WE all love tapas and at The Little Geranium we have a fantastic artistic style tapas menu (lunch only) and it’s very popular with all.
The word tapas or tapa means to cover in Spanish. There are many stories relating to the origin of how the tapa was first discovered, but the one that sticks in my mind tells us that King Alfonso XIII stopped by a famous tavern in Cadiz, where he ordered a cup of wine.
The waiter covered the glass with a slice of cured ham before offering it to the king, to protect the wine from the beach sand and the flies (Cadiz is a windy place).
The king, after drinking the wine and eating the tapa, ordered another wine with the cover as an essential ingredient, and so tapas were discovered.
Tapas started off being very simple, Iberian ham, Manchego cheese, chorizo and breads, but evolved to serving up fish dishes like prawn pil pil, calamari, boquerones with vinegar, or deep fried empanadillas (pastry turnovers filled with meat or vegetables) and padron peppers to name just a few.
In many traditional Spanish restaurants and chiringuitos they have not evolved much, it is what their clients have come to expect.
Then chefs like me come along and try and evolve them drastically, but for the better I hope!
We have dishes like black pudding with caramelised pear and Roquefort, small rump steak burger with foie gras, truffled asparagus, goats cheese tempura with honey & truffle, New York lobster roll, crispy duck salad, Thai beef salad, Galician beef with truffle mash and wild mushrooms and much more on our menu.
Hardly what King Alfonso had in mind when he ordered a cover for his wine, but my kind of artistic tapas are what makes our lunch time sharing food something a bit special and different.
So popular are our tapas at lunchtime that I have been asked to do a cookery school based solely on tapas.
My school usually teaches fine dining dishes and for the first time this February, on the 16th, I am doing such a course, teaching budding chefs and enthusiastic foodies to cook and create amazing flavours of small dishes, artistically presented on beautiful crockery.
So preceding this class, I thought I would share some of the recipes with you. Hot off the press here are two fantastic recipes for tapas that I hope you will love.
If you would like more information about the cookery school tapas day on February 16, please email me at [email protected]
Thai Beef salad sesame & rocket
- 400g sirloin (or fillet) beef steak, sliced in thin strips
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 heaped tbsp sesame seeds
- Maldon salt to season
- Sunflower oil, to fry
- 1 small bag of mixed salad leaves
For the sauce:
- 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large thumb sized piece ginger, finely grated
- 1 stick of lemongrass finely chopped
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (Agri dulche)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp honey
- Juice of half a lemon
This method of cooking the beef crispy, then coating it in the sauce, crispy adds texture and amazing flavours to this fantastic dish.
In a bowl, mix together the beef strips and cornflour and half the sesame seeds until completely coated.
Heat a deep fat fryer to 180c with sunflower oil or add approx one inch of oil to a high sided frying pan or wok and place over a medium heat.
Once the oil is hot add a piece of beef, if it produces a steady stream of bubbles it should be hot enough. Fry the remaining beef in batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pan (or fryer) or the oil will cool down and it will poach the beef, stopping it from crisping. Drain the crispy beef on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Place all the ingredients for the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, but do not boil. Place the beef in a bowl and add the sauce and the remaining sesame seeds. Toss to coat completely.
Arrange the salad leaves in a small metal ring approx 4cm diameter. Top with the crispy beef and press it down, so that when you remove the ring the beef stays in place.
Garnish with some dressed rocket.