Fast, fabulous tapas

Bart Beek | VOLUME 30, ISSUE 2

Perfect as a light meal on the boat or as part of a shared plate when entertaining, these Spanish-inspired dishes are super easy to prepare.

Pinchitos are Spanish kebabs mostly made with cubes of marinaded lamb. They’re typically found in the Basque region in Spain’s north and Andalusia in the south. I marinade the lamb in delicious spices, then grill to medium-rare. Place the lamb skewers, soft tacos, and vegetables on a large platter and allow your guests to make up their own tacos.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Serves: 4

250g lamb loin, cut into dice

½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and crushed coarsely

½ tsp turmeric

15ml extra virgin olive oil

Salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper, to taste

4 soft tacos

1 cup lettuce, shredded

1 tomato, diced

1 avocado, sliced

Combine together the paprika, garlic, cumin seeds, turmeric, olive oil and seasoning. Add in the diced lamb and coat well. Spear onto four metal skewers and grill in a hot, oiled pan or on a barbecue until medium-rare.

Present with the soft tacos, lettuce, tomato, and avocado.

Cava is a sparkling wine produced in Catalonia, Spain. The name ‘cava’ comes from the stone cellars (cavas) where the wines are matured once bottled. The sauce served with the prawns is very flavoursome and gains its aroma from the prawn heads and shells. Try serving it over steaming pasta or present a bowl full on a shared plate at a party.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

8 large fresh green prawns

1 tblsp unsalted butter

30ml extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 golden shallot, diced small

500ml Spanish cava

150ml thickened cream

1 cup button mushrooms, sliced

1 large ripe tomato, quartered, seeds removed, diced

Salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper, to taste

½ lemon, zest and juice

½ cup continental parsley, roughly chopped

6 snow pea sprouts

Peel the prawns, remove the heads and, using a small paring knife, remove the intestinal tract. Place the shells and heads in a bowl and set the peeled prawns aside.

Place a saucepan on medium heat and add in the butter and half the olive oil. Add in the prawn heads and shells and cook for several minutes until they turn a bright red colour. Add the garlic and shallots to the pan and cook for two minutes, stirring well.

Combine in the cava sparkling wine and the cream, bring to a boil and reduce by half. Pass through a strainer and set the sauce aside.

Heat a heavy saucepan and add in the remainder of the olive oil. Add in the raw prawns and cook on high for several minutes until almost cooked. Remove the prawns from the pan and set aside.

Place the pan back onto the heat and add in the sliced mushrooms. Cook until lightly browned, and then add in the cooked prawns, diced tomato, cream sauce and seasoning.

Finish with a little lemon zest and juice and the parsley. Present with the snow pea sprouts.

Gazpacho is a delicious Spanish, tomato-based soup that’s served cold. It consists of raw vegetables and water-soaked stale bread and has more flavour when served cold, but not iced, and should have a thickish texture. A large range of garnishes can be presented with the soup including chopped hardboiled eggs, chopped ham, and almonds.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

900g vine-ripened tomatoes

1 red capsicum, seeds removed

½ small red onion, peeled and diced

½ Lebanese cucumber, half peeled and seed core removed

1 thick slice sourdough bread, soaked in ice water for 10 minutes, then squeezed dry

1 clove garlic

40ml Spanish sherry vinegar

½ tsp sugar

1 pinch cayenne pepper

40ml extra virgin olive oil

1 cup cold water

Salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper, to taste

To garnish

½ red capsicum, seeded, cut into 1cm dice

½ avocado, cut into 1cm dice

½ Lebanese cucumber, half peeled, cut into 1cm dice

1 cup sourdough bread, torn into small pieces

Drizzle 15ml olive oil onto the torn sourdough pieces, place onto an oven tray and bake in an oven at 170°C for 12 minutes or until just going crisp on the edges. Remove and set aside.

Cut a small cross on the base of the tomatoes, plunge into boiling water for 20 seconds, remove and place into iced water to cool. Peel away the skins, remove the core and scoop out all the seeds.

Place all ingredients except the garnish ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Place into the refrigerator and leave for several hours.

Check the seasoning and ladle into suitable bowls, then present with the various garnishes.

Escabeche (pronounced ‘es-ka-besh’) is a classic Spanish dish combining cooked fish or poultry in a fragrant pickling solution. Once made, it’s refrigerated overnight to pickle and develop flavour, then presented cold or at room temperature. The addition of white wine vinegar and orange juice gives the fish a delicious fresh tang.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Serves: 4

2 small whiting fillets, bones removed, halved

Salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper, to taste

30ml extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 small brown onion, thinly sliced

2 sprigs lemon thyme

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ orange, zest and juice

125ml dry white wine

125ml white wine vinegar

100ml water

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

¼ cup torn parsley

Crusty sourdough bread, to serve

Heat half the olive oil in a heavy frypan. Season the whiting and grill on both sides until just cooked. Remove and place in a single layer into a shallow bowl.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, heat up and add the crushed garlic. Cook for one minute, then add the sliced onions. Cook until soft.

Combine the lemon thyme and cumin seeds and cook for one minute. Add the remaining ingredients (except parsley and bread) and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Pour over the cooked whiting.

Allow to cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Stir in the torn parsley and serve at room temperature with some crusty sourdough.

Buffalo mozzarella is a cheese made with the pasteurised milk of the domestic water buffalo. It’s fresh, soft, and semi elastic and is a stunning partner to these beautiful figs. The sweetness of the figs and melons is balanced beautifully by the salty prosciutto.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

4 ripe figs, cleaned and quartered

1 buffalo mozzarella

¼ small honeydew melon

¼ small rockmelon

½ cup rocket

4 slices prosciutto, torn into halves

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

2 tblsps red wine liqueur vinegar

1 tblsp pomegranate seeds

Freshly milled black pepper, to taste

Several nasturtium leaves and flowers

Peel the melons and cut into long thin wedges. Place onto a large serving platter. Tear the buffalo mozzarella in half and add to the platter. Finish with the fig quarters, rocket and torn prosciutto.

To make the dressing, combine together the olive oil and liqueur vinegar in a small dish. Drizzle over the salad and finish with a scattering of pomegranate seeds, the nasturtiums, a splash of olive oil, and a little freshly milled black pepper.