When I first got to Madrid to spend my year abroad there, food wise, I couldn’t have been more excited. Cheese, meat, bread; my favourite things in excess? Constantly? Wonderful! I was ecstatic to learn that every time you bought a drink over there, you got some free grub. Because god forbid anyone could ever just drink for the sake of it… But after a year, my tolerance for chorizo was at its limit. While the quality of tapas are excellent in Spain, of course, the variation could be pretty minimal – and I considered myself lucky to not be a vegetarian (incomprehensible to many Spaniards) – my roommate survived on tortilla española and cheese on bread for pretty much the whole time.
Now, enough time (another year) has passed, and I’m back on familiar terms with tapas. I recently ate at Dehesa with a few friends, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food there. Yes, some of it may have had little room for error as we had patatas fritas, cured meats and quails eggs, but nonetheless I enjoyed the cosy atmosphere and prompt service. And the wine was pretty cheap, which is always a bonus. I also stumbled across Vinoteca, where I was beyond envious of my companion’s chorizo croquetas with aioli. Although they serve Modern British cuisine as their larger meals, the tapas nibbles were very well done. However, both of these places left something to be desired. The vibe in a Spanish bar is a bit more like eating in someone’s garage. A lot of the time you’ll get what you’re given – it’s not always gourmet and made to order as the trend here dictates; its very likely you’ll see the trough of patatas bravas behind a cafeteria-like glass screen, and they’ll be some of the best damn patatas bravas you ever had.
So, for my birthday meal, I decided to give myself way too much to do and make a tapas feast for my closest friends. For a dinner party, I think sharing is really fun, and I tried to make a range of vegetarian and carnivorous dishes. I modeled some of the menu from my favourite Spanish restaurant Lateral, and the rest was an amalgamation of dishes I’ve picked up and enjoyed along the way. I was lucky enough to have LOTS of helpers in the kitchen who made the whole thing possible. Who knows how those old Spanish ladies do it all by themselves.
On the menu was :
Spinach Tortilla Española
Goats Cheese, Aubergine & Tomato Salad
Cured Meat & Cheese Platter
Everything I made was made to serve 9 people, but that was in very small amounts so each item on its own is a solid dinner for two!
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp smoked/sweet paprika
1 tsp tobasco
Salt & pepper
Peel and chop the potatoes into small cubes. Place in salted water, bring to the boil and par-boil them for 8-10 minutes, this will ensure they’re nice and soft inside when you fry them.
In the meantime, finely dice the onion and garlic, and sautee in a frying pan. Add the tin of tomatoes, spices and seasoning.
After adding the tobasco and flour (to thicken it a little) leave it to cook for 3 minutes.
When it’s done, whack it in the food processor and blitz it until it’s smooth – this will look a lot more appealing and authentic when it’s covering your potato chunks.
After draining your par-boiled potatoes, shallow fry them in a saucepan with some salt. Leave them until they’re nice and crispy – this will take about 15-20 minutes. Serve!
SPINACH TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA
40g manchego cheese
100g bag spinach
Salt & pepper
After peeling your potatoes, slice them thinly (approx. 1cm thick) and then fry them in some oil with salt. Don’t let them get too brown on either side, but ensure they’re cooked. They should take 2-3 minutes on each side.
Crack lots of eggs, whisk them up with a fork and add seasoning. Grate in the manchego cheese.
Combine the egg mixture with the spinach and potatoes and then pour the mixture back into the same, well oiled potato pan.
After leaving the omelette to brown for 4-5 minutes (without touching) use a spatula to loosen the edges. Now comes the tricky part! There are a bunch of different techniques for the almighty flip, what I did was get someone else to hold a large dish, slide the omelette on to it, and then turn the plate upside down onto the frying pan.
Leave the other side to cook for another 3-4 minutes. This can be served warm or cold.
70 grams butter
30 ml oil
100g plain flour
500ml whole milk
50g manchego cheese
100g chorizo sausage
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 eggs (for coating)
Plain flour (for coating)
150g breadcrumbs (for coating)
Gather your ingredients. Very finely chop your onion, and over a low heat, begin to soften them in the oil – you want them to be translucent, not brown.
Add the butter to the cooked onions. Once everything is combine, mix in the plain flour until you have a thick roux, and cook for around 2-3 minutes.
Very slowly mix in the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly until the sauce is thick but smooth (except for the onion pieces, of course)
Finely dice the chorizo sausage, and add it to the mixture along with the grated manchego cheese, grated nutmeg and pepper seasoning. You only need to fold these ingredients in – excessive stirring is unnecessary at this point. Remove from the heat and leave aside for a few hours, or in the fridge to speed up the process – you want it to be cold and manageable to form into croquetas.
Set out three bowls – one with beaten egg, one with plain flour, and one with breadcrumbs. Then, if you’re as lucky as I am, employ three of your closest friends to do the messy part. Small quantities of the chorizo mixture should first go in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumb, and then be set aside to fry afterwards.
You’re aiming for a cylindrical shape, and it’s good to have a baking tray to line them up on while you work.
Heat some oil in a deep frying pan, and give the croquetas 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove excess oil with some kitchen roll, and enjoy!
Ingredients for meatballs:
800g veal mince (feel free to half this recipe)
2-3 cloves garlic
1 shot of white wine
2-3 slices bread crumbs
Salt & pepper
2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp ground cumin
1 bunch parsley
Flour (for dusting)
Ingredients for sauce:
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp cayenne peper
1 glug sherry
First off, gather what you need, and then pop 2-3 pieces of (preferably stale) white bread into the food processor. You can use store bought breadcrumbs, but these are usually more coarse.
Once they’re blitzed, remove from the processor and put in the veal mince. Pulsing it for a minute or so will tenderise the meat and make it easier to work with.
Ignore the fact that it sort of looks like brains. Crack on, with an egg.
Add crushed garlic cloves, wine and all dry spices and seasoning.
Remove the stalks from the parsley before chopping finely, and add to the mixture.
Using your hands, combine the mince thoroughly.
Roll small balls in the palm of your hand, and then coat in flour.
Pop them on an oiled baking tray, and put in the oven at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
When they’re done they should look slightly browned and be cooked through. Get to chopping up all your onions.
While your onions are softening in a large heavy based pan, take your pinch of saffron and stew it in a mug of hot water for a minute. This is how you release the flavour.
Add water, I haven’t specified how much in the recipe because it’s a matter of how thick you want your meatballs, but you should be able to get a sense of when its a good consistency. Add all spices and the stewed saffron water.
Cook the meatballs in this sauce for at least 30 minutes on a low heat until the sauce thickens and acquires flavour, and chuck in a good glug of sherry. These can easily be made earlier in the day and reheated when the time is right. Buen provecho!
GOATS CHEESE, AUBERGINE & TOMATO SALAD
Sit back and relax a little. This is definitely the easiest part.
5-6 large tomatoes
200g goats cheese
Firstly you want to slice the aubergine horizontally, so you get thin discs. Then put these on an oiled griddled pan for a few minutes to give it those great charring marks and to ensure its cooked.
Slice your tomatoes and whack them on top of the aubergine circles.
Next up, put a thick-ish slice of goats cheese on top.
These should go under the grill for 1-2 minutes until the goats cheese starts to melt, and then lay them out on top of the bed of mixed leaves.
These got devoured pretty fast, so photographic evidence of their presence is limited!
Also on the table were some spanish cheeses, chargrilled sweet peppers, olives, aioli, great crusty bread and a cured meat platter. Feel free to put out whatever you want here, the bigger the selection the better.
Enjoy your feast, and potentially end the evening like I did, with some pants on your head blowing out a birthday cake.