Have you ever had a memory so profound that a mere aroma takes you back to that specific time and place? They say that the human sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger of all of our senses so I’m not surprised we have them as often as we do.
My memories are generally food and wine related and the most recent was during a visit to a local tapas bar. The bar itself was not particularly interesting but the experience was remarkable. As I swirled a delightful Spanish red wine in a large goblet and allowed the aromas to billow and rise slowly to my nose, I took that first sip and I was instantly transported to a Barcelona holiday we had a few years ago. It’s an experience I wanted to share with my dearest friends so I made sure my latest batch of craft wine was ready and I planned our tapas dinner party.
Having a tapas dinner party is something like a cocktail party only it lasts a lot longer and instead of cocktails, it’s served with wine. Small plates of food are served slowly throughout the evening, allowing each bite to be savoured with the wine of choice. Of course, we often do individual food and wine pairings but we decided to keep it simple this time and serve this popular Spanish varietal that pairs wonderfully with most flavours. This type of dining lasts for hours so make sure you have some beautiful Spanish background music, lots of candles and of course a few bottles of your very own craft wine.
We chose our Cellar Classic Winery Series Spain Grenache Syrah because of its luxuriously layered dark fruit with a hint of tobacco followed by spicy black pepper notes. There is a long elegant finish that lingers just enough to make that next bite of food even better than the first.
We’re sharing four of our favourite tapas recipes because they are not too complex. Feel free to prepare and make each dish as the evening progresses to help break up the eating, or you may wish to get everything ready in advance so all you have to do is cook (mise en place, as the French like to say). Kitchen parties are the best and your guests will want to follow you into the kitchen and watch you work as they continue to sip on your delightful craft wine.
May we suggest you have a plate of pickles and olives on the table during the evening. We’ll begin the evening with a traditional Pan con Tomate(Spanish Tomato Bread) — so flavourful, yet so simple. This is served instead of traditional bread in most restaurants in the Catalonia Region.
CLICK TO SEE PAN CON TOMATE RECIPE
Pan con Tomate*
Good crusty bread, like baguette or French Stick, cut in 1 cm (1/2 inch) slices.
Garlic cloves, peeled.
Tomato purée or tomato paste.
Toast up some good, crusty bread. Rub raw garlic over the top (the more you rub, the more intense the flavour).
Spread a light coating of puréed tomatoes (you may use tomato paste, the wine can handle the strong flavours and acidity).
Moving onto some heavier flavours with Datiles con Tocino(Bacon Wrapped Dates). These little treats will surprise you — they are beautifully contrasting flavours of sweet and salty and are extremely addictive, so have more than you think you need on hand.
CLICK TO SEE DATILES CON TOCINO RECIPE
Datiles con Tocino*
3 Small to medium-sized dates per person (like Deglet Noor or Common Dates, Medjool are too large for this dish).
1 Raw bacon strip per person, cut into thirds.
Wrap one date with one of the cut bacon strips and secure with a wooden toothpick.
Bake for 10-15 minutes at 325°F or until bacon is cooked through and crisp (but not burned).
The bacon wrapped dates may be made in bulk and frozen in an air tight container, for quick hors d’œuvres.
Mix it up and use prunes or dried apricots instead of dates.
Lay the cut bacon strips on a microwavable plate lined with two layers of paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes on high will release water in the bacon and allow the bacon to crisp faster when baking the finished bacon wrapped dates.
200-300g prawns (size 21-30 per pound), per person, cleaned, skin removed but tail kept on.
1 large clove garlic, per person, finely minced.
Sprinkle of chili pepper flakes (optional).
1 tbsp olive oil, per person.
Chopped parsley to garnish.
Heat the olive oil in a small, presentable frying pan. Add the garlic and chili peppers, heat being careful not to scorch the garlic (it will turn bitter).
Add shrimp and cook through until opaque, stirring occasionally.
Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve immediately in the hot frying pan with crusty bread (your guest will dip their bread into the garlicky olive oil!).
And last but not least, we’ll complete this meal with a simple Tortilla de Patatas(Spanish Potato Omelette), a dense omelette with cooked potatoes. You may also flavour with various cured meats and cheeses but we like to savour the creamy potato in this simple delicacy.
CLICK TO SEE TORTILLA DE PATATAS RECIPE
Tortilla de Patatas*
Olive oil to coat the bottom of a presentable, oven-ready frying pan
1/2 small onion, per person, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, per person, finely minced
1 large egg, per person, whisked well
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 medium cooked potato (Yukon Gold work very well), sliced into 2 mm thick slices (skin on or off, your choice).
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Heat olive oil in a small presentable frying pan (6-8 inches, 15-20 cm for about 4 people) and sauté the onions until translucent, add garlic and stir until fragrant.
Add the whisked egg(s) with salt and pepper and pour over the onions and garlic. Arrange the potato slices in the egg and onion mixture and press down a bit to immerse in the egg. Do not stir. Cook until the omelette begins to become opaque but the centre is still runny (the centre will bake in the oven).
Finish baking the omelette in the oven, 10-20 minutes until the centre is firm (depends on how many eggs and how thick the omelette is).
Cool for a minute then, with a very sharp knife, cut into bite-sized squares. Skewer each square with a toothpick and serve in the hot pan.
If you are inclined to have dessert, why not make (or buy) your favourite brownies or squares and cut them into 2.5 cm cubes (1-inch) for a single bite to finish the evening on something sweet. Fruit and cheese are also a lovely option.
*Recipes are ideations with ingredient suggestions and rough quantities, please do not hesitate to adjust to your personal taste.