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The act of serving a small morsel of food is popular the world over – think a crisp or two with a pint at the pub, or a crostini alongside your vino bianco at aperitivo time in Italy – but Spain has gone one step further and made it an iconic part of its food and drink culture. Tapas-only bars are prevalent across the country, and most restaurants will serve food in tapas-sized portions if requested. As travel widens consumers’ culinary horizons, and shoppers look to bring foodie inspirations home from their travels, it makes sense to stock some tapas-style products to make the most of the growing trend for entertaining at home. No tapas offering would be complete without these delicious options:
Perhaps the most widely-recognised Spanish cheese is Manchego, which matches well with a number of Spanish wines and other tapas inclusions. Cabrales is another popular option, which when made the traditional way with sheep or goat’s milk brings a punchy, spicy element to tapas. Complete the cheese offering with Mahon – a delicious combination of nutty, sweet, sharp and buttery notes.
Cured meats are a staple part of the tapas board, and there’s a large range of options to choose from. Chorizo – ensure you stock a ready-to-eat option for this purpose – is an obvious choice, and iberico ham, cured pork tenderloin and Spanish salami will please tapas fans.
Stock simple salted crisps for your customers to serve alongside their tapas; try Torres’ Black Truffle Crisps, a popular Spanish snack for decades. A few slices of fruit and nut cake (a chunky paste of blended dried fruit and nuts) and membrillo, quince paste, will add fruity notes to the offering. Tinned sardines may be a left-field choice in the UK, but they’re popular in Spain. To finish, add a punchy touch with a sundried tomato pesto-style sauce, pickled vegetables and olives.
Tapas is more than a Spanish cheeseboard – as well as the above, tapas lovers will want to serve miniature-sized hot dishes like bite-size chunks of chorizo in a smokey tomato sauce; extra virgin olive oil-slicked roasted red peppers; and Pimientos de Padrón, blistered small green peppers topped with a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt.
The origins of Tapas
Despite being an iconic element of Spanish cuisine, the origins of tapas are shrouded in mystery. A couple of theories centre around the influence of kings from centuries ago. The most popular is that in the 13th Century, King Alfonso X of Castille was only able to eat small quantities of food while he recovered from an illness. He enjoyed this style of eating, and when he was fully recovered decreed that drinks should always be served with a snack. A second royal-inspired story goes that in the 19th Century, King Alfonso XIII was served a glass of wine with a slice of ham positioned on top to keep the sand out. He ordered another, and so a trend began. Another theory suggests that tapas started life at a farmer’s bar in Seville, where bartenders topped full glasses with a saucer to keep flies out – then realised they could serve olives, cheese or ham on the saucer to keep customers coming back for more. This is a likely story; ‘tapa’ translates as ‘lid’ or ‘cover’ in Spanish, and as bars were often standing room-only, customers would position their plate of snacks on top of their glass.
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