It was late when we began to catch up on our day, neither of us had had dinner, but a) the thought of cooking was enough to send me running for the hills, and b) we weren’t hungry for a large plate of food.
It was the time of night when hunger is for something not insubstantial but can be nibbled, eaten with hands or a cocktail stick. This is the time for a glass of wine, comfortable seats and food eaten in little mouthfuls.
Spanish Tapas fits the bill. They are the ultimate finger food.
Tapa means lid or cover. Tapas as we know them today began their life as pieces of bread used to cover jugs of wine, to protect the wine from flies, served to farm workers as a sort of elevenses, to provide a little sustenance during the gap between breakfast and lunch. Then people got creative and started adding small pieces of cheese or ham to the bread.
Tapas are tiny bites hot or cold bites served as an appetiser with a glass of wine or sherry, or a beer. They range from simple items such as slices of ham or salami, cubes of cheese or tortilla, meatballs or pieces of fish, small glasses of gazpacho, pieces of fried bread, clams in chilli sauce, dates wrapped in bacon.
Lidl have always sold some of the best cured meats on the High Street, and their new Sol & Mar range of Iberian foods is one of the most bona fide selections of Spanish food, I have eaten outside of Spain.
On a large platter I arranged a selection of Lidl’s Sol & Mar products -
- Pata Negra Ham from outdoor black Iberian pigs, has been dry cured for 20 months
- Dates wrapped in the thinnest bacon
- Slices of Chorizo and Paprika Salami
- Cubes of warm Spinach Tortilla
- Bread Sticks with sunflower seeds – these had the most incredible flavour, and have a more flavourable taste than similar products I have eaten at several times the price. The buttery saltiness gives a good crunch to the biscuit, with a sweetness lingering on the palate from the sunflower seeds, which also add texture.
- Slices of Manchego Cheese – matured for three months this young sheep’s milk cheese had is supple and moist texture, with a hay and grass flavour, leaving the slightest tang on the palate.
- Salted Sunflower Seeds
We drank glasses of really cold Navarra Rose wine, which is a full bodied rose without any of the overegged sweetness which is so common in the glut of roses that hit the shops this time of year. There are flavours of cherries and strawberries, in this dry wine, which has a silkily round and balanced nose, that lingers on the palate.
There is something wonderful about serving pudding as a Tapa, which appeals to me, possibly because it allows people to help themselves to lots of sweetness or just a bite of two. I placed a whole Torta Imperial Nougat with just a few bits broken off in the centre of a plate, a dish of Magalenas, and some slices melon and we helped ourselves.
The Nougat comes covered in rice sugar paper. The circle when broken has an almond and honey brittle with a warm and morish flavour. While the Magalenas have a light airy crumb with a subtle sweet lemon flavour. They really are delicious.
Lidl have really surpassed themselves with products of such quality and excellent taste they could easily have come from the finest deli.
How to Serve Tapas
Decide what role tapas will play in your evening – is it a grazing plate for two instead of dinner, a late night snack, appetisers at a drinks party where, food to accompany a pre-dinner drink or as dinner? Also consider will people eat the tapas sitting or standing.
Three to six types should be prepared for appetisers, or party food, whereas if you are using Tapas to serve as dinner, you should prepare up to ten different types. Multiply the amount dependant on the number of people, and always serve more than you think you will need, any leftovers can be sent home with people or eaten the next day.
Buy excellent ingredients, serve the tapas on platters and bowls, and leave out plenty of napkins and toothpicks for people to help themselves.
Remember Tapas aren’t hard to prepare and can mostly be arranged in advance - you can make them as complicated or simple as you have time for. Some of the best Tapas I have eaten have come straight from packets, and placed onto plates.
· Slices of cured meats laid out on a platter
· Little bowls of olives, salted sunflower husts and nuts
· Cubes or slices of cheese
· Shot glasses of gazpacho or salmorejo
· A whole chorizo with a knife for people to cut slices for themselves, a good tip here is to cut the first few slices off, so people know what they are expected to do
· Bread sticks
· Little bowls of olive oil and sherry vinegar
· Cubed fried potatoes
· Tiny Anchovies in small bowls
· Deep fried squid
· Pieces of melon, figs and grapes
The Lidl range of Iberian foods is superb, I highly recommend it.
Hope you will get the chance to eat Tapas style this week - let me know what you put together.
That's it for now ...
Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable