Get a FREE e-cookbook when you subscribe
Tapas2019-11-17T11:12:37-08:00

Small Plates. Big flavours.

Legend has it that the tapas we know today originated in the Spanish region of Andelusia. Born not out of a love for small bites of food, more out of a necessity to keep an insect at bay! In the Taverna, glasses of sherry would be irresistible to passing humans, but this sweet elixir also attracted another – giving many an establishment the wrong kind of buzz – fruit flies. As a solution, it’s believed some bar owners began adding a slice of stale bread as a lid (una tapa) to the glass, as a makeshift fly-screen – and so, the tapas was born.

Tapas

As the fable continues, over time, the more savvy bar owners saw an opportunity for return custom and began topping bread (now fresh) with small edible delicacies for free. Cured meats, olives, pickled vegetables all began to make their way to the lid – and if we’re to believe the folklore, the tapas began to grow in popularity.

Fast-forward to today – Tapas is ubiquitous not only in Spain, but the World. But it’s in Spain where tapas bars and restaurants are engrained into the culture. Spaniards are a nation of night owls and they eat dinner well after most other nationalities are tucked up in bed.

For the Spanish, it’s an excuse to get together with friends and family, to enjoy a glass of wine or beer and maybe a light snack before dinner. As the tradition grew, tapas began to constitute the entire evening meal – there are many tapas bars to from which to choose with a mind boggling array of dishes on offer, so patrons often bar hop to get the best food from their favourite bars over the space of an evening.

Free food is all but a legend nowadays, but the more experienced tapas-hunter knows where they can still be found in many parts of the country.

The lid concept has long since been relaxed and small plates and bowls now carry the food – although some bars still nostalgically balance your small plate atop a glass to keep the tradition alive.

As the fable continues, over time, the more savvy bar owners saw an opportunity for return custom and began topping bread (now fresh) with small edible delicacies for free. Cured meats, olives, pickled vegetables all began to make their way to the lid – and if we’re to believe the folklore, the tapas began to grow in popularity.

Fast-forward to today – Tapas is ubiquitous not only in Spain, but the World. But it’s in Spain where tapas bars and restaurants are engrained into the culture. Spaniards are a nation of night owls and they eat dinner well after most other nationalities are tucked up in bed.

For the Spanish, it’s an excuse to get together with friends and family, to enjoy a glass of wine or beer and maybe a light snack before dinner. As the tradition grew, tapas began to constitute the entire evening meal – there are many tapas bars to from which to choose with a mind boggling array of dishes on offer, so patrons often bar hop to get the best food from their favourite bars over the space of an evening.

Free food is all but a legend nowadays, but the more experienced tapas-hunter knows where they can still be found in many parts of the country.

The lid concept has long since been relaxed and small plates and bowls now carry the food – although some bars still nostalgically balance your small plate atop a glass to keep the tradition alive.

Tapas

In the Basque region, tapas are named Pintxos or Pinchos. The Pincho, translated as ‘spike’ refers to the toothpick that traditionally secured the food on top of the bread. The spike is still synonymous with Pintxos, but like the tapas lid, is slowly becoming non-essential. Pintxos are considered a separate entity by many Spaniards, and as you can imagine, the conversation can heat up rather quickly when an unsuspecting outsider rightly points out that they “kinda look the same!”.

However either of these small delights originated, they have developed to dizzying culinary excellence. Small plates are big business. Spain has a world-class cutting-edge culinary scene that has allowed chefs like Ferran Adria, Jose Andrés and Juan Mari Arzak to spin the modern day tapas into Michelin magic.

Cooking tapas at home is popular around the World and a great way to keep friends and family fed. Similar to the Mediterranean Meze, dishes are served at intervals over time. When I serve tapas I prepare a whole lot of stuff, and drip feed it over the evening – it’s surprisingly stress-free for the cook to serve food this way!

The key to tapas at home is to understand that you don’t need to cook everything there and then or cook at all for that matter! Preparation is essential, everything is ready, so that you can waft effortlessly from the kitchen every 20 minutes with a new delight.

Tapas can be anything you want them to be. As simple as a small bowl of delicious anchovy stuffed olives, or a plate of the Crown Jewels of cured pork – Jamon Iberico. It can be as effortless as opening a can of anchovies and arranging on a plate – you see where I’m going here? You needn’t break your back – everything tastes good with a glass of wine in your other hand.

The day of, or the day before – I’ll start to prepare the food that does need my attention. My smoked paprika Chicken Skewers marinated in Fino Sherry can make the perfect hot tapas (you can pre-cook them, wrap in foil then heat through in the oven when you’re ready). Another is always on offer and easy to make ahead – the Tortilla Española – a magical combination of eggs, potatoes and tuna and one of my personal favourites! I love to top it off with a dollop of garlicky alioli.

A simple cook-on-the-night dish will be some fried cured chorizo with Fino sherry and a guzzle of the best Spanish olive oil. I’ll sometimes also make a tapas from my AMAZING chorizo & prawns, a combination made in heaven! And lastly an easy to assemble Pan cristal or Catalan tomato bread – as simple as rubbing garlic and a tomato over a piece of toasted sourdough. No problem!

In the Basque region, tapas are named Pintxos or Pinchos. The Pincho, translated as ‘spike’ refers to the toothpick that traditionally secured the food on top of the bread. The spike is still synonymous with Pintxos, but like the tapas lid, is slowly becoming non-essential. Pintxos are considered a separate entity by many Spaniards, and as you can imagine, the conversation can heat up rather quickly when an unsuspecting outsider rightly points out that they “kinda look the same!”.

However either of these small delights originated, they have developed to dizzying culinary excellence. Small plates are big business. Spain has a world-class cutting-edge culinary scene that has allowed chefs like Ferran Adria, Jose Andrés and Juan Mari Arzak to spin the modern day tapas into Michelin magic.

Cooking tapas at home is popular around the World and a great way to keep friends and family fed. Similar to the Mediterranean Meze, dishes are served at intervals over time. When I serve tapas I prepare a whole lot of stuff, and drip feed it over the evening – it’s surprisingly stress-free for the cook to serve food this way!

The key to tapas at home is to understand that you don’t need to cook everything there and then or cook at all for that matter! Preparation is essential, everything is ready, so that you can waft effortlessly from the kitchen every 20 minutes with a new delight.

Tapas can be anything you want them to be. As simple as a small bowl of delicious anchovy stuffed olives, or a plate of the Crown Jewels of cured pork – Jamon Iberico. It can be as effortless as opening a can of anchovies and arranging on a plate – you see where I’m going here? You needn’t break your back – everything tastes good with a glass of wine in your other hand.

The day of, or the day before – I’ll start to prepare the food that does need my attention. My smoked paprika Chicken Skewers marinated in Fino Sherry can make the perfect hot tapas (you can pre-cook them, wrap in foil then heat through in the oven when you’re ready). Another is always on offer and easy to make ahead – the Tortilla Española – a magical combination of eggs, potatoes and tuna and one of my personal favourites! I love to top it off with a dollop of garlicky alioli.

A simple cook-on-the-night dish will be some fried cured chorizo with Fino sherry and a guzzle of the best Spanish olive oil. I’ll sometimes also make a tapas from my AMAZING chorizo & prawns, a combination made in heaven! And lastly an easy to assemble Pan cristal or Catalan tomato bread – as simple as rubbing garlic and a tomato over a piece of toasted sourdough. No problem!

There is absolutely no shame in opening a can of top quality Spanish fare, popping it on a slice of bread and taking the bulk of the credit for yourself.

Get hold of some earthenware tapas dishes – they are the perfect size for each serving. And look the part too.

Remember to keep the bread flowing. I’ll put out a small bowl of bread with a bowl of best quality olive oil with my first round so that it can be mopped up with the bread – which is a delightful tapas in its own right!

Some tapas also have fantastically flavoured sauces, for which the bread is essential.

Your store cupboard can be a valuable resource for tapas too. Spain produce amazing quality jarred and canned ingredients, with authentic flavours of Spain in abundance. There is absolutely no shame in opening a can of top quality Spanish fare, popping it on a slice of bread and taking the bulk of the credit for yourself.

There are, In fact, several revered tapas bars across Spain that serve up to 90% of food from jars and cans. A can of tuna from your local supermarket probably won’t cut it, but there’s an abundance of authentic Spanish products online. I buy a lot from La Tienda – they have some marvellous top notch products for sale.

So, hopefully you’ve seen that serving one of the Worlds most loved cuisines is not a scary proposition at home.

Just remember the cornerstones – preparation, preparation, cans, jars and sherry and wine.

Don’t be afraid, go for it. And remember the age old saying ‘Go little or go home!’

Get hold of some earthenware tapas dishes – they are the perfect size for each serving. And look the part too.

Remember to keep the bread flowing. I’ll put out a small bowl of bread with a bowl of best quality olive oil with my first round so that it can be mopped up with the bread – which is a delightful tapas in its own right!

Some tapas also have fantastically flavoured sauces, for which the bread is essential.

Your store cupboard can be a valuable resource for tapas too. Spain produce amazing quality jarred and canned ingredients, with authentic flavours of Spain in abundance. There is absolutely no shame in opening a can of top quality Spanish fare, popping it on a slice of bread and taking the bulk of the credit for yourself.

There are, In fact, several revered tapas bars across Spain that serve up to 90% of food from jars and cans. A can of tuna from your local supermarket probably won’t cut it, but there’s an abundance of authentic Spanish products online. I buy a lot from La Tienda – they have some marvellous top notch products for sale.

So, hopefully you’ve seen that serving one of the Worlds most loved cuisines is not a scary proposition at home.

Just remember the cornerstones – preparation, preparation, cans, jars and sherry and wine.

Don’t be afraid, go for it. And remember the age old saying ‘Go little or go home!’

Store cupboard essentials

Think small. Choose your recipes.