Not so long ago all tapas were very simple because, as a Spanish bar owner once told me,’you don’t want to be fiddling about in the kitchen when the local football team suddenly come in and want to eat’.
And the same goes when the family come home in the evening. You want to be able to knock out something tasty without resorting to tweezers.
Omar Allibhoy can do complicated if he wants; his food at Tapas Revolution, the restaurant chain he founded, can serve up seriously inventive snacks, but this book is all about the simple recipes he grew up with and which he wants to share.
He bravely says in his introduction that taste and ease is’sometimes more important than authenticity’, a statement that won’t win him many foody fans of the nerd variety, but as he points out’Spanish food is evolving all the time so what is’authentic?’ He also cheerfully admits that stock cubes are nothing to be ashamed of and preserved foodstuffs can be better than fresh, and what’s more can be stored in the larder a lot longer. All good and sensible stuff.
The book’s divided into ten sections – fish, eggs and poultry, rice and pulses and so on – which makes the book easy to get around and useful in finding ways of using up what’s staring back at you from the fridge.
Prawns in garlic is so ubiquitous in Spain it often raises a jeer not a cheer but it is still an easy win with everyone, especially as Omar says, if you leave the head and shells on. More interesting is cod with garlic and chilli sauce, although it will seriously deplete your olive oil supply as a heck of a lot is used to confit the cod. It is however Omar’s Favourite Dish Ever, so it must be good.
Peas with Serrano ham and eggs is simple and delicious, what’s not to like? Peppers stuffed with cod in white sauce floats most people’s boats and an Asturian bean stew is just the ticket as the days get shorter and colder.
Most interesting is Omar’s tenth and final chapter,’The Chef’s Cut’. This is where he gets a tad more complicated but don’t panic, not too much. Mini shrimp pancakes made with prawns and chickpea flour should be simple enough to pull off, while snails with Serrano ham, chorizo and chillies is mostly all about finding the snails. Braised lambs’ tongues might have a few jaws dropping, but black pudding and goats cheese salad has to be a winner. All in all each chapter has enough to set Spanish food fans drooling all the way to the stove
Yes the revolution seems unstoppable.