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Tapas for the Festive Season



Over the festive season, friends and family get together and socialise around food and wine. What better way to do this than with beautiful small bites and light meals that do not take hours in the kitchen, but will still spoil your guests?!

Over the next few days and weeks, we will be sharing some lovely tapas recipes with wine suggestions to make your life easier when entertaining this summer.

Wikipedia defines Tapas as:

Tapas (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtapas]) are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, and sometimes sophisticated, cuisine. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. In some Central American countries, such snacks are known as bocas. In Mexico, similar dishes are called “botanas.”

The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them. Also, in some countries it is customary for diners to stand and move about while eating tapas.

History

The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”.

According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry (see below for more explanations). The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.

Etymology

Though the primary meaning of tapa is cover or lid, it has in Spain also become a term for this style of food. The origin of this new meaning is uncertain but there are several theories:

  • As mentioned above, a commonly cited explanation is that an item, be it bread or a flat card, etc., would often be placed on top of a drink to protect it from fruit flies; at some point it became a habit to top this “cover” with a snack.
  • It is also commonly said that since one would be standing while eating a tapa in traditional Spanish bars, they would need to place their plates on top of their drinks to eat, making it a top.
  • Some believe the name originated sometime around the 16th century when tavern owners from Castile-La Mancha found out that the strong taste and smell of mature cheese could help disguise that of bad wine, thus “covering” it, and started offering free cheese when serving cheap wine.
  • Others believe the tapas tradition began when king Alfonso X of Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a small snack or “tapa”.
  • Another popular explanation says that King Alfonso XIII stopped by a famous tavern in Cádiz (Andalusian city) where he ordered a cup of wine. The waiter covered the glass with a slice of cured ham before offering it to the king, to protect the wine from the beach sand, as Cádiz is a windy place. The king, after drinking the wine and eating the tapa, ordered another wine “with the cover”.
  • A final possibility surrounds Felipe III, who passed a law in an effort to curb rowdy drunken behavior, particularly among soldiers and sailors. The law stated that when one purchased a drink, the bartender was to place over the mouth of the mug or goblet a cover or lid containing some small quantity of food as part of the purchase of the beverage. The hope being that the food would slow the effects of the alcohol, and fill the stomach to prevent over imbibing.

Try our recipe for an easy Tomato, Mozarella and Basil Crostini and watch this space for more exciting tapa recipes.

Tomato, Mozarella and Basil Crostini Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tomatoes

8 slices Ciabatta

olive oil

2 spring onions

6 large basil leaves

Balsamic vinegar

Malden salt

freshly ground black pepper

100g Foire de latte (cow’s milk mozzarella cheese)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Bring a saucepot of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt. Wash the tomato and remove the stem if present. Turn the tomato upside down and make a ‘x’ by gently scoring the tomato on the underside. To blanch the tomatoes, immerse in the boiling water for a short period of time (about 15 – 20 seconds). Transfer the tomatoes to ice water and this will allow you the peel the skin off easier.

Place the slices of Ciabatta on a baking tray, lightly drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven until a light golden colour.

Once the tomatoes have been peeled, de-seed and dice finely. Slice the spring onion and basil leaves finely and mixed together with the diced tomatoes. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Spread the tomato salsa on the toasted Ciabatta bread, slice the mozzarella balls into round slices and place on top of the tomato salsa.

Place the Ciabatta into the preheated oven for two minutes until the mozzarella is melted. Once the mozzarella cheese has melted remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and serve.

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