Travel outside of the tourist parts of Spain & Portugal and you’ll quickly discover burger & chips doesn’t feature on the typical menu. Both cuisines are unique in their own way, but have a very visible influence on each other. For example the Portuguese have their own version of the well-known Jamón Ibérico, disguised as Presunto Ibérico.
I like to call myself a lover of food, who isn’t afraid to try new flavours. So I’m often faced with the challenge of picking just two courses when in a restaurant. Which is why I’m such a fan of Spanish tapas, rather than picking just one main you can pick 3 – 4 small plates of food. Or just order one of everything on the menu for the whole table. I’ve seen it said that tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused on eating an entire meal put before them. Small plates are easy to pick at while talking, so I’d well believe it.
Cross the border into Portugal and you’ll find so much more than Piri-Piri chicken. Caldo Verde is a cabbage & potato soup, when I first seen a recipe for it I was convinced it was an Irish dish that would be found in a tiny town deep in the Irish country-side. But the addition of Chorizo quickly clears the confusion up.
And of course, there is the Portuguese Custard Tarts “pastéis de nata”. Delicious little puff pastry tarts, filled with a custard filling. Often served fresh from the oven, with a light dusting of cinnamon & icing sugar.
The following are two of my own takes on Tapas, albeit not quite traditional Spanish the concept remains the same.
I use tiny baby potatoes chopped in half and roasted, rather than frying cubes of potatoes. I love the look of the shriveled skins and it cuts the prep time down completely. The sauce is chunky and rich, but can be made richer with the addition of a teaspoon or two of tomato puree.
• 1kg Small Baby Potatoes
• Olive Oil for roasting.
• 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 Small Onion, Chopped.
• 1 Garlic Clove, Crushed.
• ½ Can Chopped Tomatoes.
• 2 tsp Sweet Paprika
• ¼ tsp Chilli Powder
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
2. Wash & Chop the potatoes in half. Spread in a large roasting tray and drizzle with oil. Place into the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, shaking half way through.
3. Remove from the oven and place on kitchen towel to take off any excess oil.
1. In a small pan, on a medium heat fry the onions for 5 – 10 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and continue to fry for one minute.
2. Add the tomatoes, Paprika & Chilli Powder and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is thick and chunky.
3. Set aside to be reheated once the potatoes are ready.
Crispy Fish Bites
This is easily one of my favourite ways to enjoy fish. The breadcrumb is packed full of flavour thanks to smoked paprika, herbs & some lemon zest, and still manages to keep it’s crunch despite not being cooked in oil.
• 2 tbsp Olive oil
• 2 tbsp Butter
• 250g Breadcrumbs
• 1 tbsp Fresh Parsley, Chopped
• 1 tbsp Fresh Thyme, Chopped
• Grated Zest of 1 Lemon
• 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
• 400g Cod
• 4 tbsp Plain Flour
• 2 Eggs, Beaten
• Salt & Pepper
• Preheat oven to 220°C
• In a large frying pan, heat the oil and butter. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until golden, stirring constantly. Tip the crumbs into a large bowl, add the herbs, lemon zest and paprika, season well with salt & pepper and leave to cool.
• Cut the fish into strips or chunks, I normally do it in chunky cubes of roughly 1 inch wide.
• In a shallow dish, add the flour. In another shallow dish, add the beaten eggs. Taking one piece of fish at a time, coat in flour, then egg and then the breadcrumbs. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
• Serve immediately, with sauces like ketchup and tartare sauce, and don’t forget the lemon wedges.