Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tapas for Bloggers Around the World

I have been very slow to wake up to the delights of Spanish cuisine and in particular just how perfect tapas meals are for folks like me who much prefer to graze than restrict themselves to one main dish. Tapas is for me, the ideal tasting menu, you get to choose exactly what you are going to eat and in what order, perfect!

So I finally discovered this huge culinary omission from my life during a short trip to Seville earlier this summer.  Being a small city, Seville is a easy to walk around and we went in May when it was warm but not too warm. I am now dreaming of living somewhere where orange trees just grow in the streets, whole families sit around tapas bars till late in the evening eating and drinking while their children play happily around them; it was all such a beautiful experience.

I cannot hope to recreate the warm friendly buzz of those packed tapas bars back at home but I can hope to learn how to prepare some of the food. To that end I was checking out all of the cookbook sections in the Seville book stores to see what the Spanish might be cooking from, and was particularly taken by a rather modern looking title:
As I do not know more than a few words of Spanish I am relying very heavily on translating each word as I go along, which is slow, but the recipes are quite brief. Many of the tapas dishes in this book remind me of some rather wonderful food we had at restaurant La Azotea which was mentioned in the trip report written by David Lebovitz that inspired me to go to Seville in the first place. Despite our lack of Spanish we were made to feel welcome in all of the places we went to eat, but the staff at La Azotea were particularly warm and friendly, and the food was wonderful. Within minutes of them opening it was standing room only, but somehow they kept track of everything, and everyone, and when I wasn't focusing on the excellent food I was eating, I was mesmerised watching the staff managing the chaos with charm and ease. Actually a few of the places we went were just as busy and just as slick at dealing with it; I couldn't help thinking about experiences back in the UK and wishing they were not so far removed from this.
So my first dish from my new book 'Pintxos' was a simple 'croute' of red pepper, blue cheese and toasted almonds, shown on the mixed plate above at the back.  I used Cornish Blue, a cheese which is a quite fresh and mild blue, that I much prefer to many stronger blue type cheeses. I can get this cheese quite easily in North Devon but it is also available online from the producer.

Cornish Blue Cheese
The croute is a 1cm thick slice of a multi-seed baguette. This is topped with a piece of roasted red pepper which has been marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. The blue cheese recommended is roquefort which I used the second time but really much preferred the Cornish blue. The amount of cheese allowed for each croute in the recipe is 30g but I used a little less. The cheese is sliced to sit in one piece on top of the pepper and then about 8 grams of toasted almonds are sprinkled on top of the cheese. The retained juices from marinating the peppers are then drizzled on top. The recipe used nibbed almonds but I just had pin almonds in my cupboard and was too lazy to chop them up.

The combination of sweep pepper salty tangy cheese and toasted almonds was unusual but really good.
The other tapas dish that I made for this meal was a tiny portion each of fresh pea and ham soup. I had recently picked the last peas from a small patch in my garden and found some quite mature pods in amongst the more tender ones. I put these slightly more floury peas aside and used them for this soup.
This was really very basic, just the podded peas cooked until tender in some ham stock that I had kept from cooking a ham joint earlier in the week. The peas and stock were then liquidized and sieved to obtain a perfectly smooth soup. To serve, the tiny cup of soup was garnished with some cubes of ham sizzled briefly in butter and added just before serving.  I really like soups served this way in small portions but with intense flavours.
The rest of my tapas plate was pretty much served as bought, Spanish ham, olives, ripe beefsteak tomato and good tinned tuna, prawns, and those lovely little bread sticks we were served everywhere in Seville which I managed to find in my local Marks & Spencer food section.

So I am submitting my Tapas meal to the Bloggers Around the World August food challenge where Christian has already posted up some of his own wonderful tapas dishes .


  1. Lovely tapas plate! I have to try the croute, I like the combination, especially with the cheese. Well, a trip to Seville sounds lovely, too. Thanks for joining us for Bloggers Around the World this month.

  2. Ooh I'm going to make your pepper tapas some time Jill. Cornish Blue is my favourite blue and is just up the road (sort of). You know it one the World's best cheese a couple of years ago? Tapas / Mezze style meals are my favourite too as I like to try lots of little bits. But I find them generally too time consuming to make, so don't do it very often.