Who wouldn’t love little dishes of delectable morsels? That’s the charm of tapas, lots of different tastes and textures. Tapas, the book that is, has pictures by one of my favourite food photographers. Any book that Gus Filgate is associated with is bound to be stunning.
Tapas is the flagship book of the celebrated restaurant El Parador. Both authors can cook every dish on the restaurant menu so it’s safe to say they know what they are talking about. Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas have penned these lovely recipes that transport me back to Spain, to tapas bars with high counters groaning under the weight of an amazing variety of dishes.
Presenting a meal of tapas is just about the most casual form of entertaining. It’s convivial and a real ice-breaker, with everyone taking a little of this, a spoonful of that. It’s the culinary version of painting by numbers with each guest eating their choices in different combinations. It’s an ideal way of feeding lots of people with diverse tastes.
If you or your friends are vegetarian then you might feel that you have been short-changed with regard to dinner parties. There often seems to be a rather naff veggie option for non-meat eaters, and there are plenty of carnivores who don’t feel as though they have eaten unless an animal of some description had been sacrificed. Tapas, however, offers such a fantastic selection of dishes that you are bound to find lots to satisfy every dietary, cultural or ethical need.
It’s no surprise to see Tortilla Espanola (potato omelette) in the Vegetables chapter and this is lovely when made well. Serve it hot and fresh from the pan. Patatas Bravas are another staple of tapas bars and they are always popular and simple. Spinach and Cheese Parcels are a favourite at El Parador but this version uses ready-rolled pastry so it’s an easy one for the home cook.
There is so much here that is stylish and seriously easy and that’s got to be good. Purée de Habas Verdes (puréed broad beans with pan-fried garlic, rosemary and olive oil) has a real flavour of southern sunshine. It has eight cloves of garlic – don’t be tempted to cut down on that number. Even easier are the Fresh Marinated Anchovies which only demand a little chopping of garlic and parsley. That’s two tapas quickly sorted long before your guests arrive.
The fish dishes in Tapas are just as I remember them. There are plenty of squid but, for the less adventurous, mussels, prawns, scallops and even smoked haddock which could be welcomed by those who get anxious about “foreign food”. Hake Deep-fried in a Light Beer Batter is so good that you’ll be advised to make a double batch, and Char-grilled Sardines will tempt almost anyone when that distinctive and mouth-watering aroma wafts from the barbeque.
My favourite recipe in Tapas is for Chicken Croquettes. They will be familiar to anyone who has eaten in tapas bars either in Spain or the UK. It’s authentic and comforting and a dish that works well as part of a regular meal with a green salad and some tomatoes. Ham can be substituted for the chicken, or even vegetables – a flexible and delicious dish.
Tapas is a cracker of a cookbook. I am so impressed that I’ll probably be having tapas parties for quite a while. The recipes are suitable for summer al fresco eating, but equally for cold nights in with some fine sherry or a nice bottle of red. Hope we hear more from Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas in the future.
Authors: Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas
Published by Kyle Cathie
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018