A lot of people visit this blog thinking food because of the name and, although the obviously fantastic content drags them in and they keep on coming back (yes, I’m feeling sarcastically modest today), I just thought I might as well have a section dedicated to the thing that brought them here and to show the sheer simplicity of the tapas world.
Tapas are easy, rewarding and, to be blatantly honest, you don’t even need good weather for them, just set the mood as you wish and off you go. From a picnic in the park, the garden, the riverside, the kitchen table or your living room floor, as long as you have the right ingredients (good produce, lovely people and good conversation) you are off to a rather good start.
Dot these around a table, if it’s a large table create two or more bowls/plates of each and place them at different ends where everyone can reach because you don’t serve tapas onto your plate, you get your fork or spoon and eat, eat, eat.
Tapas are a laid-back affair, they should bring laughter, joy, good conversation and a sense of being on holiday and feeling relaxed.
So, here you go, the lazy guide to tapas of the feisty variety. If you try any of them, make sure you come back soon to tell me and everyone all about it.
Let’s start with some easy ideas stolen from my Spanish Mothers’ Day post as well as a couple of updates.
– Fill a bowl with olives (you know, from that olive bar you have been eyeing up).
|What’s usually left of the chorizo in red wine, i.e. nothing|
– Slice some thick chunks of chorizo sausage and fry them first on their
own to release some juices and then add some red wine and let it
bubble. Make sure you peel the chorizo first, at least that is the way I
prefer it, I don’t like nasty surprises.
– Make croquetas, delicious béchamel-based bites, how about Porcini Croquetas, sounds good, eh? They are heavenly!
– Get or make pita bread and make the most of the chorizo with these: Hummus and chorizo pita pockets.
– Buy a tin/jar or two of anchovies and place them in pretty bowls or get a bit fancy and make these Little Gem Lettuce with Anchovies which are perfect if you have just made the chorizo above.
– Buy some manchego or idiazábal or any other Spanish cheeses that you can find, that’s a couple more dishes sorted. In fact, get a few cocktail sticks, dice the cheese, roll an anchovy on top, you are sorted for another platter. you can also do the same but topping it with the chorizo (it’s a fantastic combination).
– Get nice crusty bread (to dip in the chorizo’s lovely wine sauce and to put the anchovies on), for instance.
– Buy some Spanish meats: jamón serrano or ibérico, chorizo, lomo, salchichón, fuet. Whatever you can get your hands on.
– Make a Spanish potato omelette (tortilla de patatas), easy peasy with your Thermomix.
– Buy a few tins or jars of sardines, lay them over sliced boiled
potatoes, some people add raw onion to it. It will depend on how well
your tummy and breath deal with that.
– A sliced Crustless Quiche in the Thermomix is really easy and tasty and perfect with a salad, keep reading for salad ideas.
– Make a mixed salad: buy a prepared bag, empty it in a bowl with some
cherry tomatoes, cheese (cheddar, feta, whatever you have handy), tuna, olives, sliced onion, boiled egg…
anything goes where salad is concerned. My favourite homemade dressing
is: a garlic clove stamped on bluntly with the hand a few times, good
extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar and grain mustard, put it in one
of those handy bottles for making salad dressings or in a jar, cover and
shake really well. Adapt the measurements to your liking, whether you
like more the flavour of vinegar, of good olive oil or of mustard.
– While we are on the subject of salads, how about a nice Mixed potato salad with feta, coriander and chilli? Easy peasy in the Thermomix.
– Well, since you already bought a whole bunch of potatoes, how about the Spanish classic Patatas Bravas? Here
you have my recipe for the Thermomix. I use boiled potatoes to keep it
slightly healthier but the original way is to use cubed potatoes fried
in olive oil.
– Garlic and serrano ham mushrooms make a great tapa, increase all the ingredients proportionally to cater for the hordes or make a small plate just for yourself, you can have tapas on your own too!
– Padrón peppers, here you can find my post on how to cook them.
|Cannellini beans with chorizo: perfect quick lunch in front of PC|
– Is the weather getting you down? Do you need a hot dish? Open a can or two of cannellini beans, slice some chorizo and get some mixed herbs (or fresh herbs of your choice if you’re going to the shop). Dry fry the chorizo for a few minutes, it will release lovely oil, add the beans, simmer for a few minutes so that they warm up and serve. I sometimes add chopped fresh tomato to this one and sometimes chopped tomato from a can. This one is perfect comfort food for a quick lunch.
– Spanish Lentil Stew (Lentejas) with its paprika flavours is another perfect candidate for the cooler weather.
– Finally, get a good Spanish wine, a good Tempranillo if you fancy red wine or Albariño if you are more in the mood for a dry white wine. Or a beer, see if you can get your hands on a few Estrella Galicia.
You don’t have to do all of these, they are just suggestions for you to mix&match.
Lay it on the table really nicely and serve with Spanish flair.
A few words that may come in handy: a la mesa (basically short
for come on you lot I have just slaved over a hot stove for hours and I
need you all to sit down and tell me that you like it).
And yes, this is how we eat at the Tapas household quite often, I love that my husband has taken so well to it.
Lots of Feisty Tapas love,
PS – No shiny sombreros allowed (they’re Mexican!).
Just before Christmas Mr Tapas took me out on a date in London, fully organised ahead of time and he knew exactly where he was taking me too: Tapas Revolution. This is not a regular occurrence for us.
I already mentioned this Spanish paradise in London and the man behind it, Omar Allibhoy, in a previous post about Olives from Spain, an initiative backed by him.
|Christmassy view from the top, we got lost but we found it|
There was the Christmas rush, there was an ice rink, I didn’t mind either as we looked for Tapas Revolution, a search that took us a little while as it didn’t seem to be signposted anywhere but, as we say in Spain, preguntando se llega a Roma (basically meaning that, by asking, you’ll find your way).
Mr Tapas asked me on the way what I fancied eating, for some reason I had a craving for croquettes, the Spanish kind with bechamel inside, the best way to use leftover meat (or even eggs that need eating soon by boiling them and making them part of the filling). Croquetas are something that I haven’t mastered yet but I that I might one day, although to be honest, once you have prepared the mixture and before dividing and breadcrumbing it, it’s all just so tempting sitting there. Who doesn’t like bechamel?
Anyway, I was a tad disappointed to find out that there were no croquetas
but quite impressed with the layout, the décor, the selection of food on the menu
and the service so we were off to a good start and I soon forgot all
about them. We chose to share the Chef’s Choice set menu: Jamón serrano de Teruel (Spanish cured ham), Pan con tomate (toasted bread, tomato, garlic and olive oil), Pulpo a la gallega (octopus with potatoes and paprika), Paella de marisco (seafood paella), Pinchos morunos (marinated beef skewers), Tortilla de patatas (potato omelette) and Chorizo al horno (oven-roasted chorizo), £15.50 per person.
It was all served promptly and the tortilla de patatas (potato omelette) was exactly how I like it, very spongy and not at all dry. Perfect for a bocadillo in fact! Take-away Bocadillos de tortilla de patatas are already included on the menu and at £3.95 they would spice up those boring weekday lunches for office workers. Omar, any chance of stalls all around the country selling Bocadillos de tortilla, Bocadillos de jamón serrano, Bocadillos de calamares…? In the colder months you could add Chocolate con churros to the mix. Go on, you know it’s a brilliant idea, I might just start a “Bring the chiringuito to the UK” campaign.
We were amazed by the large amount of staff but to me this was key as, together with the decoration, it was giving it the real vibe of a Tapas joint: speed of service and hustle and bustle (and not just the one happening behind us in Westfield Shopping Centre, which was surprisingly easy to block out). Our waiter, a young Spanish lad (how English do I sound?!), was really efficient and, to show just how tiny the world is, he turned out to be from my hometown, Vigo!
I had mentioned that I was going to @tapasrevolution on Twitter and Omar
had mentioned that he would be there so to let someone know when we
arrived, which I did. He came to see us briefly and we had a quick chat, I mentioned how he needs to add croquetas to the menu and that I would like to see him more on TV, bringing young Spanish cooking to my favourite cooking show, Saturday Kitchen, not that I’m biased or anything but we do love that programme in the Tapas household.
|Chocolate con churros, essential ordering material|
He actually popped by to see us again before we left and to check how we were finding everything, which I thought was a lovely touch. He made sure that we ordered the Chocolate con churros before we left so we did and I am so glad we did, a tiny bit of Spanish heaven was all mine for a few seconds (well, I had to share it with Mr Tapas of course). I asked whether they did it to take away and they do, so if you’re ever nearby and haven’t got time to stop for long, make sure you order some to take away and have a sweet few minutes with them at home. Thick Spanish chocolate, sugary deep fried dough, what’s not to love?
|Un cafelito, coffee in a tumbler, caffeinated bliss!|
The finishing touch to a lovely afternoon came with the bill or rather the lack of it, our Galician waiter handed my husband, who had his card ready to pay, the bill and indicated we were invited and the only thing we were being charged for was the Cola Cao that at the last minute I decided to buy for my daughter, it’s the Spanish hot chocolate that I grew up with and that she now has for her meriendas. We were a bit puzzled. Omar, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for making a lovely date with my husband so special.
Next time you’re either in Westfield or Bluewater, make sure you stop to “eat like a Spaniard”.
PS: Querido Omar, please open one of these, either “Tapas Revolution” or “Tapas Revolution goes mobile” (or “on wheels”?) in Cambridge, we promise to look after it.
All photos used in this post are mine therefore my own copyright.
When I was little I would leave my favourite ingredients of any meal, namely chorizo and olives, to one side of my plate in order to savour them properly at the end. During the week I would go to school from 9:00 to 13:15 and from 16:45 to 18:45 so in between there was time to go home for lunch. But every Wednesday I would have lunch at my grandparents place and every Wednesday we ate the same two courses in my honour: Macarrones con chorizo and Carne con aceitunas. Every week my uncle Juan would sit at the table in the chair next to mine and, knowing me well, he would eat the chorizo or olives that I left to one side to make me mad and, boy, would I get mad!
With time my tastebuds developed and I learnt that, if certain ingredients belong in a recipe, there probably is a reason for it and I should make a point of eating them all together. Now I’m a mummy it’s eat when you can and always with the certainty that the moment the food hits the plate baby will invariably wake up/whinge/need a nappy change, so it’s eat fast or else eat cold.
Throughout the years my search for good chorizo in the UK has progressed quite nicely, it basically went from not finding any and having to fly back from Spain with vacuum-packed chorizo stashed in my suitcase every time I visited the family to finding basic Revilla Chorizo de Puchero to the great find that is a place in London that stocks the proper stuff. In fact I have never been to this paradise (other than in my dreams), it was Mr Tapas who discovered it a couple of weeks ago and returned home triumphantly bearing remarkably well-chosen goodies and especially proud of the “chorizo gallego” he had managed to find. He was proud of the fact that it was gallego (i.e. from Galicia) because that is the region I come from and therefore the region of Spain we most visit.
When we found out he was going to start working in Portobello, one of the first things I said was: “I’ve heard there is a Spanish supermarket there!”. I meant R García and Sons but instead he found a place called La Plaza and he came home with some of my favourite things in the whole wide world: sliced lomo, sliced chorizo (both sweet and hot), cooking chorizo sausages, white asparagus and (yay!) proper pasta for Fideuá (I had been using macaroni but every time I prepared a Fideuá I complained about macaroni not being quite the right pasta for it).
Everything was fantastic quality, the cold meats were pretty much packed how I would expect them to be wrapped in a charcutería in Spain and the prices were very similar to what we would have paid in any English supermarket, in fact I am convinced that we got more quantity for the same price. I shall report further once I visit it in person.
If you can’t get to London, Revilla’s Chorizo de Pueblo (Puchero) is good to have in the cupboard as it lasts quite a while and it’s fantastic for quick sopas de fideos (soups with filini pasta), potajes (potages) or indeed pucheros. They are basically (pardon the pun) perfect for a quick bowl of comfort food. I have found it in Waitrose and in Sainsburys in the past.
For something more special, Tesco’s cooking chorizo sausages are actually rather good too.
Some of my faux pas have included buying Waitrose’s Chorizo-style sausages (the clue was in the name) and trying to make a lentil stew with them. Waitrose was also a source of disappointment at Christmas when Mr Tapas bought some chorizo and jamón ibérico which tasted mainly of the plastic it was packed in, having worked out the price per slice we were rather outraged. Don’t get the wrong idea, I love Waitrose and have bought plenty of excellent quality ingredients there in the past but it failed us in this department.
I think La Plaza will remain my preferred supplier of chorizo for now.
Have you discovered any good places to buy good chorizo, either sliced or for cooking?