Nothing is more Spanish than tapas. These delicious and wonderfully sociable dishes are so incredibly varied and surprisingly easy to make when you’ve the right ingredients and you’re armed with Javier’s inspired tapas menu ideas.
In essence, a “tapa” is a small dish or plate of food. Legend has it that tapas originated from the word “tapa”, which is Spanish for “cover” or “lid”. In bars, small dishes of food such as slices of bread or meat, were given away free with each drink. Patrons used to “cover” their glass with the dish to keep flies out of their drink. Over time, these simple dishes of food became more varied to attract and satisfy their customers.
Basco founder and professional chef Javier De La Hormaza has shortlisted fifteen of his favourite tapas menu ideas for all occasions. He briefly describes each one and has provided a link to the recipe which clearly explains how to make tapas that are delicious and homemade.
This has to be one of the most popular and easy dishes for tapas and is served in cafes and bars right across Spain. Often called tortilla de patata, legend has it that during the siege of Bilbao, a general invented it as an easy, fast and nutritious way to satisfy his army. Either way, today, it is so simple to cook and utterly delicious. My version includes caramelized onions which make it extra tasty, but you can also add whatever other ingredients you like. Here is my simple recipe for Spanish Omelette.
Chorizo sausage features in many dishes for tapas and this is one of my go tos. What I really like about this tapas recipe is its balance of salt, spice and sweetness. Chorizo originated in the Iberian Peninsula, and it is famed for its wonderfully smoky and spicy taste which comes from the very finest Spanish paprika. The secret to this classic tapas dish is ensuring you reduce the red wine down and down into a syrup, adding the honey and coating the spicy chorizo in this deep sweet sauce. Check out my recipe for Spicy Chorizo Sausage Recipe with Honey and Red Wine now.
This is the Galician tapas dish that I like cooking most for my friends. It actually dates back to the 16th Century when octopuses were dried to feed the monks of the Monastery of Oseira and is often eaten to celebrate patron saint festivals in Lugo. This very traditional tapas dish involves carefully boiling octopus, adding potatoes and then seasoned with sea salt and smoked paprika and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. It’s easy to prepare and impressive when served. Try my Pulpo a la Gallega recipe for yourself.
Want a quick and easy tapas recipe that always delights and satisfies? Morcilla with Piquillo Peppers and Quail Eggs always hits the spot. The key ingredient is good morcilla, which is a type of Spanish black pudding, and the absolute best comes from Burgos, southwest of Bilbao. To create this dish, thick slices of morcilla sausage are fried in garlic infused oil until crisp. They are then served on a bed of roasted piquillo peppers and topped with quail eggs fried with crispy edges. Get the full recipe for Morcilla with Piquillo Peppers and Quail Eggs now.
Ask anyone in the world to name one tapas dish and most will reply “patatas bravas”. It’s one of the most popular on the planet and originates from Madrid after 1542 when the Spanish conquered the Incas and brought tomatoes back to Spain. “Bravas” which translates as “fierce” refers to the fiery tomato sauce which complements the chunks of fried potato. The sauce in my recipe combines onions, garlic, spicy paprika, flour, fresh tomatoes and chicken stock. I am happy share with you my Patatas Bravas recipe.
I love the bold verdant colour and sweet salty taste of these deliciously spicy padron peppers. These wonderful peppers are another delicacy that originates from the province of Galicia, in the town of Padrón. It’s believed that padron pepper seeds were brought back from South America by 16th-century Franciscan monks who grew them at their monastery in Herbón, near Padrón. That’s centuries ago, but what I do know is that padron peppers are really simple and easy tapas to fry in just 2-3 minutes. A liberal sprinkling of good sea salt is vitally important when serving. Take a minute to read my Fried Padron Peppers recipe now.
The truly great thing about prawns, aside from their incredibly taste, is they are so quick and easy to cook, so they’re perfect for tapas when you’re in a hurry. There are conflicting stories as to the origin of Gambas Pil Pil. Some say it is a typically Andalusian tapas dish, others insist it is from the Basque Country – either way, it is inarguably delicious and spicy. Always use the best uncooked king prawns you can find and cook them rapidly in olive oil, garlic and chilli and serve them sizzling hot. My recipe for Gambas Pil Pil is a surefire winner at dinner parties.
Of all these Spanish tapas ideas, Pan Tumaca, also known as Pa amb Tomàquet, is the one that demands the very best ingredients. Why? Because the recipe is so simple, and with so few elements, that the taste of each ingredient really shines through, especially the tomatoes. This signature Catalan toast dish, originally eaten as a mid-afternoon filler by peasant farmers in the summer months, is a little like bruschetta. Make sure you use the largest, tastiest and juiciest high-quality tomatoes, the best sourdough bread and sea salt flakes you can find – it makes all the difference. Here’s where you’ll find my recipe for Pan Tumaca.
I can’t get enough of these fragrant and spicy Spanish skewers and neither can dinner party guests. Pinchos morunos translates literally as “Moorish skewers” which pinpoints their origin of North Africa. The Moors have a deep 800-year history in the Iberian peninsula and their influence on architecture and food in Spain remains today. Packed with exotic spices and offset with lemon, my recipe is as close to the original Islamic recipe as possible as it uses lamb, rather than pork. It’s important that you marinade the lamb overnight if possible, however they cook on a hot barbecue in just a few minutes. My recipe also Pinchos Morunos also includes a lovely salad dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar. Delicious together.
I have many Spanish tapas ideas up my sleeve, but Ensaladilla Rusa, aka Russian Salad, is one I admit was inspired, and invented in the 18th Century, by Belgian chef Lucien Olivier, of the famous Hermitage restaurant in Moscow. How this potato salad made its way to Spain and became a legendary tapas, I have no idea, but it makes a great summer barbecue tapas dish served with Picos De Pan breadsticks. The key ingredients are potatoes, Bonito white tuna from the Bay of Biscay and mayonnaise – you can make it in advance and it takes just over half an hour from prep to serving. This is my authentic recipe for Ensaladilla Rusa.
Chicken doesn’t often come up as an ingredient for Spanish tapas ideas, but I simply had to include this recipe as it is one of my all-time favourites and it’s so healthy too. The star of this recipe are chicken thighs – try to get the plumpest free-range ones you can. First though, the Romesco Sauce. The origins of this sauce date right back to the 18th Century when Catalonian fishermen in the port of Tarragona. Cumin, smoked paprika, roasted peppers, tomatoes, nuts, garlic olive oil and sherry vinegar are all combined to create a paste with the consistency of pesto. This sauce forms a bed for the chicken thighs which are quickly cooked in a hot pan, under a grill or on a barbecue. Get the recipe for Chicken Tapas with Romesco Sauce now.
These delightfully tasty sausage rolls are a big hit in tapas and pintxo bars right across Spain. Not to be confused with chorizo, chistorra (which is from the Basque word for sausage; “txistor”) is a thinner, longer, semi-cured chorizo originally from the Basque region of Gipuzkoa. Vivid red in colour, they have a wonderfully smoky taste and make the most delicious sausage roll filling. For my recipe, I use an all butter ready rolled puff pastry which adds real luxury and the tangy lemon aioli cuts through the spices and butter of the pastry. Ready in just 20 minutes, here is my incredibly easy recipe for Chistorra Sausage Rolls with Lemon Aioli.
As Spanish tapas ideas go, those with anchovies are real stand out stars. La Gilda is an iconic pintxo and has a fascinating history. A regular customer at the now famous Bar Casa Valles in San Sebastien back in 1946 who was sat at the bar picked up a cocktail stick and speared olives, guindilla peppers and salted anchovies onto it. It was then named after the Rita Hayworth hit film “Gilda”. That’s how to make tapas! The taste is box office too with big strong, salty and pickled flavours. As with all simple tapas and pintxo, good ingredients are vitally important. So find and always use the best Cantábrico anchovies, mananzilla olives and Guindilla pickled peppers that you can. As recipes for easy tapas ideas go, Gilda Pintxo has to be one of the simplest.
Several dishes for tapas have Moorish roots and these delicious meatballs are one. Albondigas from the arabic “al-bunduq” meaning “hazelnut”, which is small and round like these meatballs, were traditionally a Berber or Arabic speciality made from lamb. They were introduced to southern Spain during the Moors’ centuries of rule. My recipe, like many which have developed over the years, uses a mixture of pork and beef mince, which is mixed with onions, cumin and smokey paprika. These are slowly cooked in a wonderfully rich tomato sauce which contains roasted red peppers and a classic Rioja red wine. A little melted Manchego on the top gives it the finishing touch. Piqued your appetite? Take a look at my Albondigas recipe now.
The last of my pick of dishes for tapas is another with a Moorish history. Served in and around Andalusia which the Moors once occupied, I love the contrast in tastes this dish brings to the palate. You get the salty hit of fried aubergine and the unctuous sweetness of miel de caña. This Spanish black treacle translates as “sugar cane honey,” and is found in the Canary Islands and regions around Granada and Malaga. You need to soak aubergine pieces in cold water before frying them in flour and drizzling miel de caña and sprinkling sea salt flakes liberally over the top. An utterly delicious and incredibly moreish Moorish tapas. Check out my recipe for Berenjenas con Miel now.
Javier shares some of his most inspired, tried and tested recipes, not just easy tapas ideas, but everything from Basque Recipes and Bocadillos to Spanish Paella and Dessert recipes on his extensive online collection which can be found by clicking here.
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