Welcome to Weathercraft Winery Kitchen. With vintage 2020 lost to bushfire smoke and everyone now in isolation, we have a lot more time on our hands! So, we decided to get creative and think of ways to share our vineyard and winery with you at home. In this cooking series, Raquel will share some of the Spanish dishes she grew up with. The recipes will be presented in super simple ways for you to try at home.
Originating in Andalucia in the south and synonymous with Spain, ‘tapas’ are small servings of larger traditional dishes (usually eaten with a fork) and served alongside an aperitif in bars across the country. In the north of Spain, you will discover ‘pintxos’, being a snack sized serving atop a piece of bread or on a cocktail stick – easily eaten in a bite or two.
Tapa (pronounced: [ˈtaa – puh’]) literally means ‘cover’. Legend has it that tapas were used like ‘coasters’ on top of wine glasses to keep flies and insects out of drinks in 19th century Spain. Practicality at its finest! Another theory is when Alfonso X el Sabio was the king of Spain, he forbade all taverns from serving alcohol if it was not served alongside a small amount of food in a bid to prevent drunkenness.
Whatever the origin, this wonderful tradition – born from necessity – has not only continued, but has been adopted the world over. Spaniards usually eat tapas before lunch or dinner to whet the appetite. When serving several different tapas at home however, an array of dishes can be plentiful enough to create a complete meal – without the stress of planning a sit-down formality #lovethat #yesplease!
Fabulous Tapas Party Menu
The perfect theme for any gathering, which will be sure to delight and surprises your guests. Whether enjoyed in the heat of summer or the cold of winter, the possibilities are limitless. This week I will share with you a few easy dishes you can easily ‘throw’ together to amaze your guests.
MY 5 SIMPLE TAPAS (some background on each to really impress your friends! – recipes further down)
1. The Gilda is a classic example of a Catalan pintxo and for me, this is San Sebastian on a cocktail stick! A super simple, bite-size skewer to put together, but one that packs an awesome flavour punch. This pintxo is a nod to Rita Hayworth’s signature role in the movie ‘Gilda’. The reason being that the pintxo was ‘verde, salado y picante’ (green, salty and spicy) and the tagline for the film being ‘There never was a woman like Gilda.’ I would venture to say ‘There never was a tapa like Gilda!’ Too cheesy? Perhaps … but give this tapa a try and see what you think 🙂
2. Gambas Al Ajillo (Garlic Prawns) are delicious, moorish prawns, and are one of the most requested dishes in Spanish bars but this garlicky, oil-based version is mostly found in Madrid and the south of Spain. The Catalan version of these prawns is more often cooked plain and salted ‘a la plancha’ – (on a hot griddle).
3. Perrechicos Fritos (Sautéed Mushrooms) Many consider the use of mushrooms by the Catalan people to be essential to their identity. This is because Catalan cuisine is based on foraging and using what nature provides. Mushroom foraging is like a religion! Interestingly, for all their gastronomical finesse, the French do not use a lot of mushrooms. This recipe can showcase almost any mushroom! I’ve used button mushrooms because they’re easy to find and can be cooked easily in their whole form without the need for slicing, but you can use whatever mushroom you like!
4. Pimientos Asados (Roasted Peppers) The mere mention of pimientos del piquillo to a Spaniard, is enough to make their mouth water. Small, dark red morsels of spicy goodness. In Australia, fresh piquillo peppers can be hard to find to roast at home. This dish is an homage to the Spanish pepper using locally grown red capsicum, that when roasted, peeled and marinated with garlic, salt and olive oil are … for me … nothing short of divine! *Hint* they taste better the next day or after a few hours, so make ahead, save time and be rewarded!
5. White (or Green!) Asparagus, Jamón and Mayonnaise Another classic Spanish pintxo! Did you know that white asparagus is white because it is grown underground? Great care is taken to not expose the vegetable to any sunlight as that could turn them green. My favourite Spanish white asparagus comes from Navarre and are cultivated on the banks of the river Ebro. They are smooth in texture with hardly any fibres and a perfect balance of smoothness and bitterness on the palate. I understand that white asparagus may be difficult to source in Australia, so this recipe can easily be made with regular green asparagus.
All recipes are to serve 6 dinner party guests.
You may recall I previously posted a few recipes that could be used to add even more flare to your Fabulous Tapas Party menu. For easy access to these recipes, I’ve shared the links below. These additional recipes do require a little more time, but are great if you’re looking for one or two more substantial dishes to ‘carry you through’ from lunch to dinner for those times when friends are having so much fun they stick around!! #beentherebefore 🙂
LINKS TO PREVIOUS RECIPES FOR SOME ‘EXTRA’ TAPAS!
- Spanish Tortilla – Potato Omelet
- Patatas Bravas – Fierce Potatoes
- Coca – Spanish Pizza
- Escalivada – Ash-Roasted Vegetables
- Croquetas de Jamòn – Ham Croquettes
LAS CONSERVAS – THE SPANISH ART OF CANNED FOOD
Something you’ll notice if you’re looking for new recipes to try or if you’re trying to learn more about Spanish cuisine is that Spanish cooking incorporates quite a bit of preserved foods. From vegetables to fish and cured meats, food preservation in Spain dates back to Roman times. “Las Conservas” (as preserves are called) are the fast food of Spain and were born not only from a need to ‘keep’ food for times when there was little to eat but to take advantage of the very best that the harvest has to offer —- without wasting a morsel! Conservas in Spain are a delicacy, and whether served in the best bar or a Michelin-star restaurant – these canned goods are proudly sold – for their contents represent the best offering the producer has saved for preserving.
Many of these conservas are key ingredients in classic tapas dishes, and luckily in Australia, most are available in supermarkets or specialty delicatessens. Feel free to add some Spanish stuffed olives with cubes of manchego cheese, or some pickled anchovies with some crusty bread or my favourite: fat, white asparagus with some quality egg-mayonnaise. These will bulk-up your dinner party offering without stress and it will look like you’ve gone all out for your guests!
Yields: 12 pintxos (two per person)
Gluten free (if using GF bread)Read More