Do you need to feed a crowd in style this spring? Think Spanish. The ingredients are easy to find, much of the work can be done in advance and the cuisine lends itself to a relaxed evening starting with tapas.
Being bar food, these tasty little dishes are often consumed standing up so encourage guests to graze as they mingle. Best of all, the cook can join the party too by preparing much of the menu in advance.
Celebrate Spain's national holiday this weekend by cooking up some tasty tapas delights. View our full collection of Spanish recipes here.
If you're organised, a chorizo, onion and potato omelette can be cooked earlier and cut into wedges when cool. Bite-size meatballs are also worth the effort. But the good news is many tapas treats can be picked up at the deli. Buy smoked almonds, green olives stuffed with anchovies, roasted capsicum, sliced ham or prosciutto and plate separately. To round out your selection, thinly slice a loaf of sourdough and leave a stack of small, quality paper napkins nearby. This really is finger-food at its best.
If you'd like a hot option too, calamari takes less than a minute to cook. Just shake in a little flour seasoned with salt and pepper before deep-frying in safflower or grape-seed oil. Serve with garlicky aioli.
The Spanish usually eat late and it's no wonder after nibbling on all that tapas. When they do, the Valencian one-dish wonder paella is a favourite. Variations abound but most include chicken legs, chorizo, prawns, saffron and tomato. If you've ever made a no-stir risotto then you're on the right track. Just remember paella takes around 20 minutes to cook from the time stock and rice are added so why not pre-cook the larger ingredients such as chicken in advance? When the rice is tender and fragrant, sprinkle with parsley, bring the pan to the table and let everyone help themselves.
Dessert can echo tapas with a selection of sweet treats such as dates stuffed with walnuts and a bakery-bought flan or cr#232;me caramel (that's what the Spanish do). Fresh fruit is essential too so why not buy the juiciest oranges you can, peel, slice thinly, drizzle with Cointreau and dust with cinnamon?
To drink, there are a few options in keeping with the theme. First up, a pitcher of sangria complete with diced orange and lime, a cinnamon quill, two cups of ginger beer and a splash of brandy per bottle of cabernet sauvignon. Pour over ice for a one-way ticket to Barcelona.
If you want an excuse to finally use those tiny vintage glasses that caught your eye at a market, sherry pays homage to the Andalusian element of Spanish cuisine. Look for a dry import for around $25 rather than the local versions that tend to be sweeter. Otherwise, scour your bottle shop for the Spanish sparkling wines that are popular coming into the party season.
YOUR SAY: Do you have any great Spanish recipes or tips for entertaining with tapas? Share them below!