When a noun becomes a verb you know that whatever it is has worked itself into the heart of a culture. ‘Tapa’ is such a noun in Spain.

Tapear (verb): an important part of Spanish food culture involving going out to have several appetizers in different restaurants or bars accompanied by drinks.

A short history of tapas

Like all great traditions, the origins of tapas are obscure and contested.

There are three main tales of tapas’ origins:

In the 13th century King Alfonso X ordered that wine be served with food to help soak up the alcohol. Bars acquiesced by placing a slice of jamón (ham), chorizo (spicy sausage) or queso (cheese) atop each jar of wine they served. This allegedly gave rise to the name tapa, which means ‘cover’ or ‘lid’ in Spanish.

Another theory states the tapa served the less prosaic function of keeping flies out of the drinks that were being served.

Yet another tale relates that another Alfonso (this time the XIII) was visiting Cadiz on a windy day and the hosts worried he may get sand in his wine and used a slice of ham to protect it. The king ate the ham and ordered the same again, swiftly followed by similar orders from his fawning court and the rest of Spain shortly thereafter.

15 tapas to try before you die

Tapas are designed for experimental foodies. They are made to try and perfect for discovering something new. Here are some unusual tapas you should try before you die:

Seafood Tapas

Bacalao con puerros caramelizados y naranjaSalt cod is just so Spanish and in this dish it’s combined with the sweet and sour flavours of caramelised leek, vinegar and orange.

Almejas en salsa verdeA Basque dish of clams in a richly flavoured garlic and white wine sauce.

Gambas pil pilThat sizzling dish you may have seen others enjoying is prawns cooked in oil, garlic and chilli.

Meat Tapas

CojonudaA Burgos tradition that is a tempting morsel of Spanish morcilla (blood sausage) served on bread with a quail’s egg.

Chorizo al vinoSpanish sausage cooked slowly in a sauce of wine – Spain on a stick!

Croquetas de jamónCrispy croquettes filled with fluffy potatoes and delicious ham.

Vegetables

Pimientos padrónMild chillies fried till they blister and doused in salt – perfect with drinks.

Cogollos al ajilloFinely chopped garlic is fried till it browns and lends a delicious smoky flavour to hearts of lettuce.

Berenjenas con mielA Granadian institution of aubergines fried and coated in the sweetest honey imaginable.

Other

BanderillasThe barbed darts of a bullfighter are imitated by quail’s eggs, peppers, tomatoes, cornichons and olives artfully arranged on toothpicks.

Manchego y membrilloThis sheep’s cheese from La Mancha is best sampled with a sweet quince paste known as membrillo.

Pan con tomateBreakfast in Barcelona can be a glass of wine and a slice of bread rubbed with garlic and smeared with a paste of fresh tomatoes.

Desserts

ChurrosSpanish stick-like ‘doughnuts’ are the ideal way to round off an evening and even better dipped in decadent chocolate.

Tortitas rellenas de natillas al aguardienteLemon custard fills these brandy flavoured pancakes, served splashed with liqueur and dusted with powdered sugar.

Crema catalanaThe Catalan version of crème brulée differs in its distinctive use of citrus peel and cinnamon to spice things up.

Tapas tasting menu ideas

Pan con tomate (Bread and tomato)

Jamón ibérico (Ham)

Aceitunas (Olives)

Pan

Aceitunas

Gambas pil pil (Spicy, sizzling prawns)

Patatas con salsa verde (Potatoes in green sauce)

Berenjenas con miel garbanzos y espinacas (Spinach and chickpeas)

Jamón ibérico

Pan

Aceitunas

Banderillas

Tortilla española (Spanish omelette)

Pimientos padron

Croquetas de jamón

Gambas pil pil

Chorizo al vino

Patatas bravas (Spicy potatoes)

Pan x 2

Banderillas x 2

Pimientos padron x 2

Tortilla española

Cogollos al ajillo

Croquetas de jamón

Gambas pil pil

Chorizo al vino

Patatas con salsa verde

Patatas bravas

Jamón ibérico

Manchego y membrillo

Talking tapas

Presented by Clic

¿hay…?

is/are there…?

perdón

excuse me

muy rico

very delicious

¿tienes…?

do you have…?

(muchas) gracias

thank you (very much)

soy vegetariano/vegetariana

I am vegetarian

quisiera…

I would like…

¿cuánto cuesta una tapa?

how much for a tapa?

la cuenta por favor

the bill please

¡salud!

cheers!

Sources:

  • http://www.unique-almeria.com/what-are-tapas.html#ixzz2aNQ2ASot
  • http://spanishfood.about.com/od/seafoodtapas/r/Clams-In-Green-Sauce-Recipe-Recipe-For-Almejas-En-Salsa-Verde.htm
  • http://carmenskitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/gambas-la-plancha-king-prawns-easy.html
  • http://spanishfood.about.com/od/tapas/r/bacalaopueros.htm
  • http://spanishfood.about.com/od/tapas/r/cojonudos.htm
  • http://spanishfood.about.com/od/tapas/r/croquetas.htm
  • http://spanishfood.about.com/od/sausages/a/jamonintro.htm
  • http://spanishfood.about.com/od/vegetariantapasrecipes/r/friedpadronpeppers.htm
  • http://tapastalk.wordpress.com/2008/07/02/tapa-of-the-week-16-cogollos-al-ajillo/
  • http://juliearoundtheworld.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/how-to-make-berenjenas-con-miel-eggplant-with-honey/
  • http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CC8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbcgoodfood.com%2Frecipes%2F1179%2Fmanchego-cheese-triangles-with-quince-preserve&ei=4471UfDaKoTxPKuNgYAO&usg=AFQjCNHHvwCoXd4taMYqUXoWgIAa0hKNbw&bvm=bv.49784469,d.ZWU
  • http://spanishfood.about.com/od/tapas/r/banderilla.htm
  • http://spanishfood.about.com/od/tapas/r/patatasbravas.htm
  • http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/23814/ensalada-rusa–russian-salad-.aspx
  • http://www.tienda.com/recipes/churros.html
  • http://www.tienda.com/recipes/custardpancakes.html
  • http://www.proper-spanish-tapas.com/tapas-words.html

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