Tapas are small portions of hot or cold food. The tradition is believed to have started in Andalusia (a region of Southern Spain) where it is customary to “cover” the wine glass with a saucer to keep the flies out.
Originally, small, free tapas were served with drinks in bars. They are the Spanish equivalent of hors d’oeuvre for the French, maza in Lebanese, Greek mezze and the Italian antipasti.
Tapa translated in English is a “lid” or a “cover”. This means both to “put a lid on hunger until dinner time” and “put a lid on the glass”.
A mouthful of savoury food is placed on the lid to be consumed with a drink.
Ideally tapas should be small and easy to eat, with little or no cutlery so as not to interrupt conversation.
In many small bars they are most often a piece of sliced, cold meat, such as cured ham or chorizo, or a piece of cheese. Sometimes it could be a bowl of nuts or an olive or a few!
Part of the Spanish way of life is tapa-hopping, stopping at several bars during an evening to have a glass of wine and sample the tapas specialties of each.
These days chefs in bars compete with each other to produce more attractive tapas and consist of an arrangement of small plates of food which are consumed throughout the evening.
Covering your wine glass with your plate also frees one hand to eat with while standing in the bar.
A popular one in many bars is simply a hard boiled egg with fresh crusty bread with one or more of the following:
- Sofrito sauce
- a slice of Jamon or cured meat
- a marinated anchovy
- olives, artichokes, sun dried tomato
- fresh tomato and garlic rubbed on
Other quick and easy tapas to share with friends and served with fresh home made bread:
- Olive & Artichoke patties
- Hot spicy potatoes with chorizo
- With snails, mussels, clams etc
- Many other bite-size savoury snacks