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?


Whilst you’re here, you might also enjoy:

Let’s talk about tapas, shall we?

Spanish Omelette: Tortilla Española

A Celebration of Fried Breadcrumbs


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?


You might also like to look at:

All at sea with the Virgen del Carmen

La Noche de San Juan: Families, fires and football!

Bus Services: East of Málaga

Food Glorious Food: Moroccan Chicken

Moroccan chicken marinating in citrus juice mixture

Following on from my rather sombre post yesterday, I thought I’d cheer everyone up again – by feeding you!

I’ve made this dish for just about everybody who has ever visited us in Spain, and it’s been a winner every time.  I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for some time, but for one reason or other I haven’t got round to it, but I’m not going to selfishly keep it to myself any longer.   This is for you, Cathy – as promised!

The beauty of this dish is that you can do the preparation in advance, so that when your guests arrive, you’ll have plenty of time to relax with them, (enjoying a glass of wine), before you knock their socks off with a delicious dinner!

I love cooking and make most of my meals from scratch.  For me, this dish is made all the sweeter by using lemons, oranges, almonds and mint growing in the garden.  I’m pretty confident that you’ll love it, too – even if you don’t have your own orange tree to hand!  🙂

Let’s get cooking!

To make this tangy, lip-smacking, taste-bud-tingling treat for two people, you’ll need:

2 medium chicken breasts (skinned and cut into bite-sized pieces)

I medium onion (peeled and chopped)

2 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)

2 large oranges (juiced – I also use any bits of crushed fruit)

1 large lemon  (juiced – I also use any bits of crushed fruit)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tablespoons of chopped dates (take out the stone and cut into thirds)

1 tablespoon of almond nuts (chopped in half, if you prefer)

1 level teaspoon of ground cinnamon spice

Up to ¼ teaspoon of hot chilli powder (according to taste)

Handful of fresh mint leaves (chopped)

A few whole black peppercorns (optional)

Here’s what you do:

Put the diced chicken pieces and the chopped onion into a shallow dish.

In a plastic measuring jug, juice the oranges and lemon, adding any bits of crushed fruit.  Stir in the crushed garlic, olive oil, cinnamon, chilli powder and half of the chopped mint, to combine the ingredients together.  You should end up with between 300-400 mls of liquid.

Now, pour the juice mixture over the chicken and onions, add the chopped dates, nuts and whole black peppercorns.

Cover the dish with cling-film, pop in the fridge and leave the chicken to marinate for anything from 10 minutes to a couple of hours.

When you’re ready to start cooking, pick out the individual pieces of chicken with a pair on tongs, and gently fry them on a medium heat in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  (Make sure you have picked out every last piece of chicken from the marinade).  Turn the chicken pieces and when they are just starting to brown slightly, add all the citrus liquid mixture to the frying pan.

Your dinner is now less than ten minutes from being ready!

Turn up the heat under the pan, and bring the mixture to the boil.  Allow to simmer and as it does so, the mixture will begin to thicken, making the most delicious tangy sauce.  If you need to thicken the sauce a little more, just turn up the heat.

Stir in the remainder of the fresh chopped mint and serve immediately.

I usually serve Moroccan chicken with brown rice, but it’s just as delicious if you team it up with cous-cous.  There will be enough for two people using this quantity of ingredients.  I tend to use one medium chicken breast per person and adjust the amount of ingredients to personal taste.  It’s always best to have a spare orange or lemon to add to the juice mix, just in case you need a bit more liquid.  If you love dates, put a few more in – they go wonderfully sticky.  If you don’t have dates you can use sultanas instead.  When cooking for more than two people, I’ve been known to use the juice of a couple of limes, as well.

The main thing is, have the confidence to alter this dish to suit yourself.

Que aproveche!

If you enjoy cooking (or eating), you might like to try these recipes:

Classic Spanish Omelette: Tortilla Española

Easy No-Bake Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Cookies

Fresh Figs Stuffed with Goat´s Cheese and wrapped in Smoked Bacon

Should Seville’s barefoot nuns have faith in my cake-baking skills?

Just out of the oven

When I was in New Zealand earlier this year, I stayed with a lovely lady called Val, who introduced me to Herman the German Friendship cake.  Val was only part way through the 10-day cycle of making the cake, so I wasn’t able to join in with the fun.  Besides which, I was travelling at the time, so it wasn’t very convenient.

Herman the German is a sourdough cake, often received from a friend as a “starter mix” and which sits on your kitchen counter for ten days, bubbling away, covered with a tea towel.  Along with your starter mix, you also receive written instructions on how to proceed.  On the tenth day, you divide the mixture to share with your friends, and bake your cake.

To be honest, since returning home to Spain from New Zealand, I’d forgotten all about Herman.

A few weeks ago, Sue, a FB friend and fellow expat blogger from Extremadura in Spain, asked if anyone was interested in sharing some of her starter dough for Herman’s Spanish equivalent: Bizcocho de las Carmelitas Descalzas de Sevilla (The Barefoot Carmelite nuns of Seville cake).  I should imagine you were wondering where the nuns came into it!

Anyway, how could I refuse?

All we had to figure out now was how she would get the starter mix to me when we live about 500 kilometres apart!

Fate stepped in – in the form of The Open-Air Theatre Project, a small, rural community from the Alpujarra mountains in southern Spain with their dream of building an open-air theatre.  To cut a long story short, Sue was on her way to meet up with the group, and she kindly diverted from her route to deliver my starter cake-mix, together with a sheet of instructions in Spanish (of course).

She also brought me five jars of the most delicious home-made plum, cherry, fig and loquat jam.  YUMMY!

How lucky am I?

As soon as I got home from meeting Sue, I tipped the bubbling dough mix into a large pot bowl, covered it with a tea towel and, over the next ten days, followed the written instructions to the letter – sometimes adding ingredients, often doing nothing.

Today is the tenth day – so, this morning I set about dividing the mixture into four, in order to be able to give away three “starter mix” portions to friends and neighbours, added the extra ingredients and made my cake!

If you want to have a try yourself, you can get the recipe for Herman the German cake by CLICKING HERE.  Don’t worry if you don’t have any friends anyone to give you the starter mix.  You can always start the cake off, yourself, but I really liked the idea of the sharing bit.  If you live near me and would like one of my starter kits, let me know!

Herman’s Spanish sister cake can be found by Googling “Bizcocho de las Carmelitas Descalzas de Sevilla”, choose one of the links and click on “translate this page” and Bob’s your Uncle – so to speak!

MY TOP TIP: After cooking for 45 minutes, take the cake out of the oven, cover with foil to prevent the top from burning, and pop back into the oven for a further 15 – 20 minutes to make sure the middle is cooked well enough.

So – should Seville’s barefoot nuns have faith in my cake-baking skills?  

I think so – but I’d love to know what you think!

Spanish Omelette: Tortilla Española

Spanish tortilla

I haven’t posted a recipe for a while, so I’ll make up for that by giving you a classic Spanish dish, that can be found in many variations, anywhere in Spain.

The Spanish tortilla can be eaten as a main course or, because it is good served cold, it makes excellent picnic food cut into wedges and wrapped in cling-film.  Here in Spain, tortilla is often served as tapas, cut into small cubes and speared with cocktail sticks – and is delicious with chilled amontillado sherry.

You might also find it lurking between chunks of crusty bread as a sandwich filling!


2 medium-to-large-sized potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium-to-large onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

Olive oil

6 eggs – beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

(Variations: you can also add a little red or green pepper, spinach, diced ham, chorizo or mushrooms – but the classic Spanish tortilla doesn’t contain these.  In fact, often no onion is added, but I think it adds flavour, along with a little red pepper for colour.  I also like to add a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs or fresh coriander if I have any).

Spanish tortilla


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan.  Add the sliced potatoes, onion and garlic and gently fry over a moderate heat until the potatoes begin to soften.  Try not to brown them.  In the meantime, whisk the eggs gently in a large bowl, and season.  When the potatoes have softened slightly, tip the onion and potato mixture into the bowl containing the eggs.  Stir gently but thoroughly.  (Don’t be tempted to just add the beaten eggs to the potato and onion mixture in the pan – it doesn’t seem to work!)

Wipe the frying pan with some kitchen roll (taking care not to burn yourself), add some clean olive oil and pour in the mixture.  Cook over a low heat for approximately 10-15 minutes and then flip the tortilla over to cook the second side.  You can easily do this by placing a round plate face-down on top of the pan and then, with one hand on top of the plate and the other holding the pan, invert both, leaving the tortilla upside-down on the plate. You should then carefully slide the tortilla back into the pan  and continue frying gently, until the underside is browned.

Serve with salad and a squeeze of lime juice.

Spanish tortilla - ready to serve

Other recipes to tickle your taste-buds, include:

Fresh Figs Stuffed with Goat´s Cheese and wrapped in Smoked Bacon

Patatas a lo pobre: Poor man´s potatoes

Home-made Hummamole dip