We hear you: you're short on time, and maybe a little short on cooking skills. But as summer yawns into August, there's no need to shy away from the kitchen. Instead, simplify.
Tapas is fast, easy and tasty as hell. Plus, it's gastronomy's most social food, made for those slow lunches that roll into the night, and into the third bottle of wine.
We enlisted the help of chef Omar Allibhoy – the owner of Tapas Revolution who Gordon Ramsay donned the "Antonio Banderas of cooking" – for a few quick and punchy dishes.
Almejas al fino con jamón (above)
Clams with sherry and Serrano ham
Omar says: Clams, garlic, pimentón, jamón and sherry – an irresistible proposition, year-round.
Serves 4–5 as a tapa
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus soaking
Cooking time: 10 minutes
1 kg clams
100 ml olive oil
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot or 1/2 Spanish onion,finely chopped
6 slices jamón serrano (cured ham), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon plain flour
1 teaspoon hot pimentón, although the sweet variety will do as well
150 ml fino sherry (see Note)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Start by soaking the clams in cold water for about 20 minutes to allow them to release any sand trapped in their shells. Rinse thoroughly under cold water and discard any that are open, broken or don’t close when tapped firmly.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan (wide enough to hold all the clams) over a medium heat and add the garlic, onion and jamón. Cook until the onion is translucent, but not coloured.
Add the flour and pimentón and stir-fry for 20 seconds to cook the flour. Add the sherry, stirring all the time and then quickly flambé by setting light to the pan using a lighter or long matches. If you don’t want to flambé the sherry don’t worry, just cook for 1 minute so that the alcohol evaporates. Add the cleaned clams to the pan, turn up the heat and shake the pan vigorously, tossing the clams a couple of times.
- Season to taste and stir in the parsley, cover with a lid and cook for 2–3 minutes until the clams are fully opened (throw away any that remain closed). Stir again before serving with lots of fresh bread to soak up the sauce.
Fino (which translates as refined) is the driest of all sherry varieties and should be drunk cold. This delicate sherry doesn’t keep well after the bottle is opened, so make the best use of it.
Pinchos morunos with mojo picón
Omar says: An extremely popular tapa – and you can make them with any other meat. Mojo picón is a pepper sauce from the Canary Islands and goes fantastically with meat, fish or potatoes. Picón means spicy, and you’ll see why…
Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus marinating
Cooking time: 5 minutes
500 g pork fillet (you can also use chicken, beef or lamb)
1 teaspoon hot or sweet pimentón
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
A drizzle of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the mojo picón
1 slice white bread
4–5 tablespoons Spanish olive oil, plus extra for frying
2 garlic cloves
5 dried cayenne chillies
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon sweet pimentón
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
Trim the pork fillet of any excess fat and then cut into 2-cm cubes. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl and add the pimentón, cumin, some black pepper, oregano, thyme and garlic. Mix well, drizzle over the olive oil and leave to marinate for at least an hour, but anything up to 2 days is fine.
Meanwhile, make the mojo picón. Start by frying the bread in a little olive oil, drain on kitchen paper and tear into pieces. Using a pestle and mortar, mash together the garlic, cayenne chillies, cumin seeds, pimentón, fried bread, vinegar and salt until you have a smooth paste. You could also use a food processor for this bit. Start adding the olive oil in a thin drizzle while you are still mixing.
- When you are ready to cook the pinchos, thread the meat on to skewers (if you are using wooden skewers it’s a good idea to soak them in water for 30 minutes to stop them burning). Pinchos morunos can be cooked over charcoal (the best way, in my opinion), under a hot grill or in a griddle pan over a very high heat. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side – you want them to be cooked through but still juicy on the inside. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the mojo picón.
If you want to make these with chicken, use the thigh. If you are using beef use the skirt of flank and if you want to make lamb skewers use the leg.
Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy will be published by Ebury Press on 15 August; £20