I know the concept behind tapas is to eat each dish as it is ready- picking at little morsels of delicious oily, salty and punchy delights to give all your taste buds a go on the flavour dodgems. A long evening should be spent savouring tapas with no where to be and sipping delicious wine in the summer sun. However, I decided to make a selection for dinner and couldn’t find the relaxing side of constantly running back and forth to the kitchen to fry a croquetas or bake some fresh bread or turn off one of 100 timers. So I made a selection all to be eaten and enjoyed together with some delicious wine. I won’t lie, my way took a strong organisation and a large accommodating hob but I managed it. In addition, I have a new found respect for tapas bars….the amount of work that goes into the prep to bring together all the aspects and flavours of just one small dish is huge,-all requiring those little details to make them perfect. I won’t be opening a tapas bar in the near future but what can be gained from this experiment is that 1) I LOVE tapas but will leave it to the experts and 2) I won’t be so horrified at the staggering prices of a few small tapas dish from now on as I venture out to dine thinking that ‘tapas is just a cheap meal right?’.
Croquetas (Makes about 9 large croquetas)
I first saw a recipe for these in a Jamie Oliver book which this recipe is based on but they are a common little tapas dish and various flavours and recipe derivatives can be found elsewhere. They are essentially a cheesy flavoured bechamel sauce that is cooled and set and rolled in breadcrumbs and fried so that the inside in a hot molten cheesy mixture hugged lovingly in a crispy coat. You can actually use anything to add flavour to the sauce such as different cheeses, smoked fish, anchovies, different herbs or spices. Go wild!
- 50g butter
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 75g plain flour ( and extra for coating)
- 300ml milk
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 50g hard cheese- Cheddar/Manchego, grated finely
- 3 slices of cooked smoked bacon/parma ham, chopped finely
- Handful of chives, chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 100g breadcrumbs
- Melt the butter and the oil in a pan over a low heat until liquid. Spoon by spoon, incorporate the flour and stir in until you have a thick paste.
- Add the milk, splash by splash stirring in vigourously until smooth and lump free. Once all the milk is added, keep on the heat and keep mixing to prevent lumps but to really thicken the sauce.
- Once thick, remove from the heat and stir in the nutmeg, lots of seasoning, the bacon, cheese and finally the chives.
- Place into a chilled bowl and pop int he fridge until set. (NOTE: Mine was a little loose for moulding into croquetas so I popped it in the freezer about 30 mins before using to make it easier to handle)
- Get 3 plates and add the beaten egg, flour and breadcrumbs to each.
- Use a spoon to scoop and roll croquetas of your cooled mixture. Coat in first the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Continue you have done all and then cover and chill.
- Heat some oil in a pan, or use a deep fryer. When hot enough, fry the croquetas until golden and crisp on the outside. Make sure it is not too hot or the outside will colour before the inside is warm.
- Drain on kitchen paper and scatter with flaky salt and serve immediately.
Morcilla Broad Beans
This recipe is open to quantities so as long as there is a nice balance it will taste great. Don’t skimp on the morcilla however as it adds bags of flavour and depth and feel free to use black pudding which works just as well.
- Morcilla, sliced
- Broad beans, boiled and podded
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- Heat a little oil in a frying pan and gently fry the red onion until soft
- Add the morcilla/black pudding slices and fry until cooked on each side.
- Tip in the broad beans and peas and stir to combine, breaking up the morcilla as you stir to distribute evenly. Season and then serve.
Crisp Cod and Smoky Aioli
- 2 cod fillets or any other firm fish
- Plateful of polenta (seasoned with salt and pepper)
- 1 egg, beaten
- Flour for coating
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 garlic clove, grated finely
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ lemon, zest
- 1tsp sweet smoked paprika
- About 250ml sunflower oil
- Flat leaf parsley for garnish
- Begin with the polenta coated cod which benefits from some time resting once coated. Skin the fish fillets and cut the fillets into chunky strips cutting with the ‘grain’/flakes.
- Get 3 plates and place the beaten egg, flour and seasoned polenta onto each.
- Coat the fish fillets in the flour, egg and then a good coating of polenta and then place the fillets on a polenta coated plate while you do the rest. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours once done to allow the polenta to swell a bit and form a good crust.
- For the aioli, place the egg yolks, lemon and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and turn it on to blend together. With the motor running slowly and constantly add the oil in a thin stream to allow the yolks and oil to emulsify.
- As it starts to thicken, add the paprika and some good seasoning and have a taste. Continue to add as much oil as you like to obtain a thin/thicker texture.
- When ready to serve, fry the fillets in a little hot oil with a knob of butter for a few minutes on each side until cooked with a golden crust. Serve immediately garnished with parsley and dipped indulgently into the aioli.
This is now my new favourite way to enjoy chorizo, partly due to this sweet tangy glaze that coats it here. The sauce is wonderful when used a dipping sauce for the olive pittas or some qwilling bread to mop up the juices like an edible sponge.
- 150g chorizo- raw or cooked
- 1 ½ tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp runny honey
- Large sprig of rosemary
- 3 large garlic cloves
- Cut the chorizo into chunky horizontal slices and fry in a hot pan (you can add a tiny drop of oil to get it going is needed).
- Peel and crush the garlic cloves coarsely with the back of a knife. If using cooking (raw) chorizo, make sure it is nearly cooked but if using cured chorizo, as it starts to colour and crisp add the garlic to the pan in the oily juices and fry for a few minutes.
- Add the picked rosemary leaves and fry for a few more minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add the sherry vinegar and the honey and stir to coat the chorizo.
- Return to the heat and very gently simmer the sauce until a little more syrupy and thick but not too reduced. Remove from the heat, cover and keep warm while you do the rest of your dishes as this one will keep.
- Serve with the olive pittas or some fluffy bread dipped into the beautiful oily juices
- See here for pittas recipe– Don’t add the nigella seeds but instead, add a good pinch of sweet smoked paprika.
- Once the dough has risen, add in a small handful of both chopped black olives and sun dried tomatoes.