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Spain Travel Highlight: Tapas! Authentic Spanish Cuisine

Tapas are canapes served day in & day out in every bar & cafe in Spain.  It is a tradition that is believed to have begun in the 19th century in Andalusia, where single slices of cheese or ham were used to “cover” glasses of sherry to deter flies (Spanish verb Tapar means to cover). After finishing their drink people would eat the ham or cheese. Tapas are so much a part of the culture & social scene in Spain, that they invented the verb tapear which means to go & eat tapas! In Northern Spain, tapas are often called pintxos because many of them have a toothpick (pincho) in them. The toothpick is used to keep whatever deliciousness is piled on the bread in place.

Tapas are served both served hot and cold. You can have them as appetizers, or combine several for a full meal. Popular items for tapas in Spain are olives, cheese, omlettes, garlic shrimp, ceviche, croquettes, empanadas, fried calamari, ham, chorizo sausage, meatballs, patatas brava (crispy fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce,) veggies & bread.

Want to experience authentic tapas in Spain? You can travel November through March on a 6 night package to Barcelona & Madrid for as low as $649 per person for the hotel, taxes & train between both cities. While you are there, we can set up a half day cooking class in Barcelona. Your lesson beings with a trip to the famous Boqueria Market with your host to shop for fresh ingredients. The cooking lesson will then cover either a basic Spanish Menu (tomato soup shot flavoured with Idiazábal cheese, potato omelette over tomato bread, seafood paella,  and Catalan cream) or how to prepare various Tapas. If you want to see more of Spain, our most popular Spain tour vacations include the 9 day Best of Spain and the 10 day Spanish Wonder, both of which visit Barcelona and Madrid as well as Valencia, Granada and Seville.

Prefer cruising? Luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas has a special sailing August 9, 2015 called 8 night Tapas & Traditions Cruise.

If you already have a trip planned we can make a few restaurant recommendations.  While in Barcelona, stop at Mam i Teca (lluna 4, Barcelona, Spain (El Raval).  It’s a small restaurant not often visited by tourists. Traditional tapas are treated with loving care by the resident foodies who source top-quality Spanish ingredients such as air-cured tuna, fresh anchovies and a variety of cheeses.  Another great choice in Barcelona is Taktika Berri.  This is one of the best and most popular tapas bars in Barcelona, so arrive early. Since the food is Basque, tapas there are called pintxos, and are just delicious. Do not expect a menu—the waiter will tell you what’s available.

While waiting to plan your dream trip to Spain, why not try and prepare a few of these traditional Spanish Tapas at home?

Croquetas de Jamon:

Ingredients:

1/2 pound of ham, diced (we suggest Serrano ham for added flavor)
1/2 of a white onion, minced
2 cups of plain bread crumbs
1 cup of milk
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp flour
Salt, pepper and paprika
Extra virgin olive oil

To prepare the croquetas, you will first need to cook the onions over medium heat until transparent.  Stir in flour and stir for a minute, then add milk.  Stir until sauce thickens.  Season with salt, pepper and paprika.  Place in a bowl and add the diced ham. Refrigerate at least one hour, although can be done up to a day in advance.  When you are ready, take out of the fridge and form into a small hot dog / cylinder shape.  Dip into the breadcrumbs, then into the egg, and back into the breadcrumbs so it is nicely coated. Chill coated croquestas for at least 30 minutes.  Heat your oil and fry a few at a time until golden brown, which takes 3 to 4 minute each.  Although you can deep fry them, we like to use less oil and just turn the a couple of times.  Drain on a paper towel and serve.

Spanish Omelet:

Make a simple Spanish omelet out of 4 eggs, 6 small potatoes (diced), half of a medium size white onion and salt to taste.  Wash and peel your potatoes, or purchase pre-cut store bought cubed potatoes usually sold in grocery stores next to the hashbrowns.  Place olive oil in a frying pan and cook your potatoes on high heat for about 5 minutes on their own and then drop heat heat to medium add in the onions.  Stir frequently so that the potatoes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add additional olive oil if needed.  Cook for a another 10 or 15 minutes until potatoes are easy to cut with a fork. Remove from heat and set aside.  Beat eggs with a tablespoon of milk, and a pinch of salt.  Add potato and onion mixture to the eggs. Pour 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil into a small, non-stick frying pan (approx. 9-10”) and heat on medium heat. Spread potatoes and onion out evenly.  When egg is cooked around the edges, you should be able to carefully lift one side to see if it is turning brown.  Don’t worry that the top is not completely cooked through.  When you are ready take your pan off the heat and with a large plate, quickly flip the egg over into the plate. Hopefully you used plenty of oil and nothing stuck to the pan.  Put your pan back on medium heat and add a little olive oil. Slide our omelet back into the frying pan.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let sit for a couple more minutes. You can of course make your own version and add ham, chorizo or peppers to the potato and onion mixture.

If you feel this is too much work a very easy tapas dish is to serve jamon serrano over a warm crusty piece of bread.  You can also wrap the ham around a piece of cantaloupe or around grilled shrimp. Spread toasted bread with garlic aioli and add Manchego (or your favorite cheeses) and cured meats.