This book could have had a couple of different titles both of which would have been equally relevant – How to Cater Your Own Wedding (or at least your cousins’), or How to Throw a Cocktail Party Without Needing a Second Mortgage (assuming that you had already found a bank to give you the first one). Julia Hartley has been a catering professional for the past 16 years and her expertise shines through not only in the quality of the recipes but in the invaluable advice.
The Big Book of World Tapas isn’t just about those delightful little dishes of food found in wood-panelled bars in Spain. It’s about the concept of presenting small and tasty bites to a few family members or a host of guests. It draws upon bite-size recipes for delicious morsels from around the world. India, China, Europe and the Middle East all have their versions of Tapas. What better way of offering a variety of tastes and textures to those whose palates have been jaded by years of abuse from curly ham sandwiches, soggy coronation chicken vol au vents, and carrot sticks that bend like tulips in a vase.
This lovely book gives you enough information to set up in business. I always worry that I have not prepared enough food for guests. I have something of a siege mentality when it comes to food so there is invariably a lot of waste. That’s an expensive mistake in these days of high food prices and little spare cash. Julia has a useful table that suggests quantities of food depending on type of event, number of guests and length of party (people stay longer than you expect).
Julia has tapas selections for 6 types of event: Brunches, Pre-dinner Drinks, Cocktail Parties, Late-night Drinks, Parties and Celebrations, and Weddings. All the tapas can be mixed and matched so you can tailor the food to the guests. There is plenty here for vegetarians, who often get a raw deal (those limp carrots again) but those vegetarian items are exotic enough to appeal also to meat-eaters who are probably heartily sick of sausage rolls.
There are 365 international tapas listed and it’s difficult to pick just a few from the list of remarkable savoury ones. Chorizo, Red Pepper & Manchego Empanadas would have my vote for the most Spanish tapa. Squid Stuffed with Pine Nuts and Raisin Rice is outstanding and most of the work can be done in advance. Roasted Tikka Potatoes would be a flavourful hot dish that will disappear before your very eyes. They couldn’t be easier and they are a great fall-back tapa if a few unexpected extra guests turn up.
Sweets at catered events are often a disappointment or overlooked altogether. I have never been keen on wedding cake but that and trifle are the predictable offerings. The Big Book of World Tapas tempts you with Treacle Tartlets, Hazelnut Clusters and Chocolate Fondue along with many other delights to sooth your previously neglected dessert craving.
The Big Book of World Tapas is a book that will enable you to throw the best of parties without resorting to outside help. It isn’t as daunting as it might seem. The dishes are straightforward with the minimum of ingredients, and lots of work can be done several days in advance. Julia Hartley has penned the new event-catering bible for the home cook. Amazing value for money.
The Big Book of World Tapas
Author: Julia Hartley
Published by: Duncan Baird
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018