Whenever we bought a drink Tapas morsels were presented to tempt us, in fact it was a shock if they were not. Ensaladas rusa was the mayonnaise bound diced vegetable selection of peas, carrots, potatoes and onion with optional hard-boiled egg diced up and possibly with anchovies or tuna. I have to say it looked and tasted very similar to the Heinz tinned variety I used to have at Christmas as a child, but that is by no means de-valuing it. I loved it then and I love it now.
Banderillas are skewered pickled mixtures with onions, gherkins, pimentos and olives. They look glorious and make your mouth water. Eating them is addictive until the number of cocktail sticks you accumulate becomes embarrassing.
Fish based tapas are based on sardine, anchovies, cod, salmon and of course calamari or squid and Gambas (prawns). The flavours and colours were intense but not magical, as you might get from seaside fishing ports in the UK or elsewhere. Madrid is land locked and relies on deliveries of fresh fish each day. Markets are important sources of good fresh ingredients (see my review of Madrid markets).
I was becoming accustomed to seeing Tapas and to experiencing their flavours and textures. I could see how good ingredients could be served quite simply. It was interesting to note the concern for food safety. All the tapas bars had chilled and covered storage units. In fact cleanliness in Madrid very impressive in the streets, bars and washrooms. Food service was obviously important to their way of life and my Tapas research was a joy.
On my return to the UK I reflected on the trip and listed ways I could take inspiration from the Tapas I had seen and tasted:
· Use more smoked paprika and Spanish pepper chilli spices
· Use olive oils, saffron and Spanish cured meats in dishes
· Substitute bacon with chorizio
· Use anchovies and prawns and squid more imaginatively
· Consider portion size and offer choices from a selection
· Create dishes that can be served on ‘toast’
· Make dishes look attractive using fruits and vegetables , herb leaves and drizzled oils
· Extend the uses of egg in sweet and savoury dishes
Learning to cook? Find my Tapas selection recipes and videos.