Spanish cuisine is all about simple dishes jam-packed with flavour. From barbecued seafood dishes to tapas, Spain shows their passion for their cuisine. The pride the Spanish people have for their food shines through in dishes prepared with fresh produce and seasonings that complement these simple ingredients perfectly. These dishes are easy to recreate in the UK. Tapas and barbecues are the perfect way to enjoy that last few days of summer. These dishes will liven up any dinner party, or you can serve them up - although maybe not the sangria! - as an easy lunch-time snack.
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Ensalada de Tomate (Tomato Salad)
Perhaps one of the most straightforward starters in Spanish cuisine, this tomato salad recipe is the perfect healthy sharer. The salad is a combination of fresh tomatoes and a garlic basil paste. When you serve this dish, it is a good idea to seek out some more interesting tomatoes such as heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes. These may not be available at high street supermarkets. Instead, take a trip to your local farmer’s market or greengrocer and have a look at their fresh produce.
4 x Fresh heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes
4 x tbsp dried or fresh oregano
1 x tbsp dried or fresh basil
1 x tbsp olive oil
2 x large grated cloves of garlic
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground pepper
- Slice the tomatoes semi-finely then half the slices.
- Heat a pan with the olive oil and add the grated garlic
- Stir for about 3 minutes
- Add the garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper to a small bowl and mix until you form a paste.
- Add another dash of olive oil for more flavour.
- Spread the mix over the tomatoes.
- Chill for 30 mins and serve.
Calamar Espetado (barbecued Squid)
Traditionally rustic in style and downright decadent, calamar espetado is one of the coastal gems of Spanish cuisine. Restaurants along the coast of Malaga have barbecues on the beach, set in old rowboats. The fresh catches of the day are served in the restaurants. Before it is served to you, you watch your meat of choice being perfectly prepared on the fire in front of you. This particular dish is very popular in Spain. It is bursting with the flavours of the ocean and, again, is perfect for sharing. As an entire squid may be difficult to come across, you can also prepare this dish using calamari rings from your local fresh fish shop. This dish is best prepared in a wood or coal fire. When you slightly charr the meat, it adds depth and balance to the flavour.
1 kg fresh calamari (rings or any other)
2 x lemons
Unground sea salt (for seasoning)
2 x sliced large onions
2 x sliced sweet red peppers
1 x tbs olive oil
Table salt and pepper for seasoning
- In a pan, heat some of the olive oil.
- Add the onions and the sweet peppers and stir until soft. This should take about 10 - 15 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- On the barbecue, spread the calamari evenly over the heat and cook evenly on both sides. This should take about 30 mins.
- Place the onions and sweet red pepper onto a plate.
- Serve the calamari on top of this.
- Slice the lemons and squeeze the juice over the entire dish.
- Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the entire dish.
- Sprinkle the sea salt over the dish and serve.
Lola Guacamole Pinchos
Pinchos are slices of bread with interesting toppings, usually served as a tapas dish. This particular pincho is guacamole, with prawns and a pickled chilli on top. It is easy to make and is a tasty starter to a more decadent meal. Pinchos are served as sharers in Spanish restaurants, and every restaurant has a different flagship topping.
1 x large baguette
2 x large avocados
2 x lemon
300g fresh, peeled prawns
200g pickled chillis (of your choice)
1 x tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 x clove finely chopped garlic
- Slice the baguette diagonally and into bite-size chunks.
- In a pan, heat the butter and the garlic.
- Once bubbling, toast the bread in the mixture until one side is golden brown and place toasted side face-up on a plate.
- In the same pan, cook the prawns on a low heat. Add more butter and garlic if needed.
- Mash the avocado in a bowl until smooth and creamy. You can also blend the avo for a creamier effect.
- Add the lemon, olive oil, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper to the mix to complete your guacamole.
- Spread the guacamole over the toasted side of the bread evenly,
- Top the bread with 2 prawns each.
- Add a pickled chilli to the topping.
- Drizzle some more olive oil on the plate and serve.
What Spanish dish would be complete without a jug of sangria on the table? This cocktail is easy to make. Every restaurant and family has a different sangria recipe, where the variation is usually in only one ingredient. Sangria can also vary in colour and sweetness. This recipe is a personal favourite.
1 x 750ml bottle of fruity red wine (Rioja, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are good ones).
2 x fresh sliced oranges
1 x sliced lemon
1 x cinnamon stick
3 x tbs sugar
1 x sliced green apple
330ml spiced apple cider
- Chill the red wine.
- Place ice in a large jug or pitcher.
- Add all the fruit to the ice.
- Add the chilled red wine to the jug.
- Add the apple cider to the jug.
- Lightly grate either side of a cinnamon stick. This will help release some of the flavours.
- Place the cinnamon stick and the sugar in the jar.
- Stir well and serve chilled.
We spoke to Ben from Vegan Recipe Bowl, who pointed out that three of our recipes contained lemons, and wanted to talk about their importance in Spanish cuisine. He told us: "Lemons are vital to Spanish cuisine, and picking the best lemons makes a huge difference to your cooking. Look for glossy, plump lemons that give a little when squeezed, then spring back when you let go. Lemons with these qualities are the freshest and not only have the most juice, but also the biggest range of flavour."
Simplicity Is Key
Spanish cuisine revolves around sharing food and preparing it simply. The simple nature of Spanish cooking brings out the natural flavours. These stunning summer dishes are a perfect way to enjoy the last few days of summer and a fun excuse to host friends.