As many of you will know, I love to entertain, be it formally or casually. I do think that some of the best gatherings are those spontaneous ones, where no meal is planned and the challenge is to whip something up in the kitchen from what you have on hand. In those circumstances, tapas does it for me. Tapas is perhaps Spain’s best known contribution to the world of food and cooking, having its origin in Andalusia. Culinary legend has it that tapas were use to cover wine glasses to keep the aroma in and the flies and insects out – tapa originally meaning ‘cover’. Now however, any food can be a tapa provided the serving is small.
The Book of Tapas by Simone and Inés Ortega (published by Phaidon) is a favorite ‘go to’ when I am looking for new and different tapas to make. Firstly, it is in the colours of Spain and as a very visual person, I love the fact that the cover itself calls out “Spain” to me, and makes me smile. Like many books published by Phaidon, this is a heavy book and can easily serve as a coffee table addition as well as a staple in your cookbook library.
The book has some unique features about it which I really like. Firstly, there is a glossary at the front which introduces you to the Spanish terminology of tapas, and then there are 24 colour pages of the A-Z of Spanish ingredients – both very useful if you are new to preparing traditional Spanish tapas. The book is then divided into sections rather than chapters : vegetables, egg & cheese, fish, meat, and finally some tapas from guest chefs, each written section followed by an index and full colour plates for each of the dishes in that section. Whilst some may prefer to have a colour plate next to the recipe, this division works really well here, as you can browse the pictures, pick what you would like to prepare and flick across to the recipe, the page reference given next to the picture. When I am looking for new tapas to prepare, just to sit down with the pictures gives me the enthusiasm to try the dish, and then I can just go to the recipe and write down what I need. There is also a comprehensive index at the rear.
There are over 250 easy-to-follow and simple recipes, yet they are utterly authentic and I promise you that this book will give you everything you need to ensure your venture into tapas is a success.
In the introduction, Inés Ortega writes: ‘What we Spaniards love about tapas is the philosophy of life they represent. I believe out climate, the sun. our wine and our character help to elevate the ritual of tapas into a moment of pure delight. It is an unhurried, enjoyable and sociable time, and involves being in good company and catching up with friends, discussing business or even politics. This leaves us ready to go home with a much happier heart, and often ready for a siesta if the tapas have been plentiful.”
So, do yourself a favour, buy a copy, let yourself be drawn into the culture that this book represents, source your ingredients, invite some friends around and thrill them with your tapas – I promise you there will be lots of laughter, conviviality, unstructured and diverse conversation fun and of course, wonderful food to snack on. Add some fabulous wine (you might throw in some Sangria) and life will just be great!!!
(The Book of Tapas is available from www.phaidon. com or through Booktopia).