Recipe: Tapas (Spanish month)

Well, since the summer has finally decided to put in an appearance I think it is time we turned to some more Mediterranean cuisine.  This time, we venture to the Iberian peninsula.

Spain has one of the oldest and most varied culinary traditions in Europe.  This is largely a result of its various occupations down the centuries. The Roman occupation introduced them to olives and new breads, the Moors of North Africa brought almonds, oranges and spices. Later, trade with South America introduced them to potatoes, tomatoes and corn.

Back in the day, the Hispanic peoples loved their wine, and often spent their days completely sloshed.  And so set a pattern of behaviour familiar to young British tourists today.

But it was not long before the Spanish realised that moderation was better than outright banning it.  King Alfonso wisely decided that if people ate a little, and drank a little, and repeated, then they caused a lot less trouble.  It was a simple idea that has been repeated in Britain in recent years, with frustratingly little success.  Nonetheless, Tapas bars are hugely popular in Spain.  They encounter very little trouble and have a surprisingly young drinking age.

So Tapas, is basically little bits of everything on a plate.  It can consist of cold cuts of meat, cheese, nuts, olives, fish or fruit.  For this first plate we are going with the meaty version.  Better known as the Embutidos.

On this board, for two, we have small slices of Serrano ham, goats cheese, green olives, chorizo, and (the yummiest of the yummy) Choricitos.  These are small chorizo sausages and they taste amazing.

I served them up with a little bread and butter. The whole board should be served with a bottle of thick, rich Spanish Wine, such as Rioja.  Alternative drinking options would include freshly squeezed orange juice.  Or, best of all, Sangria.  But we will come to that later.

The best place to find your various bits would be Lidl.  Yes, the small, cheap supermarket and stop judging.  They have an amazing range of imported foods direct from Spain.  At the minute they are selling whole hams on a serving board, which cost about £40. Also they do massive Chorizo sausages of decent quality and various wines.  Go give it a try, go on.

Next week we move on to the big one, Paella!

Later, kids.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.