Spanish Tapas – What are They and How to Prepare Them

History has it that tapas were born as a result of an illness suffered
by Alfonso XX, king of Spain. His physician’s recommended that he take small bites of food and some wine in between meals. Having recovered from the illness the wise king then decreed that wine was not to be served in the inns of the land of Castille without being accompanied by something to eat.

Another theory for the popularity of tapas is more prosaic and relates to the needs of workers. Due to the heavy nature of the main meal a 2 hour siesta had to be taken to aid it’s digestion before work in the fields could be resumed.

Therefore taps were developed to allow the workers to eat small amounts of food during the morning and thus delay lunch until 2.00 p.m. These longer working hours in the morning meant an easier workload after the main meal.

It also became popular amongst people who could not afford more nourishing meals as it helped to avoid the unpleasant effects of drinking on an empty stomach. The name tapas itself stems from the practise of covering the glass or jar of wine with a slice of ham or cheese firstly to prevent insects falling into it and secondly to give the guests something to soak up the alcohol.

The popularity of tapas continues to this day with many
recipes being developed and this is one of the pleasures of visiting Spanish bars.

In some they will serve simple plates of olives or nuts but there are many and varied types of tapas and below I offer a variety of tapas recipes which you can make simply at home and offer to your guests on any formal or informal occasion.

Tapas Recipes.

Patatas Bravas.


  • 2 or 3 potatoes.
  • Oil to fry.
  • 3 medium full-grown tomatoes.
  • 1 tsp. of spicy ground red pepper.
  • Vinegar.
  • 1 tsp. of flour.
  • Salt.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into small pieces, then fry, on a low

Once cooked, drain the potatoes.

Make the tomato sauce: Add a spoon of oil to the pan and then fry the
deseeded and peeled tomatoes, smashing it. When cooked, add a few
drops of vinegar, a teaspoon of flour and another teaspoon of spicy
ground pepper and stir well to mix everything. Season and pour over
the potatoes.

Pan con ajo,tomate and Jamon.(Bread with tomato, garlic and ham.)


  • Slices of bread (kind of household bread)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • Slices of smoked ham
  • Olive oil

Toast the slices of bread (best are pan-fried slices). While they are
still hot, rub them with the clove of garlic until they absorb the
flavour. Also rub the bread with half of the tomato. Add a pinch of
salt, olive oil and finally top with the slice of ham.

Try replacing the ham with anchovies.

Rollitos de Requesón y Jamón.(Cottage Cheese and Smoked Ham Rolls)


  • 2 Tbs of oil
  • 5 o 6 Tbs of flour
  • 3/4 L. of milk
  • Salt
  • 40 grs of butter
  • 200 grs. Of smoked ham (cut in small pieces)
  • 2 cups of fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 whipped eggs
  • 150 grs cottage cheese

Melt the tbsp of butter in a pan and then over a low flame, add the
flour, mixing well with a wooden spoon to form a roux. When the roux
turns yellows slowly add the cold milk (always stirring), and a
little salt. Let everything thicken over a low heat (about 20 minutes),
stirring constantly with the wooden spoon to avoid lumps. Continue
stirring until the roux leaves the sides of the pot

Mix well together the cottage cheese and the pieces of smoked ham.

Once the roux cools take small portions and fill them
with the ham and cheese mixture. Give the form of a small ball,
either round or oval.

Place the 2 well beaten eggs in a bowl and in another bowl place the
finely grated bread.

Coat each roll with the bread crumbs, then dip into the eggs and
again into the grated bread and fry them in very hot and deep oil
(6 pieces at a time). Let them rest on paper serviettes to drain off
the oil.

Aubergines from Almagro (Berenjenas de Almagro)


  • 8 small aubergines
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 little wild marjoram
  • 1 leaf Laurel
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3 or 4 whole garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • ½ tsp. sweet red pepper

First, in a pan and with the olive oil, slightly fry the whole garlic
cloves until brown, then add the fresh ground pepper and the sweet
red pepper so they are mixed with the olive oil.

Then, cook the aubergines in boiling water, adding the contents of
the pan, one laurel leaf, a tbsp. of vinegar and a little wild
marjoram. Let them boil gently, taking care that the aubergines do
not break. They can be kept in this sauce indefinitely. Serve cold.

Stuffed Mushrooms.


  • 1 lb 12 oz open mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 oz lean ground pork
  • 2 oz chorizo sausage, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, then finely chop the stems.
Set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over low heat, add the onion and cook,
stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until soft. Increase the
heat to high, add the pork, and cook for 1 minute, stirring
constantly and breaking up any lumps. Add the mushrooms stems and
chorizo and continue cooking for 1 minute, or until the mixture is
dry and browned. Add the tomato paste and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a
boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, or until
thick. Stir in the bread crumbs, then cool for about 1 hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, then
spoon about 1-1/2 teaspoons of the cooled meat mixture into each
mushroom cap, smoothing the top with a flexible metal spatula so that
the filling is slightly domed. Place on the baking sheet and bake in
the top half of the oven for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the
parsley and serve hot.

Borek of Asparagus


  • 16 fresh asparagus spears
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Add the asparagus to a large skillet of lightly salted boiling
water and simmer for about 3 minutes, then drain and refresh under
cold running water. Trim to 4-inch lengths.
Combine the salt, black pepper and lemon rind in a shallow dish and
roll each asparagus spear lightly in this mixture.
Cut the puff pastry sheets into 5×2-1/2 inch rectangles and place
one asparagus spear. In a bowl, combine the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons
water and brush on the sides and ends of the pastry. Roll the pastry
up like a package, folding in the sides so that the asparagus is
completely sealed in. Press the seams of the pastry using a fork.
Place the pastries on lightly greased baking sheets. Brush with the
remaining egg and sprinkle lightly with the sesame seeds.
Bake the asparagus pastries for about 15-20 minutes, or until
golden brown. These pastries are delicious served warm or cold.

Chickpeas and Chorizo


  • 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic,
  • crushed pinch dried thyme
  • 12 oz chorizo sausage, chopped
  • 1 tablepsoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Soak the chickpeas in plenty of water overnight. Drain well, then combine with the bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick, stock and 5 cups water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil over high heat for 1 hour, or until the chickpeas are tender. If they need more time, add a little more water. There should be just a little liquid left in the pan. Remove the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon stick.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the chorizo and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and their liquid to the pan, stir well, then stir over medium heat until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste before seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Delicious served hot or at room temperature.

Stuffed Tomtoes.


  • 8 small ripe tomatoes, about 2 inches wide
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic,
  • crushed 6 canned anchovy fillets,
  • finely chopped 8 Spanish black olive, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

Cut a 1/2-inch slice from the base of each tomato and scoop out the
seeds and membrane. Place the tomatoes, cut-side-down, on a double
layer of paper towels and drain.
Peel and lightly mash the avocado in a small bowl. Add the lemon
juice, garlic, anchovies and olives. Season to taste with salt and
freshly ground black pepper.
Spoon the avocado mixture into the tomatoes and sprinkle with the

Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus.


  • 8 oz fresh asparagus
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped

Trim the woody ends from the asparagus and cut into 1-3/4 inch
lengths. Add the asparagus to a saucepan of lightly salted boiling
water. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain.
Beat the eggs, cream and some salt and freshly ground black pepper
in a bowl. Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet, add the green
onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until soft. Reduce the
heat to low, add the asparagus and pour in the egg and cream mixture.
Cook, gently stirring, until creamy and just set. Serve hot.

Fish marinated in Garlic, Vinegar,Oregano and Cumin.


  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves, finely crumbled
  • 2 pounds skinless halibut fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces olive oil for frying)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • lemon wedges

Whisk vinegar, garlic, oregano, thyme, cumin, and bay leaves in
medium bowl to blend. Add fish and toss to coat. Let stand at room
temperature 1 hour or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
Heat enough oil to come 1/2 inch up sides of pan in heavy medium
skillet over medium-high heat. Place flour in large bowl. Remove fish
from marinade. Toss fish in flour, then shake off excess. Working in
batches, fry fish until cooked through and brown all over, turning
occasionally with tongs, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper
towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to platter.
Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon wedges.

Shrimp Fritters.


  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup club soda
  • 4 oz small cooked shrimp, shelled and chopped
  • oil, for deep-frying

Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl. Add the green onions,
parsley, cayenne pepper and some salt and mix well. Make a well in
the center, add some of the club soda and, using a whisk, gradually
whisk in the flour from the sides to form a batter. Add enough of
the club soda to form a batter that will drop from a spoon, then
whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the chopped shrimp and mix
until everything is well combined.
Fill a deep, heavy-based saucepan a third full of oil and heat to
350 F (a cube of bread dropped in the oil will brown in 15 seconds).
Drop scant tablespoons of the batter into the oil in batches and
cook for 1-2 minutes, turning, until the fritters are puffed and
evenly browned all over. Drain the fritters well on crumpled paper
towels. Serve hot.

Garlic Chicken.


  • 2 lb skinless, boned chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Trim any excess fat from the chicken and cut the thighs into thirds.
Combine the paprika with some salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss the
chicken in the spices. Heat half the oil in a large skillet over high
heat and cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes, or until brown. Remove from
the pan and set aside. Add half the chicken and cook for 5 minutes,
or until brown, remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining
chicken, adding the remaining oil if needed.
Return all the chicken to the pan, add the brandy, boil for 30
seconds, then add the stock and bay leaf. Reduce the heat, cover and
simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the garlic pulp in a mortar and pestle or small
bowl. Add the parsley and pound or mix with a fork to make a paste.
Stir into the chicken, cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender.
Serve hot.

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