In our continuing recap from Sean’s trip to Andalucía, we begged him for tapas recipes. These are three simple tapas dishes you can create right now, with face turned toward a bit of sun and blushing from a glass or two of something strong. -Maggie
Traditionally, tapas would have been no more than a slice of ham or cheese, but it has developed into a whole culinary movement.
Tapas can be anything from perfectly thin ibérico ham to an elaborate octopus terrine to a hearty farmer’s stew. For me, it was strangely refreshing to see a chef confident enough in his produce to serve it without garnish or flamboyance. Often a tapas plate would be nothing more than tissue-paper thin ham, or a few slices of aged goat’s cheese or flash-fried morcilla (Spanish blood sausage), and nothing more was needed on the plate, the flavours were beautiful.
Then there were dishes that showed off the chef’s ability: things like hot salt-cod fritters, or miniature paella, or a beautifully sweet and sour escabesche with sardines. And it continues because nothing is wasted in Spain. The recent trend of ‘nose-to-tail’ eating in our cuisine has been the norm in Spain for centuries. It’s interesting to see crispy pig’s ears, stuffed trotters, or braised lamb’s tongue as common options on menus. A Spanish butcher would sell out on a Saturday; an American butcher probably wouldn’t even stock such cuts.
Many of the dishes and processes of Andalucía are left over from when Spain was a poor nation: salt-curing, pickling and preserving are all processes that waste nothing; dishes such as gazpacho, fish soups and rice-stuffed vegetables are created with nothing but cheap, in-season vegetables and stocks. The Spanish are experts at creating dishes that become more than the sum of their parts. Things like battered lemon leaves, cold almond soup or potato bravas sound like nothing… that is, until you try them.
It’s easy to take inspiration from a country like Spain. Walking past deli windows, watching bakeries stock their cabinets straight from the ovens, peering into family courtyards at Sunday lunch, driving past commercial orange or olive presses; there’s so much to take back to my own kitchen from a country so enthused with food. Some of the best tapas I tried needed no recipe – it’s all about relying on the best produce. The Spanish do not scrimp on food – they will always buy the best they can afford, be it olive oil, chorizo, paprika, cheese, seafood, mushrooms, honey, sea salt, vinegars and sherries. Of course, some Spanish produce is difficult to find back home, but below, I’ve borrowed and adapted a few tapas recipes perfect for alfresco lunches as we all head into spring.
Baked Goat’s Cheese
Such a simple dish on paper, but if you find a rich, salty goat’s cheese and a sweet little apple, the pairing is beautiful.
- 1 round goat’s cheese, about 7 ounces
- 1 dessert apple
- ½ teaspoon honey
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the apple and then cut the goat’s cheese in half with a hot knife.
- Scatter the apple over each half of the cheese, then put the cheese back together. Place the cheese in a heat-proof bowl or if it came in a wooden box, that’s perfect for baking.
- Sprinkle a few cubes of apple on to the top of the cheese, drizzle the honey and a quick splash of olive oil.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown and the centre is soft and gooey. Best to eat this with a bit of fresh bread, or crostini.
Blackened Padrón Peppers
Most padrón peppers are mild, but every once in a while you’ll get a fiery one. I suppose that’s the attraction to some.
- 7 ounces padron peppers
- Flaky sea salt
- Heat a large pan over a high heat. Once hot add a drizzle of olive oil and all the peppers.
- Cook for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the skins are blackened and blistered all over.
- Remove from pan and sprinkle a good bit of sea salt all over.
Clams, Chorizo & Tomatoes
Seafood is almost worshipped in Spain. Clams are always a popular snack, and tossed together with some super ripe tomatoes and spicy chorizo, a plate can quickly disappear.
- 10 ounces clams
- Handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- ½ chorizo or other spiced sausage, diced
- 0.8 fluid ounces of sweet sherry
- 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
- Sort through the clams and discard any that are not tightly closed. Rinse them in cold water.
- Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a touch of oil. Add the chorizo and fry for 2 minutes until the juices turn red.
- Add the clams, tomatoes and half the parsley. Then add the sherry and the same amount of water. Season with black pepper and toss the pan occasionally until the clams have opened.
- Any that have not fully opened should be discarded. Sprinkle over the remaining parsley and serve.
Photos taken and styled by Sean.
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