One of Spain’s most famous culinary exports must surely be tapas – the delicious snacks traditionally served in bars and ranging from simple olives, ham or cheese to complex, sophisticated dishes that show off the skill of fine chefs.
The word ‘tapas’ is in fact derived from the verb ‘tapar’, meaning ‘to cover’. It’s thought that this is in a reference to the practice of using slices of bread or meat to cover full glasses between sips to keep off flies.
Tapas have today evolved to be a pretty sophisticated form of cuisine in their own right, with numerous regional competitions throughout Spain and one prestigious National Tapas competition, celebrated annually in November.
While the most traditional accompaniment for tapas is a glass of sherry, with the huge increase in the popularity of the gin tonic in Spain, drinkers are increasingly pairing these delicious nibbles with a nice G&T – a practice we’re naturally quite partial to ourselves! Here are a few simple and delicious recipes to get you started. All recipes make enough for 4-6 people.
Almendras Pimentón (Smoked Paprika Almonds)
This super-easy (and very moreish) recipe will beautifully complement the almond in your Siderit gin.
350g whole, unsalted almonds
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon pimentón (smoked paprika), to taste
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Combine the sea salt and the smoked paprika in a small spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind just a little.
Spread the almonds on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown smelling toasty. From 7 minutes, keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn.
Once the almonds are out of the oven, drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine. Add extra oil if not all the nuts are coated. Sprinkle with the salt and paprika mixture and stir again. Transfer to serving bowl and serve at room temperature.
Gambas Al Ajillo (Garlic Prawns)
Spain boasts some of the finest seafood in the world, and this recipe shows it off at its best, with just a few simple ingredients.
900g raw king prawns, peeled with tails left on
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp chili flakes or 1 -2 tsp pimentón (smoked paprika)
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 tbsp Fino sherry
Heat the oven to 200C/400F.
Butterfly the prawns by slitting them down their backs lengthways (don't go all the way through) and removing the dark vein.
Put the prawns, garlic, chilli or pimentón, sherry and olive oil together in a bowl and mix to coat the prawns.
Pour into an ovenproof dish, or divide between 4-6 small ones.
Cook for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size of the dish or dishes, until pink and sizzling.
Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with crusty bread and lemon wedges.
Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette)
This yummy classic recipe is served as tapas in bars all over Spain, simply cut into squares and served on cocktail sticks.
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
275g small Desirée potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
5 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Once sliced, pat the potatoes dry with a clean tea towel.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan until smoking hot, add the potatoes and onions, toss to coat and reduce heat to its lowest setting. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook gently for 20 minutes until tender, shaking from time to time to prevent the vegetables from browning too much.
Meanwhile, lightly whisk the eggs in a large bowl, taking care not to overbeat, then season.
When the onions and potatoes are cooked, pour them to the eggs in the bowl. Put the pan back on a medium heat, adding the rest of the oil. Mix the potatoes, onions and eggs thoroughly then pour into the frying pan, reducing the heat to its lowest setting
Slowly cook, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes. When nearly all the liquid egg has gone from the surface, cover the pan completely with a plate and turn the omelette out onto it, before gently easing it back into the pan to cook the other side. Cook for a further 2 minutes, remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes.
Serve hot or cold, cut into small cubes and speared with cocktail sticks.