Tag Archives: tapas

Almendras Fritas – Olé!

What stinking weather today! And after such an arduous week at the office. A big project, all of us locked away in a project room with no windows, only seeing last week’s wonderful sunshine when we went outside at lunchtime. Never mind, I thought. I’ll enjoy the sun at the weekend. Maybe a nice long bike run…

Fast forward to Saturday, and the weather is foul. Sheet rain, heavy showers. Open the window, and you get soaked. Clearly not going out.

My response to this is to open a bottle of white wine and make something Spanish to give the impression that it’s somewhere sunny. Almendras fritas or fried almonds. No, really. Bear with me.

If you normally just serve a bowl of peanuts with drinks on the basis that anything else smacks of too much work, then you’ll be happy to know that this is simplicity itself. If you have almonds in the house, it takes about 1 minute to make.

I rummaged around in the store cupboard, and found the packet of Mallorcan almonds I bought on holiday. Just throw a couple of handfuls of nuts into a saucepan with a little olive oil, fry, sprinkle with salt and that’s it – a little tapa to go with your well-earned glass of wine. OK, maybe it doesn’t transform London in the rain into the sun-drenched main square of Valencia, but they do taste great. The texture is crisp and they have rich, toasted flavour that plays very well with the sprinkling of sea salt

Now just one question…¿Dónde está el sol?

To make almendras fritas:

• skinned whole almonds(*) – allow one handful per person
• olive oil (1 tablespoon per 2 handfuls of nuts)
• sea salt (flaky fleur de sel type)

Put the almonds and oil into a saucepan. Put over a medium heat.

As the oil gets warm, start to shake the pan or stir with a wooden spoon until the nuts are golden. When ready, drain the nuts (use a sieve or transfer to kitchen paper), then put the nuts in a dish and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Serve warm.

(*) If you need to skin the almonds, bring a pan of water to the boil. Throw in the almonds, boil for one minute, then drain and cool. The nuts should slip out of their skins.

Worth making? Super-easy and very, very delicious. Makes a nice change from peanuts too!

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Tumbet

There has been a distinct Spanish flavour to a lot of my posts recently…and today, we’re keeping that going.

I’ve been making a dish called tumbet rather a lot recently. It’s traditionally from Mallorca, and it’s really just about the simplest thing you can make. Chances are, you’ve got just about everything in the kitchen right now. Look at this lot – nothing too fancy here, eh?

But what is this dish? Well, it’s clearly a lot of potato, peppers and aubergine. It’s all sliced up, fried in a little olive oil, then topped off with a thick tomato sauce that’s rammed with lots of garlic. There seem to be quite a lot of variations out there (which is only to b expected with such a traditional dish), but I’ve made a tweak and added a few slices of Spanish Manchego cheese before pouring over the tomato sauce to add a bit more substance so that this makes a tasty and filling main dish.

Now, a lot of blogs feature recipes that are “simple” or “easy” or “a breeze”. I’m not going to lie – this is one that’s easy, but its not quick. I think this tastes best when you can leave the vegetables to fry gently on a very low heat, rather than cremating them over a hot flame. If you’re able to multi-task and do something else at the same time (which coudl involve, perhaps, glasses of wine in the sunshine) then it is indeed simply. It’s just that some thing cannot be rushed.

This a really nice dish that works either as a cold tapas-style nibble with drinks (serve it up with bowls of olives, almonds and patatas bravas with garlic mayo with a few glasses of chilled white wine), or have it as a main dish with a large green salad. Either way – delicious, and you get the feeling of just a little summer sunshine as you eat it.

To make tumbet (as a side dish for four, main for two):

For the sauce:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• pepper, to taste

• salt, to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)

Heat the oil over a low heat. Add the garlic and fry very gently for about a minute (it shouldn’t brown). Add the salt, pepper, oregano and chopped tomatoes. Cover the sauce, and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. If the sauce is too dry, just add a little more water.

For the layers:

• 300g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 aubergine, sliced
• 2 peppers (I used one red, one yellow), cut into sticks
• 75g Manchego cheese, sliced
• olive oil, for frying

Fry the potatoes in a little olive oil until they are starting to turn golden brown. Put in the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Brush the aubergine slides with a little olive oil, and fry gently until soft and browned on both sides. Place on top of the potatoes.

Finally, fry the peppers until soft. Put on top of the aubergine, then arrange the slices of cheese on top.

Pour over the sauce and spread evenly on top of the vegetables.

Worth making? This is a tasty dish with lots of flavours and textures, and in my view, makes a nice change from lasagna, moussaka or the dreaded mushroom risotto(*) if you have to serve something to a veggie guest.

(*) Acutally, I love mushrooms risotto – it’s just that it tends to be the only thing on the menu is so many place in London these days!

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Patatas Bravas

Need something quick, easy and tasty to go with drinks? Then go for patatas bravas.

I was at a Eurovision party yesterday (lots of bad taste in music, but good-tasting food), and we had dishes from around the continent. On behalf of Spain, I whipped up a batch of these little beauties. Needless to say, they were a hit and one of this first things to go.

There are a number of ways to make them, but in my view this is the simplest – take white potatoes, peel them, chop into bit-sized chunks, toss in a little salt, pepper, paprika and olive oil, and then bake in the oven until brown. No par-boiling, no deep-frying. Simple! Patatas bravas are usually served either topped with a spicy tomato sauce, or with a side of aïoli (garlic mayonnaise) for dipping.

So next time you have friends round for a drink, you can be a little more sophisticated. You’re not just having snacks, it’s tapas time!

For patatas bravas (serves 4):

• 3-4 large white potatoes
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, finely ground
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Peel the potatoes, and cut into chunks (about 2cm pieces). Put the potato chunks into a bowl, add the oil and seasoning, and toss until the potatoes are evenly coated.

Spread the potatoes on a baking tray, and bake for 40-50 minutes until the potatoes are golden. If you find the potatoes stick to the tray, remove from the oven and allow to sit for a couple of minutes – the steam from the potatoes will loosen them.

Serve with aïoli (combine mayonnaise, paprika and a small minced clove of garlic).

Worth making? Yes – this is quick, easy and always popular and delicious. Really worth trying.

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On Location: Tapas Brindisa (Borough Market, London)

It was a lovely sunny day and I was on my way with my friend N to London’s Bankside for a spot of culture at the Tate Modern. We got out of the tube, and decided we needed sustenance before continuing, and I remembered Tapas Brindisa – I’ve been to their restaurant in Soho a couple of times (and utterly loved it) but never managed to get into the one at Borough Market by London Bridge, as it was always way too busy. A good sign, I guess. Well, it was the middle of the afternoon following the lunchtime rush, and hey, there was a table by the window which looked just perfect for watching the world go by. We went for it.

The bad news was that we arrived five minutes too late to order anything  hot, so we settled for the selection of Spanish cheeses. When it came, it was presented nicely and I liked the variety  of the platter. Of the four, three came with some sort of fruit affair, and I diligently tried each with and without this little extra to see if it made a difference.

First I tried a goat cheese, Garrotxa, which I liked and which went well on their bread rubbed with olive oil. I must admit that I missed the grapes that this was served with, so can’t say if eating the two together would have made a difference (I suspect not). It was pleasant enough, but not something I think I must have again if I see it. Next was the inevitable sheeps cheese with quince. This was Zamorano extra matured sheeps cheese with quince paste. I was not in love with this, but I am not a huge fan of manchego with membrillo, so if there is an issue here, it lies with me, not Brindisa.

The farm house Mahón came with a tomato jam. On its own, this was nice and if anything rather creamy. But adding the tomato jam released other notes – a rich smokiness and almost a “meatiness” to the cheese, and it was really delicious and the enhancement to the flavour quite unexpected. I’ll have this again. The one I was most dubious about was a blue cheese called Picos de Europe which came with slivers of a fig and almond wheel. Dubious, because I’ve never had Spanish blue cheese before and didn’t think this sounded right. Anyway, on its own, this was a great cheese after all, but in the way that blue cheese is something I like and it usually always packs a punch. However, add the fig, and it cut through the sharpness and combined with the cheese to highlight its creaminess and rounded out the flavour. Again, a great combination where the partner ingredient really made a valuable contribution to the overall taste experience.

I’ll go back – I like the sister restaurant, and the atmosphere at Borough Market is friendly and relaxed. My aim was to try some new Spanish cheeses, and I am glad that Tapas Brindisa introduced me to a couple of new things that I really liked. I might just try to be a little more organised and make it in time for the hot tapas next time I go!

Tapas Brindisa, 18-20 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TJ. Tel: 020 7357 8880. Tube: London Bridge.

LondonEats locations map here.

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