub each piece with the cut edge of a clove of garlic. Rub the cut side of a tomato over the bread so that the juice and seeds pour out. You don’t need the rest of the tomato (but it can be used in a soup or tomato sauce rather than be wasted).
Drizzle with olive oil, season and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
This can be served as a salad but the inner leaves of chicory make great little bite sized “bowls” which can hold a variety of fillings. This is so simple that it really doesn’t constitute a recipe at all!
Picos de Europa is a blue cheese made in the Picos mountain’s in Northern Spain. You can substitute any other blue cheese (roquefort or stilton work well) but I would encourage you to at least try Picos if you get the chance.
4 heads of chicory
200g / 7 oz Picos de Europa cheese
100g / 3 1/2 oz Walnuts – roughly chopped & lightly toasted
A handful of chopped Parsley
4 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tsp Sherry Vinegar
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt & Pepper
Remove the root from the chicory and separate out the leaves and arrange on a plate(s). Fill each leaf with small pieces of cheese and walnut. Make a dressing from the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice and season it. Drizzle the dressing over the filled leaves and sprinkle over the parsley. And that’s it – simple but scrumptious.