Spaniards are known for eating late - lunch is about 2pm, dinner starts at 10pm. Originally, tapas was eaten as a snack between main meals to tide the body over. The term has since evolved to refer to an amazing array of mouthful-size bites, to be enjoyed with a glass of sherry or ice-cold beer. Spaniards enjoy walking from bar to bar grazing on these small dishes, standing with a glass in hand talking about the day's events, or what their football team will do on the weekend.
These tapas recipes can be adapted to suit your taste. The chorizo bocadillo is a simple sandwich at heart, but uses quality ingredients bursting with flavour. Use any quality salami instead of chorizo, and have it cold.
For the grilled tomato and garlic toast, the anchovy can be replaced with a thin slice of jamon. And try ripe peaches cut in quarters instead of figs for the last recipe.
CHORIZO AND PIQUILLO PEPPER BOCADILLO
10 small crusty bread rolls
10 slices raw chorizo sausage
1 tin piquillo peppers*
10 tsp good-quality mayonnaise
Slice bread rolls in half lengthways and lie open on a cutting board. Fry chorizo over a medium heat in a non-stick fry pan, or barbecue until well coloured and cooked through. Empty peppers into a bowl. While chorizo is warm, place a piece on the bottom of each roll, then a piece of piquillo pepper. Sprinkle a little salt on the pepper and finish with a teaspoon of mayonnaise. Place the other piece of bread on top and push a toothpick through to keep it all together.
Makes 10 (pictured)
* Sold at delis and some supermarkets.
ANCHOVY WITH TOMATO AND GARLIC
1 loaf day-old sourdough bread
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 very ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
10 large anchovy fillets, eg Spanish Cantabrian
2 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped
Cut bread into 10 thick slices, then lightly oil both sides. Cut tomatoes across the middle and garlic the same way, leaving skin on. Grill bread on a barbecue or toast in a toaster. While warm, hold garlic by the skin and rub cut surface on grilled bread - you will smell the fantastic garlic aroma. Holding the tomato by the skin, rub the cut surface on the bread until you see tomato flesh on it. Place tomato bread on a plate, top pieces with an anchovy fillet, sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Eat while warm.
FIG AND JAMON
3 large ripe figs
1 golden shallot
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
4 mint leaves
6 slices jamon
Cut figs in half and place in a bowl. Peel shallot, cut core out, finely slice lengthways, then place in a bowl with oil and vinegar. Mix shallot dressing with figs gently until well coated, leave at room temperature for 20 minutes. Drain dressing from figs, tear mint and sprinkle on figs, then wrap with jamon and serve.