The word “tapa” is Spanish for pot cover but “tapas” also refes to small food appetisers Spanish bars serve with drinks. After work, the Spanish flock to bars for their tapas to tide them over until dinner, which is not until about 10pm. One or more types of bread are usually available to eat with any of the sauce-based tapas.
Tapas originated in the middle ages when inn keepers served up samples or small portions of the food they had on offer instead of menus (because innkeepers were very often illiterate). A bar or a small local restaurant will have about eight to 12 different kinds of tapas on offer which are served with sliced bread. They are often very strongly flavored with garlic, chillies or paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron and often lots of olive oil. One or more of the choices are usually seafood such as sardines, octopus, prawns or others in tomato-based sauce with seasonings.
Here are some of my favourite tapas I can remember from my time in Marbella, on the Costa del Sol south of Malaga. When I lived there, it was only a small town but famous for its five-star celebrity resort Marbella Club and the nearby luxury marina Puerto Banus. The ride from Malaga was on a dual lane country road, passing through a charming country side dotted with small villages. Unfortunately, that road now is a multi-lane highway passing through kms and kms of one long urban sprawl.
– Eva Wiland
Albondigas in Salsa
Albondigas is a must on the tapas menu. The word albondiga comes from Arabic “al-búnduga”, meaning “hazelnut”, referring to the shape of the meatballs. Today’s albondigas are bigger, reflecting our improved living standards since the Middle Ages. There are as many albondiga recipes as there are chefs and the sauces also vary. Here is my take:
1/4 cup reduced fat cooking cream
2 tblsp Champagne or sparkling white (optional)
1/2 cup of snipped chives or herb of
your choice: parsley, chervil, dill, basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sea salt to taste
Utensils: non-stick saucepan or microwave dish/CorningWare pot with cover; whisk; vegetable knife; spoon
Time: Under 10 minutes
- Add butter, eggs and cooking cream in saucepan on stove at high heat.
- When the butter is melted, turn heat to low and whisk until well blended.
- When the eggs start to thicken, add seasoning and turn off heat. At this time, add the Champagne, fold in herbs with a spoon and cover.
- Alternatively, put butter in microwave dish, cover and melt in on high in the microwave for 20 seconds or until melted. Break eggs into the bowl, whisk in cream and add the Champagne.
- Cover and cook in microwave on high for one minute.
- Remove from microwave, stir egg carefully, shifting the cooked parts at the edges into the middle. Return to microwave, stir and cook in increments of 30 seconds and then 10 seconds until cooked but still soft, and fold in herbs.
- The egg should finish up fluffy but still soft. Cover and stand for one minute, season and serve with buttered slices of toast or English muffins.
Chorizo in Cider
1 tblsp extra virgin oil
1 clove garlic
3 cups apple cider 1 tblsp continental parsley, finely chopped
Utensils: Cutting board; chef’s knife; heavy-bottom skillet; wooden spoon.
Time: 20 minutes
- Cut chorizo in 10mm thick slices. Heat frypan on medium. Pour oil into skillet and heat to medium. Add chorizo slices and fry until they start to brown.
- Add cider and finely grate garlic into pan and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the cider has reduced by one-third.
- Place in earthware tapas bowls, sprinkle parsley on top and serve while still hot
Strictly, not a tapa, guacamole – a Latin American dip – can still be added to the tapas table.
1/4 onion or 1/2 brown shallot
1 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice or lime juice
2 tblsp light sour cream or creme fraiche
A few drops of Tabasco or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Sea salt to taste
Utensils: mixing bowl, fork, grater, juice squeezer
Time: 10 minutes
- Slice avocado in two, remove the stone, scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl. Break it up with a fork until smooth. Grate the onion or shallot into the bowl, add lemon or lime juice and mix.
- Stir in cayenne or Tabasco and sour cream or creme fraiche. Squeeze lemon or lime juice on top and serve with corn chips or slices of ciabatta.
Manchego with RosemAry
Manchego is a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of Manchego sheep. It is aged from 60 days to two years. Aged Manchego has a nutty flavour.
1 tblsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tblsp extra virgin oil
Utensils: Cutting board; cheese knife
Time: 5 minutes
- Cut Manchego in 5mm thick, small wedges, sprinkle with rosemary and drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top.
- Serve on a colourful platter with toothpicks.