Let’s Talk About Tapas: Boquerones

Tapas: Boquerones in vinegar

Last month, I started a new feature called Let’s Talk About Tapas, when I gave you a general overview of what to expect if you want to eat tapas in Spain.

Each month I will be telling you about different tapas, and often I will include a recipe so you can make them at home for yourself.

So, what are tapas and how did they originate?

Well, it’s thought that originally in the wine-making regions of Andalucía, a cover in the form of a small plate or lid was placed over glasses of wine to keep fruit flies away.  Titbits of food were later placed on the lid to be eaten with the wine.  Remember too, that the word “tapar” in Spanish means “to cover”, which is where we get the word “tapas” from.

Let’s get started with one of my favourite tapas – Boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar).

Boquerones whole

You can buy boquerones from fish merchants or any supermarket with a fish counter such as Mercadona, where a kilo costs around €3.

They are not very difficult to prepare and are absolutely delicious!   When we first arrived to live in Spain and rented a house for the first twelve months in Frigiliana, my Spanish next door neighbour showed me how she prepared them.

First you need to head and gut the fish.  Do this by holding each fish using two hands – with the tail in one hand and the head in the other.  Squeeze behind the head and pull it off.  Split open the fish with your fingers and take out the guts, backbone and pull off tail.

Boquerones filleted

Rinse in cold water until the water runs clear and place the filleted fish white-side up into dish.

Boquerones soaked in white vinegar and sprinkled with salt

Sprinkle with salt and cover with white wine vinegar.  Depending on how many fish you have, you can arrange them into layers – making sure you perform this same task with each layer.  The top layer of fish needs to be covered with vinegar.

The boquerones will start to turn white almost immediately as they “cook” in the vinegar.

I usually cover the dish with clingfilm and pop it into the fridge overnight to marinade.

Chopped garlic and flat-leaf parsley

Boquerones in olive oil with garlic and parsley

Next morning, drain the salty vinegar away and cover the boquerones with extra-virgin olive oil, lots of chopped garlic and a little freshly chopped parsley – and by lunchtime they will be ready to eat with freshly baked bread.

Eat your boquerones with a glass of chilled white wine or manzanilla (dry fino sherry).

What are your favourite tapas?

 

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Let’s talk about tapas, shall we?

Well stocked tapas bar in Spain

I’m going to be starting a new feature all about tapas soon, so let’s start by finding about what they are.

It’s thought that originally in the wine-making regions of Andalucia, a cover in the form of a small plate or lid was placed over glasses of wine to keep fruit flies away.  Titbits of food were later placed on the lid to be eaten with the wine.

The word “tapar” in Spanish means “to cover”, which is where we get the word “tapas” from.

How wonderful that Spaniards thought it unacceptable that a fly ends up in your drink, but it´s fine if it lands on the accompanying snack!

Other stories suggest that tapas were invented by a bar owner in Seville, who decided to put a cover (tapa) over his guests´ glasses of wine, using a slice of bread to keep out flies.  He later put a piece of ham or cheese on top, so that his customers could have a bite to eat with their drink.

Rioja and scrummy tapas!

Either way, the idea spread, so that nowadays the types of food served as tapas are limitless.  Most Spaniards don´t drink alcohol without a tapa and many bars, especially in southern Andalucia, provide them free of charge.

The original Spanish “fast food” is usually displayed in refrigerated glass cabinets on the bar and served in small terracotta glazed dishes. Some examples of the type of tapas normally available include gambas (whole cooked prawns in their shells), boquerones (fresh anchovies in olive oil, vinegar and garlic), chorizo (spicy Spanish sausage), albondigas (meatball…often in a creamy almond sauce), queso (cheese…often manchego), habas con jamon (broad beans with ham), ensalada rusa (Russian salad) or just a few olives.

Delicious tapas

Your choice of tapas is usually accompanied by a small piece of crusty bread which helps to counteract the adverse effects of the alcohol through drinking on an empty stomach.

What a sensible idea!

In many establishments, if you stand at the bar along with the locals you will be given one tapa free with each drink you buy.  

That’s right …. free food!

Tapas in Spain

Should you choose to sit away from the bar, you can pay for a tapas or two (usually about one euro in this part of Spain), or opt for a larger serving known as a ración (ration) or medio ración (half ration). This is a great way to eat a variety of dishes, and a pretty sociable activity as groups generally tend to share their dishes.

The food is generally very good, even in remote villages around the Axarquia.

Where is your favourite tapas bar?   Which tapa do you choose, time and time again?

 

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Venturing further afield: San Sebastián in the heart of Basque country

We love to travel not only locally, but throughout Spain, so I will also include information, from time to time, about where we have visited.  Usually these places can either be driven to within a few hours of our home, east of Málaga, or we will have flown there from Málaga (AGP) airport.

Overlooking La Concha Bay, San Sebastian, Spain

You might remember, a while ago, I told you about a trip we had taken to Santander, on the northern coast of Spain.  In that post, I promised to tell you more about the rest of our journey, so here it is!

After a great overnight stay at a little gem of a hotel (the Jardin Secreto in Santander), we hired a car and travelled along the northern coast of Spain to San Sebastián, only 20 kilometres from the French border.

On the way to San Sebastian, Spain

There is much more rainfall here than where we live on the south coast of Spain, making the landscape generally much greener.

San Sebastián, also known as Donostia, lies along a white, sandy bay in the heart of Basque Country.   It’s easy to fall in love with San Sebastián as the streets unfold to overlook La Concha Bay, with Monte Igeldo offering a wonderful vantage point for enjoying views over the city, as you can see in the first photograph.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

There is a lovely promenade with elegant railings and street lamps, as well as wonderful bridges crossing the Rio Urumea as it meanders along to the Bay of Biscay.

San Sebastián is a cosmopolitan city with a strong Basque character, which is as evident in cultural events as well as in cuisine.      The city is renowned for its Basque cuisine with a trio of 3-starred Michelin restaurants to be found nearby – compare that to only four be found in the whole of the UK!

Tapas in a San Sebastian bar, Spain

The city is the epicentre of Basque gastronomy, where food makes a major contribution to the social life of the Basque people.  To share and to enjoy it with them is a truly unique experience.  Just take a look at all the tapas set out on the counter in the photograph, and this was just a little bar down a side street!

Funicular railway, San Sebastian, Spain

We caught the funicular railway to the peak of Monte Igeldo for magnificent views across the city and the scallop-shaped bay complete with golden sand and sparkling turquoise water.

In June of last year, San Sebastián was chosen to be the European Capital of Culture in 2016, so maybe I will get another chance to continue my love affair with this beautiful city, which has more than a whiff of Monaco about it.

Do you know of an area renowned for it’s fabulous cuisine?  Why not share it below, so we can all come and visit!

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Menú del Día: Great food at a budget price

Pinchitos at Ferrara Asador, Torrox Costa

For much less than the cost of an evening dinner, most restaurants in La Axarquía have a cheap, fixed-price meal available at lunchtime only.

Because the normal Spanish working day has a 3 hour break in the middle, many Spanish workers take advantage of this time (often referred to as a siesta) by catching up with friends or colleagues over lunch.

Why eat a sandwich at your desk when you can enjoy a leisurely lunch with friends?

Ferrara Asadaor, Torrox Costa, Spain

Roast pork at Ferrara Asador, Torrox Costa

Drinks and bread included

Known as Menu del Día, you can usually enjoy a two or three course meal, including bread and your first drink, for around 8 – 10 euros.  It´s usually a set menu, though there is often a choice of three or four dishes for each course.

A typical menu might include soup or salad to start, followed by fish or pork with flan or coffee to finish.  Bread, plus your choice of first drink (beer, wine or water) are usually included in the price.

Typical board advertising Menu of the Day, Spain

Look out for a board outside the restaurant, advertising the Menu del Día, which will usually be written in Spanish, and always remember to look out for restaurants and bars frequented by locals rather than tourists.

My choice in Torrox Costa:

** Ferrara Asador on the N340, near to the Repsol garage.  At only €8 with great service, good choice and quality of food, it´s well worth a visit, but go before 2.00pm as it gets very busy, especially in August.

** Fancy something a bit different ?  Try the Jing Chinese restaurant on the Paseo Maritimo along Ferrara Beach.  Their menu del día is even cheaper at €6, but drinks cost extra.  Again, excellent food and service.

Where´s your favourite place to eat, east of Málaga?

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