The iconic eating culture of tapas is something to be celebrated, and what better time than August! Read on for origin, locations, tapas today, and some great top picks.
There’s some uncertainty about the true origins of the tapas culture, with plenty of theories out there. One such excellent explanation is about King Alfonso X of Castile, who recovered from an illness by eating small dishes between and drinking wine between meals. Legend also has is that he was a fan of covering his wine with a slice of ham to protect it from sand when on the beach, perhaps giving rise to the phase ‘tapas’ meaning ‘top’ or ‘cover’. Other explanations build on this, citing the concept of a ‘cover’ of bread or plate on the top of an alcoholic drink as a way to protect the drink (and maybe line the stomach too!).
The tradition of eating tapas varies hugely region to region across Spain. In Granada, Andalusia, a tapas will regularly be served for free when a drink is ordered in a restaurant. Tapas dishes include hot and cold dishes, from seafood salads to croquetas. Many people enjoy tapas before dinner, between 6-9pm with a late dinner to follow. Don’t expect tables and chairs in a classic tapas bar though, you’re more likely to find long bars and the odd stool- and you’ll be luck to get a stool on a busy Saturday night!
Unlike Andalusia, in the Basque country, Cantabria, La Rioja, Navarre, and Asturias little dishes are known as pintxos. They’ve often got a little toothpick in them to eat from- and in some traditional restaurants you’ll be charged per toothpick! Traditionally, they are small pieces of bread with toppings like cheese, figs, ham, peppers, and plenty more!
It’s impossible to give all tapas recipes the attention they deserve here, but here’s a list of some of the classics you’d expect most tapas bars to serve.
Gildas pinxto- A simple pinxto with olives and anchovies, this dish is the perfect accompaniment to a beer. Check out the full recipe here.
Tortilla de patata- The classic Spanish tortilla is packed full of potatoes and onions and can be served hot or cold. Easy to cook, and delicious! Try this recipe from Tasty.
Pinxtos- For a great Pinxtos recipe, try these goats cheese and caramelised onion little bites. Perfect to have alongside a cool drink on a hot day.
Croquetas- A breaded and deep fried dumpling of sorts, the real flavour of this tapas all comes down to the filling. Ham or chicken are popular options, but prawns and vegetables are great options too. Here’s a ham recipe to get you started.
Pimientos de Padron- These small, bright green peppers are best served fried up with a sprinkle of salt- and are the best eaten whole leaving just the stem. The occasional one has a fiery kick, though it’s generally nothing too shocking. Click here for some cooking inspiration.