When most people think of Spanish cuisine, they think of tapas, and why not? These little dishes are a fantastic excuse to sample as many tastes and flavours of dishes from all over Spain as you can manage, while encouraging the shared social environment which the small dish concept inspires. Unable to decide what large dishes to cook when I was over in Spain, and with no recipe books close to hand, I decided to opt for a few simple tapas dishes which I could remember off the top of my head and which are inspired by my own tapas experiences in Andalucia and beyond. Having cooked these tapas creations, you can then supplement your tapas feast with olives, bread with delicious olive oil and different flavoured dipping salts and platters piled high with fresh serrano hams and manchego cheese (see mine at the bottom). You’ll find yourself with way too much food (unless you’re feeding a small army), but the beauty with tapas is that much of it will last for days – bonus!
Great to kick of your evening as a moorish accompaniment to a glass of wine or two, these salted almonds are really easy to make. Take a baking tray and pour in enough olive oil to cover the base. Then throw into it (carefully – I’m not encouraging kitchen recklessness you do understand) 250g of blanched almonds, and sprinkle them with some good quality sea salt and a teaspoon of smoked pimenton. Give the whole lot a good toss, and place in the oven at 180 degrees c for around 20 minutes, tossing every so often during cooking. Be careful not to leave them in for too long – they may look ok on the outside but they can become burnt on the inside if the cooking is overdone.
Russian salad is a tapas staple in traditional tapas bars all over Spain. You can alter the amounts of ingredients below depending on how many you’re cooking for. This made enough for a good 6-8 small tapas-sized helpings.
Start by making your own mayonnaise (if you can be bothered). Whisk up a large egg with a teaspoon of dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar and half a teaspoon of salt. Then to this very very gradually whisk in 300ml of oil – for those who like a mild flavour, use sunflower oil, but for a traditional Spanish flavour, extra virgin olive oil is a must. Doing this in a food processor is definitely the easiest way, but for those like me who are in a little holiday home in Spain without the best equipped of kitchens, the good old balloon whisk and a determined wrist can still do the job. Once you have made a nice thick mayonnaise, squirt in the juice of half a lemon (to taste) and 1-2 crushed cloves of garlic.
Meanwhile have around 1kg of small new potatoes boiling away nicely (chop them as necessary so they’re roughly the same size). Once tender, leave to cool. Once the potatoes have reached room temperature you need to add a good 4-6 tablespoons of mayonnaise, two tins of tuna (preferably in oil), a one or two of cooked diced carrots and a good handful garden peas, 4-6 chopped gherkins, two tablespoons of capers and some chopped parsely. Then whack in a good dose of seasoning to taste, and play around with flavour – you can add more mayo, more garlic, more lemon, different herbs – whatever you like. I guarantee it will be delicious whatever you try (within reason – obv).