This month, the city of Seville will be in festive swing at its annual gastronomic tapas fair where everyone celebrates by going off on a massive tapeo (a tapas crawl). Spanish tapas have been one of the big success stories of the past few years in the restaurant world and so many cuisines have been influenced by the idea of sharing small plates of delicious little bits and pieces.
There are only a handful of restaurants in London serving decent authentic tapas – among them Barrafina in Soho and, of course, Brindisa, which has three great outlets in the capital as well as a shop in Borough Market where you can buy the finest ingredients to create a tapas menu at home (brindisa.com).
Outside London, I am assured by the Spanish cuisine specialist Elisabeth Luard that it's also well worth visiting Ultracomida in Aberystwyth (ultracomida.co.uk), Barioja in Edinburgh (0131 557 3622) and El Rincon de Rafa in Manchester (0161 839 8819).
Queen scallops with chorizo
Queen scallops make the perfect tapas food, although I haven't seen them very often in tapas bars in Spain. They don't really need much doing to them – apart from cooking very briefly; and when they are really fresh, you may also want to serve them raw.
8 queen scallops, cleaned and left in the half shell
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
50-60g cooking chorizo, skin removed and the meat chopped
A little parsley, chopped
Heat a small frying pan or saucepan and cook the shallots and chorizo, stirring it well and mashing the meat around a little so it breaks up. Continue cooking over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the meat is cooked and broken down. Add the chopped parsley.
Pre-heat a grill to the hottest temperature, lay the scallops on a tray and spoon the chorizo mixture over each scallop; you may have a little left over. Grill the scallops for just a couple of minutes until they have heated through, then transfer to a serving dish and spoon any excess chorizo and oil over.
Baked garlic on toast with smoked anchovies
These delicious cold smoked anchovies in oil are available at Brindisa. They are more like a fresh than a canned product, quite unique and one of my favourite convenience foods. If you want to avoid the garlic, just serve them on hot buttered toast.
1 head of fresh garlic
4 slices of good quality bloomer or sour dough toast
1 can of Nardin smoked anchovies
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Wrap the garlic bulb in foil and bake for about 30 minutes or until it's soft. Remove the foil, leave to cool a little, cut in half and squeeze out the pulp. Toast the bread on both sides and spread the baked garlic on top; then drain the anchovies and lay them on top.
Clams with sherry and garlic
You could use most types of clams for this dish – or even mussels, cockles or razor clams.
250-300g clams, cleaned
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
60-70ml dry sherry
1tbsp chopped parsley
A couple of knobs of butter
Put the clams and garlic in a saucepan with the sherry, season, cover with a lid and cook on a high heat for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan every so often until they begin to open. Add the parsley and butter, replace the lid and cook for another 30 seconds or so until they are all opened. Serve immediately.
Lentils with morcilla
You can use either the mini morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) or the larger version for this dish; both are available from Brindisa. If you can't find morcilla, then you could always substitute it with some soft black pudding, cut into pieces and added at the end of cooking.
2 large shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tbsp olive oil
1tsp tomato purée
60-70g Puy or green lentils, soaked for a couple of hours
150ml chicken stock
100-150g morcilla, mini or large
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently cook the shallots and the garlic for a couple of minutes, stirring them as they are cooking.
Drain and rinse the lentils and add to the shallots with the stock and the teaspoon of tomato purée; season, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
If the liquid dries up before the lentils are cooked, just add a little water or conversely, if there is too much liquid when they are cooked then just turn up the heat until the liquid has evaporated and is just coating the lentils nicely.
If you are using large morcilla, cut them into chunks; otherwise keep the mini ones whole.
Then fold them through the lentils, replace the lid and cook them on a low heat for about 4-5 minutes, stirring carefully every so often.
Serve immediately; or keep warm on a very low heat.
Quail with romesco sauce
2 quails, halved
For the sauce
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
1 small slice of bread, cut into rough cubes
2-3tbsp olive oil
60g whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1 small dried red chilli (preferably guindilla), soaked for an hour in warm water
2 piquillo peppers or 1 small red pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded
tbsp sherry vinegar
1tsp tomato purée
A good pinch of pimenton
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, fry garlic and bread for 2-3 minutes, place in a food processor with the other sauce ingredients; coarsely blend; season. Preheat a ribbed griddle pan. Season the quails, brush with oil and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with the sauce in a dipping pot.Reuse content