Tapas – The best accompany to wine and blow torches

According to the oracle that is Wikipedia the word “tapas” comes from 1500’s where the King of Spain passed a law that declared wine could only be sold in taverns if accompanied by food in an attempt to curb the rowdy behaviour of drunken patrons.  The thinking being that the portion of food would slow the effect of the alcohol. That wasn’t exactly my aim when I pulled some dishes together the other week, but they were all washed down with a nice glass of red. This is a bit of a long post but hope you stick with it because the finished product is pretty awesome!

Patatas Bravas
My overriding memory of bravas is on a 9 day stag do at a Spanish music festival, where it was pretty much part of the staple diet (partly because it was the only Spanish food we knew how to order).  I love this simple dish, especially when it has a good kick of chilli.

  • Couple of big potatoes
  • Can of decent chopped tomatoes – a can with big chunks is best
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Fresh chillies
  • Bunch or fresh parsley

Put enough oil in a dish to cover the bottom and place in a preheated oven. Peel and cube the potato and add to the pan of the now hot oil. Turn the spuds so they are well coated, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven.  Roughly chop the parsley, cut the garlic and chilli small and add to a bowl with the chopped tomatoes, mix well and then add half the parsley.  You can always add some tomato puree or tabasco at this point if you fancy. Once the potatoes have started to get a golden colour take out of the oven, move them around in the pan, turning the potato then cover with a generous helping of the tomato sauce and return to the oven.  Cook until potatoes and tender but crispy. Garnish with the rest of the parsley and a good grind of pepper.

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Patatas bravas

Hearty aubergine Stew (caponata)
This was my first time of trying this dish, but have always found aubergine and not too shabby alternative to meat so I figured it would be worth a punt. Fried until it has some decent colour and cooked through in a curry or stew type dish you could be forgiven for not missing some tender pieces of chicken… well nearly.

  • One large aubergine
  • Diced red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tomatoes
  • Large spoonful of capers
  •  Handful of green olives
  • Bunch of fresh parsley
  • Big shake of dried oregano
  • White wine vinegar (or herb vinegar if you can get it)

Cut the aubergine into big chunks, apparently cutting them too small will mean they suck up all the oil and taste rubbish, so don’t do that. Heat a large pan with some oil and drop in the aubergine chunks with the oregano and some salt and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes, turning them so they can take on an awesome golden colour.  Add in the onion and garlic and the stalks of the parsley, flipping it all in the pan to mix, it may need some extra oil if it’s looking dry. Add in the capers and a drizzle of vinegar.  Chop the tomatoes then add to the mix and then let cook for 10-15 mins.  Transfer to a suitable dish and finish with a sprinkle of roughly chopped parsley for some colour.

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Hearty aubergine stew

Stuffed bell peppers
My sister bought me a very nice but very middle-aged wallet for Xmas and ever since I’ve been paranoid that she sees me as her aging older brother.  I  recently confessed this to her ahead of my birthday in the hope that I could avoid the slippers/cardigan present combo.  Thankfully she took the hint and came up trumps with a masterchef apron and a blow torch!! What an awesome hybrid of manly fire tool and cooking gadget. Note that in this dish the peppers need to stand up on their own, which makes for an odd looking test in the supermarket.

  • Two bell peppers (enough for one each)
  • 1 large potato – mashed
  • Big dollop of Boursin cheese
  • 1 free range egg
  • Bunch of fresh chives

Carefully cut the tops off the peppers, put the ‘lids’ aside and remove the membrane (it’s a bit fiddly). To the mashed potato add the chives and the cheese, the original recipe calls for some fancier cheese but I’m not a massive cheese fan and Boursin works for me. I neglected to add the egg when I made mine, but actually I think it does add to the recipe so suggest you also add this to the potato mix with salt and pepper to season. Mix well and spoon the mixture into the peppers and replace the lids.  Sit the pepper on a baking tray and put in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Then the fun part… resting the peppers on the counter I took my new gadget and waved the intense flame across the skin of the pepper, it takes a bit of practice to figure out what distance to keep the flame but the effect is pretty immediate and gives the peppers a gorgeous BBQ’d taste.

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Fire stuffed peppers

Rustic tomato salad
From some reason every time I make this brilliant, but oh so simple salad I always manage to put the bread in the oven and forget about it, then have to salvage the unburnt bits from the blackened charcoal.  Cremation is optional but this is an awesome alternative to a standard green salad.

  • 1 Ciabatta  – torn in pieces
  • 2 or 3 ripe tomatoes
  • Handful of sun-dried tomatoes
  • Fennel seeds
  • Spoonful of capers – drained
  • Diced half a red onion
  • Big bunch of fresh basil
  • Red wine vinegar

Place the ciabatta chunks on an oven tray and drizzle with olive oil, rolling them about to coat. Sprinkle with rock salt, fresh ground pepper and fennel seeds then chuck under the grill to brown (don’t forget about them!) Roughly cut up the fresh tomatoes and place in a large serving bowl.  Add the capers, the red onion and the now golden bread chunks. Squeeze the excess oil from the sun-dried toms over the salad then tear and add to the mix along with a generous helping of basil leaves.  Then get your hands in there to mix it up, scrunching the breads a bit, making sure it is all properly combined and a bit rough and ready. Add a glug of good olive oil and red wine vinegar to dress.

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Grrrr rustic salad

Home made guacamole

Admittedly guacamole isn’t really a tapas dish but I love avocado and there is no substitute for a homemade alternative, the crap you get in shops isn’t more than a tasteless gloop. It needs to be chunky and full of lush avocado flavour.

  • Two ripe avocados – give ’em a good squeeze to check
  • Half a red onion
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • Lime juice

Remove the avocado’s skin and stones and cut into small cubes. Not sure where I heard it but rub the avocado with a bit of lime juice to avoid it going brown once you’ve removed the skin. Put the avocado in a bowl and break up with the back of a fork, you don’t need to mash it to a pulp, finding a big chunk of avocado is a big win. Chop the red onion and chilli very small and add to the bowl. Cut the tomatoes into small chunks and drop into a bowl with a small glug of lime juice.  Mix the whole lot together and taste, adding salt, pepper, chilli or more lime juice if needed… and that’s about it.

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Proper homemade guacamole

Phew! The result of all that is a pretty impressive spread of awesome tasting food (even if I do say so myself). The beauty of tapas is that you can chop and change the dishes, try different things, have a combination of veggie and meat dishes and make a real mess in the kitchen. 

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A proper tapas feast

Most of these recipes were pinched from various places including BBC food and Jamie Oliver, if you’d prefer to hear it from the experts the links are below (the Guac is all me!):

Bravas, Aubergine stew, Stuffed peppers, Rustic salad

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