by Isaure Cointreau
The other day while I was having an exhausting walk around the town my stomach was aching for food so I stopped c/ Bailen at the Taberneria. This little place serves the best tapas I have ever tasted. Not of a flamboyant style, hip or even trendy it is just a simple bar where one can feel at home. The theme of the decoration recalls rural Spain and while engorging our fresh glasses of water, the meal arrived on our table.
The barman had freshly made our tostas and with the empanadas at hand we placed our meal on the barrel where we were having lunch. Tiles and candlesticks hanging on the wall, accompanied with a guitar and a wooden chariot’s wheel, we felt at ease and regained strength with what was served. Bread, brie and Salmon, Jamon and onion jam, or marinated sweet pepper and goat cheese, every combination was yummier than the other.
To this fooding delight we talked about how great it would be to be able to make these and serve them for a dinner party. It goes perfectly with red wine, it looks great and seems fairly easy to make. But is it really? This would be the next challenge.
Where to start? Before leaving I asked the chef to give us some recipes tricks or advices on the Tapas making process, just to get started. Checking onto the web gazpacho and the local cheese cake seemed quite a thrill. The aim: making a whole Spanish dinner for a Retiro picnic on Saturday. I’ll bring the food, they’ll bring the wine, desert and other details.
First stop: Supermarket. Sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olive, oil, pepper, oregano, fresh bread, cheese, what could I be forgetting if it weren’t for the ham?
When in the kitchen with the groceries at hand, the recipes were on the table while a bowl and wooden spoon were waiting for instructions. Let the adventure begin.
Let’s start with the empanadas. Tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, it’s all about the chopping and into the pan with oil, herbs and salt. My personal trick is to add a little water to prevent having to put more oil. Who would want to eat a billion calories when unnecessary? Then it is on to the bird. Chicken fillets on the working panel it is again chop chop chop into small pieces to make them turn pink to white until some bits are a little browner when cooking. When all of this is ready then the fun part begins. Having bought pie dough (don’t tell anyone) the only thing left is to cut it in rectangular shapes and fill a half with the chicken and veggies. When folded you can put it in the oven and it’ll be ready in about a half hour . Strike 1: Achieved
So the pies are made what’s next? The tortilla is a Spanish must as it is present in every bar and is in every typical Iberic menu. Easy to make, my motivation couldn’t be any more eager to try to make it. Bowl at hand, 5 eggs will suffice. When battered all together with a little salt and a cloud of milk, let’s pass on to potatoes. Cutting them into square shapes you’ll have to fry them until they are tender in olive oil with a chopped garlic and onion. When all is ready let the potatoes swim in the bowl so they would gain a coat of egg when back into the pan. Try to dispose them evenly to cover the whole base. Add the eggs and when the mixture is half set use a plate to invert the process and let the uncooked side of the omelet onto the skillet. Leave it again 5 minutes and take it out of the fire when nicely thick and juicy. Strike 2: Excellent
How about tostas now? Living in Spain I have kept in mind the good combinations however although I tried pretty much everything there is an unlimited mixture of ingredients that you can put on your bread, surprising you more than once. The main element is the bread as in of any kind though I would suggest not too thick and large enough to have a few bites on it. Then before dressing it you’ll have to put a base like a natural tomato sauce. Then smoked salmon with brie, Serrano Ham with onion jam, marinated sweet peppers with melted mozzarella cheese and herbs, morcilla, possibilities are endless with the tostas. Just don’t forget to put in the oven for a few minutes as you would want them a little grilled. Strike 3: Looks good!
Arriving at the park with these goodies in my bag, I felt like the little red Robin Hood though the only thing that was going to be eaten was what was inside my basket. In a little private area where no one goes by, my friends had laid out a large cloth with candles every where and about and as the day was setting on Madrid the dim light gave a pretty enchanting ambiance. The bottles of wine in the middle, glasses and screw bottle not far away, a salad bowl was awaiting company, the tapas. The evening went by too fast and at the stroke of twelve we had to leave in a merry mood with the sound of the guitar playing furiously while walking through the gates as the park would close. What a delightful evening!
However why did I even bother? Other than the pleasure of sharing with others your experiences, such as this one was to me, it’s always nice to bring a part of Spain with you when you are far away. I felt that if I could make a Spanish meal, its warmth would catch up with any kind of mood, as it always brings the best of people. Leaving Spain pretty soon I could then always bring a piece of sunshine on my table.