Tapas & small plates

Tapas & small plates

By
Ben Tish
Contains
21 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 1 84949 715 2
Photographer
Kris Kirkham

Believe it or not, small-plate dining (or tapas, to use the Spanish term) isn’t a new invention.

You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given the recent explosion of restaurants, bars, pubs and books focusing on the concept. So great is the over-exposure that apparently the foodie public and elite gastro-journalists alike are at risk of ‘small-plate fatigue’ (yes, this term has actually been coined, but I forget by whom), and it often feels as if the whole small-plates-to-share idea is on the cusp of implosion. This reaction has in part been prompted by some ill-conceived efforts: over-complicated and clashing flavours or over-worked dishes that go against the principles of small-plate dining. Dishes should work together in harmony and complement each other, acting as foils to one another and basically making for a delicious experience.

Of course, people all over the world have been eating like this for centuries, and doing it bloody well; the only ‘backlash’ is in the UK, and more specifically in London, where the culture isn’t ingrained. Across much of Asia, including India, Thailand and China, the traditional way of eating is to enjoy many different dishes at the same time: waves of hot and spicy dishes, cooled by fresh salads and sauces, and balanced by rice, noodles and breads. Middle Eastern mezze is a perfect example of how a series of simple, well-executed dishes can make a banquet – grilled meat and chicken, flatbreads, pulses, grains and marinated vegetables – all taking into account not only flavours, but also the importance of textures and temperatures, with some dishes served chilled, others warm or piping-hot. And Italy has always had its antipasti and cicchetti, and, of course, Spain its wonderful tapas.

The Spanish tapas tradition traces its origins to the pieces of rough, cured ham and dry bread that were used to cover glasses of sweet sherry when not being drunk, to protect the contents from annoying, sugar-loving flies. Eventually, these glass-protectors became bite-sized, salty bar snacks that encouraged lingering… and more drinking. Bar patrons knew they were on to a good thing, and so tapas was born. Over the years, the concept has been developed and refined to the point where tapas today range from simple salted padrón peppers, nuts or olives to salads, grilled fish and meats, slow-cooked braises and crisp-fried croquettes.

We’ve now been preparing, cooking and serving our own style of tapas for over ten years at Salt Yard, and more recently at Dehesa, Opera Tavern and Ember Yard. A direct result of experiencing traditional tapas in Spain (and in New York’s tapas-style restaurants), this grew from the realization that, done correctly, this is the most wonderful way to eat, creating an informal, relaxed and exciting dining experience – something too many restaurants lack.

We take Spanish and Italian flavours, cooking techniques and ingredients and put our own spin on them. This might be using seasonal, local produce where appropriate: we love using fish from British coastal waters and pork from Gloucester Old Spot pigs; and game and English asparagus feature heavily on our menus during their short seasons. We also make our sauces lighter and fresher, then add a nod to the ever-changing, fast-paced London culinary scene – ibérico pork and foie gras burger, anyone? We always look at the menu as a whole and make sure customers understand what goes with what, and that some things may take a little longer to cook than others, so the meal will have a natural flow. We want our customers to get stuck in and share, to discuss the food they are eating and not be shy about getting a few crumbs on the table.

This kind of eating is about interaction, being social, having fun – and, above all, it’s about trying as many different dishes as you can! With a little guidance, there’s no reason you can’t cook a brilliant tapas feast at home. For each recipe, we’ve included a couple of suggestions on what we think would complement it, so you can start to build a meal; of course, tastes are subjective, but it will give you an idea. Embrace the small-plate movement, if you haven’t already. And if you need a cure for small-plate fatigue, then read on…

These smaller plates are designed for sharing: serve a selection as part of a tapas feast; or serve as stand-alone dishes, perhaps as a starter or light lunch.

Each recipe makes 4 individual small plates; if serving tapas-style, allow 1 plate between 2 people.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again