Weekend Bites: A Spanish fiesta with tantalizing tapas
Paper Edition | Page: 25
In acknowledging the results of the recent Euro soccer final, I have to be a sport and take my hat off to the victorious Spaniards! Better yet, let’s celebrate by cooking some simple Spanish recipes.
These are two classic dishes you would likely to find in tapas bars or restaurants. The culture of “ir de tapear” – going to tapas – originated in Andalucía, a stunning region in southern Spain. There it was customary for bars to
cover the glasses of their costumers with an edible lid, such as a piece of bread and a slice of ham, to prevent flies or sand from entering. The word lid or cover is “tapa” in Spanish, leading to it taking on the meaning of a small meal eaten while having a few drinks.
Nowadays tapas culture is popular throughout Spain with many varieties to suit your taste. Many bars have their own specialties, so I suggest hopping from one to another until you’re full!
Serves 2 to 3
Patatas bravas (spicy potatoes)
500 g potatoes
200 ml tomato pulp
1 clove of garlic
1 shallot or 1/4 onion
Cayenne chili pepper powder, to taste
1 teaspoon Jerez/ balsamic/apple vinegar
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Vegetable oil, for frying
• Heat olive oil in a pan to sweat the shallot and the garlic until they’re translucent. Add the tomato pulp, vinegar, salt and cayenne pepper. Substitute with regular chili powder if you can’t find it.
• Cook the sauce over a low heat until it’s reduced and slightly thickened.
• Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into 3-centimeter cubes. Immerse them in cold water to wash off some of the starch. Drain and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
• Heat sufficient oil and deep-fry the potatoes until they’re golden outside and tender inside.
• Place them on a kitchen cloth to absorb the excess oil. Salt and serve hot, and top with spicy tomato sauce.
Gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns)
500 g prawns, peel and devein
2 cloves of garlic
3 dried chili peppers
Pimentón de la Vera (Spanish smoked paprika), to taste Extra virgin olive oil
• Thinly slice the garlic and cut the dried chili peppers into rounds. Feel free to use the fresh ones.
• Place them into the clay ramekins along with enough olive oil to cover their base. Arrange on a baking tray for easier and safer transfer.
• Bake them in the oven at 180°C for about five minutes, just until the oil is hot and the garlic is golden. Take them out carefully.
• Divide the prawns into the hot ramekins. Add salt and put them back into the oven for another 5 to10 minutes until the prawns are cooked.
• Don’t overcook; they’re ready as soon as the color changes into bright orange. Otherwise they will become hard and rubbery.
• Spoon some of the chili oil on the bottom onto the prawns for a glossier finish.
• The easier way of cooking these garlic prawns is to just stir-fry them in a pan, and then transfer them into warm clay ramekins.
• Serve hot with a generous sprinkle of smoked paprika.
— All photos by Theodora Hurustiati