savoury canapés: smoked salmon with dill & crème fraiche
vegetarian option: chèvre, semidried tomato & sage
chicken liver and green peppercorn paté
fennel & mint salad
warmed with green olives
sweet canapés: lemon cheesecake & rose pashmak
I styled a tapas menu for a ‘Lunch & Learn’ at work last week and surprised myself by catering almost perfectly for 30 people — with just enough leftover for my own lunch. In case you are interested, these are the dishes I prepared [note: the paneer and Capri salad will feature in future posts].
The origins of tapas are fuzzy, with some sources claiming that tapas started as a means of keeping flies out of drinks, apparently in the form of a slice of cheese, bread or ham that was placed over a glass of wine. Others report that a sickly king decreed all of his subjects must eat food when they drink. I choose to subscribe to the first view, given that tapa literally means ‘lid’ in Spanish.
Nowadays, tapas are generally accepted to be a progressive meal of small dishes that are served with your drink(s), as opposed to a particular style of food.
It took me over a week to prepare for my 1hr+15min cooking demonstration. Aside from menu creation, thinking of discussion ideas and the cooking itself, much of the hard work went into selecting the raw ingredients. For example, I sourced my olives from the Mondo Markets; bought jamon from Spanish Flavours in Wembley; managed to purchase tomatoes that weren’t floury [this can be tricky in Perth].
I designed each element of my menu carefully and purposefully: I selected two types of jamon to contrast the subtle complexity of the jabugo against the bold, full flavour of the serrano; the paneer is impressive to make, with a mix of milk and lemon juice becoming cheese before your very eyes; the salads were palate cleansers; the canapes all used the same shortcrust pastry to show off their versatility.
Creating a cocktail or tapas menu doesn’t have to be onerous or expensive, so long as you choose mainly simple dishes and plan well. Incidentally, this menu for 30 came to around $10/head (incl. purchase of serving dishes/utensils). Not bad, methinks. I encourage you to try making tapas for yourself — and let me know how it turns out!