Is there anything more quintessentially Spanish than enjoying a bottle of Rioja with a flavoursome array of tapas? It's a super relaxing way to start the evening and enjoy some food that you're savouring for its taste rather than its volume. Tapas are also a great option for a light and healthy lunch or if you're looking for a spicy and flavoursome alternative to the more common Mexican food. In cities all over Spain, there are even tapas trails that take you round some of the best bars and restaurants serving these delicious dishes. In fact, this has even been copied in Dublin with a now annual event that takes place each June. But if you're a tapas novice, it can be hard to pick your way through all the delicious combinations available. So here are a few ideas of dishes that go together perfectly.
1. Patatas bravas with Serrano ham
Patatas bravas are delicious bite-sized cubes of potato that are usually pan-fried, or sometimes deep-fried, and served with a very rich sauce which has been reduced for several hours and which consists of a combination of red pepper, paprika, chilli and other spices. The perfect accompaniment are a few thin slices of a Serrano ham which has been hung for a few months before being freshly carved off the bone. There are other kinds of ham you may come across on tapas charcuterie boards, including Iberico, but most agree that Serrano is the finest that you can get.
2. Calamares with gambas al ajillo
Calamares with gambas al ajillo is a classic way to enjoy the very best of Spanish seafood and both are specialities at Dublin's Havana on South Great George's Street. The former is tender braised squid while the gambas al ajillo are succulent king prawns served in melted butter with garlic and parsley – usually with crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce.
3. Croquetas with chorizo
As you might have guessed, croquetas are the Spanish version of croquettes which can be stuffed with any combination of cheese, fish, shellfish, potatoes, meat or vegetables and then deep-fried to crispy perfection. They go especially well with the spicy chorizo sausage that is heavily spiced with paprika to give it a dramatic red colour. It's been cropping up in many dishes recently and even as a topping on gourmet burgers but the most usual way of preparing it is to cook it in red wine until this reduces to a rich and fragrant sauce, again, perfect for mopping up with bread or even a croqueta.
4. Tortillas with albóndigas
No, tortillas aren't the Mexican-style chips you have with dips, they're the original Spanish omelettes. They are made in layers using thinly sliced potatoes and onions and the very best ones are cooked to be meltingly soft in the middle, just like they do at the Four Liars' Bistro in Cork. Albóndigas, on the other hand, are small and savoury meatballs that can be made with beef or pork and which are delicately flavoured with spices and herbs and which, like many other tapas, are served in a red wine sauce. Many Spanish restaurants also offer larger selections of tapas to give diners the chance to sample a wide range of the dishes. So if you're new to this form of eating it's the perfect way to try out some new flavours. Then, before long, we're sure that you'll become a true tapas devotee.
So go on, don't be shy! Try your own perfect tapas pairing at Deliveroo today or use these trusted combinations if you are a tapas novice.