Tapas can be terrible or terrific. The horror of patatas bravas smothered in tinned tomatoes and sunflower oil, or the joy of freshly marinaded anchovy fillets in local extra virgin olive oil perched on a piece of grilled bread. The memorable evening spent in Madrid or Barcelona moving from one tapas bar to another, sampling only the speciality at each and downing a glass of wine or beer before moving on.
They are one of Spain’s greatest exports, along with Julio Iglesias and Seats, but the number of decent tapas bars in London is still relatively small. So why not try to recreate the experience at home? The authors of this achingly tempting book, Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas, have run El Parador in Mornington Crescent since 1988, building up an enthusiastic customer base that grew as the area gentrified. Having decided to write a book they didn’t just sit down and simply write out the recipes though, they knew that for the home cook things have to be simplified first so they deconstructed many of their favourites. First they focussed on the main ingredient and then thought hard about how to rebuild the dish, leaving out anything that wasn’t essential, and tasting, tasting all the way to know exactly when the tipping point had been reached.
These are all racion recipes, which is to say larger than the average tapas. Again this is to make the home cook’s life easier. It is just too much to ask a home kitchen to turn out ten or fifteen tapas for a meal, but four or five larger portions are achievable. The authors are also advocates of short cuts such as ready-rolled pastry, as well of borrowing ingredients and styles from around the Mediterranean to bring extra vibrancy and colour.
Naturally fish and shellfish feature strongly with dishes such as Cod marinated with African spices and then shallow fried and Grilled scallops with garlic, coriander and chives served with a butternut squash and roasted pine nut mash, but there are plenty of dishes that will please vegetarians too such as Pan fried broccoli with roasted cherry tomatoes, olives and capers and Spinach and goat’s cheese tortillas. In fact the list of veg recipes is large, impressive and encouraging, although naturally meat is not left out with plenty of dishes using classics like chicken and that super-ingredient chorizo.
Nice pictures, clear readable text and recipes that really do get the juices flowing this is a great addition to a cook’s bookshelf. You can feel the blazing hot Spanish sun rise up off the pages, even though it was created in Camden.