Tapas were invented in Andalucia and legend tells us that original tapas were a purely practical solution. A slice of bread topped with a slice of meat or olives, which was placed on top of a glass of wine or sherry to deter the fruit flies during the long hot summers. The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”.
Tapas have evolved throughout Spanish history and now incorporate wonderful ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. The Romans developed the large olive farms that we see today and Spain is now the largest producer of olive oil in the world. The invasion of the North African Moors brought sweet almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The Moorish influence is still strong especially in Andalusia. The discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus introduced corn, potato, tomato, bell pepper, chili pepper, vanilla, beans, pumpkin, avocado, peanut, cashew, pineapple, blueberry, sunflower, petunia, dahlia, marigold, quinine, wild rice, squash and chocolate to Spain.
Step inside any bar in Southern Spain and you will be able to savour the aroma, taste and experience of Spanish tapas. Today the tapas can be as simple as the first tapas or an elaborate gastronomic experience. This way of eating small dishes along with your wine or beer is part of the Spanish culture.
Here is a selection of Tapas to tempt you:
Aceitunas: olives, sometimes with a filling of anchovies or red bell pepper.
Albóndigas: meatballs with sauce.
Allioli: the classic ingredients are only garlic, oil and salt, but the most common form of it includes mayonnaise traditionally served on bread.
Bacalao: salted cod loin sliced very thinly, usually served with bread and tomatoes.
Boquerones: white anchovies served in vinegar or deep fried.
Calamares rings; of battered squid.
Carne mechada: slow-cooked, tender beef.
Chorizo al vino: chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine.
Croquetas: a common sight in bar counters and homes across Spain, served as a tapa, a light lunch, or a dinner along with a salad.
Empanadillas: similar to a pasty filled with meats and vegetables.
Ensaladilla rusa: Russian salad made with mixed boiled vegetables, tuna, olives and mayonnaise.
Gambas: prawns sauteed in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce), al ajillo (with garlic), or pil-pil (with chopped chili peppers)
Patatas bravas; fried potatoes served with salsa brava a spicy tomato sauce, sometimes served with allioli.
Pimientos de Padrón: small green peppers originally from Padron, that are fried in olive oil and salt most are mild, but a few in each batch are hot and very spicy.
Queso con anchoas: cured cheese with anchovies on top.
Setas al Ajillo: fresh mushrooms sautéed with olive oil and garlic.
Solomillo a la castellana: fried pork scallops, served with an onion and cheese sauce.
Solomillo al whisky: fried pork, marinated using whisky, brandy or white wine and olive oil.
Tortilla de patatas; Spanish omelette containing fried chunks of potatoes and sometimes onion.