Tapas - A Spanish favourite with everyone.

Selection of dishes that I cooked with my family I do cookery lessons with. They absolutely loved them and the Kale salad with Manchego and anchovies became a new favourite.

Tapas has an endless list of possibilites for you can can create and eat.

The word "tapas" is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, "to cover".  As small plates of bread, meat or almonds were placed on top of sherry glasses to stop the fruit flies from getting to the sweet sherry.  This was a purely practical process on two levels, firstly the flies and scondly the meat or almonds were usually salty and therfore increased thirst, resulting in increased drinks sales. Win!

In time the tapas became as imoprtant as the sherry and developed into more elaborate dishes giving us what we know today as the endless, delicious food possibilities and combinations that we all love.

Whether it's a traditional Spanish omelete/tortilla, olives, seafood, morcilla, chorizo, salted almonds, cheese, vegetables.  Aselection of a few of these dishes can make a fantastic sociable meal for all the family and ensures there will be something that everyone likes to eat.

Another strong influence within tapas, other Spanish food and food from other countries that border the northern coast of the Mediterranean is the influence of the Moors, muslim people that lived in the Iberian Penincula, Sicily, Maghreb and Malta during the middle ages.  Initially Maghrebine Berbers, but the name later also applied to Arabs.  So the introduction of spices like cumin, saffron, pimenton (paprika), chilli, coriander became synnonymous with Spanish food and also a huge influence on their culture and Architecture.

The dishes that I'm going to feature in this blog are -

  •  Roasted chickpeas with peppers.
  •  Warm kale, almond and anchovy salad.
  •  Spanish omelette.
  •  Patatas Bravas.
  •  Pan roasted seabas with peppers and olives.

 

A great side dish to go with meat, fish or other vegetarian food or a quick and simple meal in it's self.

Ingredients - 5 portions approx

1 tbsp olive oil

410g tin chickpea, drained and rinsed

250g jar roasted mixed pepper, drained and roughly chopped

Handful coriander leaves, Parsley, Mint, chopped

1 clove garlic crushed

1 tsp sweet Paprika      

salt and pepper                                                                                        

Method

Tip the chickpeas into the pan with some olive oil and the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until hot.

Add the peppers and cook for a few minutes until everything's juicy. Remove from the heat, stir in the coriander, mint and parsley.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon into serving dish.                             

Notes

You can top with a spoonful of yoghurt, aioli, crème fraiche, sour cream if desired.  Other spices could be added like cumin, turmeric, chilli to alter the desired flavour.  This dish could also be done with any other tinned bean.        

Warm Kale, Anchovy and Almond salad.

Stunningly tasty warm salad dish.

Ingredients - 5 portions approx

1 red onion, sliced

2 tsp vegetable oil

200g kale, large stalks removed, leaves roughly torn

1 tin anchovies

3 celery sticks, thinly sliced on an angle

Shavings of Manchego cheese, to serve (optional)

For the dressing

2 tbsp sherry vinegar (other vinegar can be used, but the sherry vinegar gives such a good flavour)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

pinch of sugar

2 tbsp raisins

For the almonds

2 tbsp whole blanched almonds (flaked can be used)

½ tsp vegetable oil

good pinch of sweet smoked paprika                                                                                             

Method

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Toss the red onion with 1 tsp oil on a large non-stick baking tray. Roast for 10 mins, stirring halfway, until starting to soften and turn golden here and there.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, mustard, sugar and some seasoning together to make the dressing, then tip in the raisins and leave to soak.

In a smaller roasting tin, toss the almonds, oil, paprika and a pinch of sea salt.

Rub the kale all over with 1 tsp vegetable oil and some seasoning.

Remove the onion tray from the oven, mix in the kale and celery (it’s fine if it mounds a bit), then return the tray to the oven and put the almonds on the shelf below. Roast for 7 mins, giving the kale a turn halfway through, until crisp in some places, wilted in others.

Chop the anchovies. Tip the kale, onion and celery into the dressing bowl, make sure it coats the kale well, then mound on to a plate/bowl, top with the anchovies scatter with the almonds and the cheese, if using.                                              

Notes

Other vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, aubergine could be used for this.  The anchovies can be omitted as well if desired.  The original recipe used Serano ham and not anchivies.  Both work really well, it just depends on your personal choice.

Spanish Omelette - Tortilla.

Spanish omelette with potato and onion.

Ingredients - 5 portions approx

1 large white onion, sliced

4 tbsp olive oil

25g butter

400g waxy potatoes, peeled, quartered and finely sliced

6 garlic cloves

8 eggs, beaten

handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra to serve

To serve (optional)

1 baguette, sliced

4 vine tomatoes, peeled and coarsely grated

drizzle of olive oil                                                                             

Method

Put a large non-stick frying pan on a low heat. Cook the onion slowly in the oil and butter until soft but not brown – this should take about 15 mins. Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes (if using) by scoring the skins with a cross, putting them in a bowl and pouring over just-boiled water. Drain the water after 2-3 mins and the skins will peel away easily. You can then coarsely grate them.

Add the potatoes to the pan, then cover and cook for a further 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally to make sure they fry evenly. When the potatoes are soft and the onion is shiny, crush 2 garlic cloves and stir in, followed by the beaten eggs.

Put the lid back on the pan and leave the tortilla to cook gently. After 20 mins, the edges and base should be golden, the top set but the middle still a little wobbly. To turn it over, slide it onto a plate and put another plate on top, turn the whole thing over and slide it back into the pan to finish cooking.

Once cooked, transfer to a plate and serve the tortilla warm or cold, scattered with the chopped parsley. To accompany the tortilla, take slices of warmed baguette, stab all over with a fork and rub with the remaining garlic, pile on the grated tomatoes and season with sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil                                   

Notes

Other vegetables can be used other than potatoes.  Spinach, roasted squash, roasted peppers are just a few options.  The egg mix can also be spiced up to your taste.           

Patatas Bravas.

Patats Bravas - A real Spanish classic, the combination of the piquant tomato sauce and the crispy potatoes is a crowd pleaser if ever there was one.

So different from what I saw in Tenerife once. It was one of those classic places with a picture menu at the entrance and I saw it said Patatas Bravas and a translation saying it was chips and tomato ketchup!! I truly couldn't believe it, certainly not my idea of the dish. They should be smokey, spicy and the sauce almost sticky as the natural sugars from the onions and tomato concentrate.

Ingredients - 5 portions approx

For the sauce

3 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato purée

2 tsp sweet paprika (pimenton)

1 Red Chilli (as much as you wish)

Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

For the potatoes

900g potatoes, cut into small cubes

2 tbsp olive oil                                                                                               

Method

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion for about 5 mins until softened. Add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, sweet paprika, chilli and a pinch of salt, then bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Lower to a simmer and cook for 10 mins until pulpy. Can be kept chilled for several days.

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Pat the potatoes dry with kitchen paper, then tip into a roasting tin and toss in the olive oil and some seasoning. Roast for 20-30 mins until crisp and golden. Tip the potatoes into serving dishes and spoon over the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with some fresh parsley to serve.                            

Notes

A great side to any meal and can be spiced differently to suit other styles of cooking.    

Pan Roasted seabass with peppers and olives.

Ingredients - 5 portions approx

5 Seabass Fillets

Salt

Extra virgin olive oil

1 Green Pepper, cored and chopped

1 Red Pepper, cored and chopped

1 red onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

100g pitted olives, halved or chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 tbsp ground coriander

1/2 tbsp garlic powder

1 tsp Sweet Spanish paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp black pepper                                                                                              

Method

Take the fish out of the fridge about 20 minutes before cooking. Sprinkle with salt on both sides and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the spices to make the spice mixture. Set aside for now.

In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking.

Add the peppers, red onion, and garlic. Season with salt and 1 tsp of the spice mixture you prepared earlier. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes or until the peppers have softened. Turn the heat to lowest, and stir in the chopped olives. Leave on low heat as you prepare the fish.

Pat fish dry and season with the remaining spice mixture on the flesh side.

In a large frying pan, heat 50ml  extra virgin olive oil over medium-high until shimmering but not smoking. Add the fish fillets skin side down Push down on the middlefor 30 seconds or so. Cook fish on one side, undisturbed, until nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn fish over and cook on other side 10 seconds, turn off the heat.

Remove fish from heat, immediately drizzle lemon juice. Serve hot with the pepper medley.                                

Notes

Substitute the Bass for another fish of your choice or the likes of king prawns, squid or octopus.  You could also use thin escalops of chicken, turkey or pork loin or fillet, even lamb chops would work well for this dish.

This video shows how to cook the bass. You can see that most of the cooking has been done skin side down and when the fillets are flipped over I turn the heat off almost instantly. They would then be removed to the plate and the residual heat continues to cook them. That is why it is so important for them not to be overcooked on the flesh side.