Create your own Spanish Grazing Board

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Grazing boards, tasting plates and antipasto platters are all the rage right now. I should know. You can check out La Latina’s grazing boards here. But if budgets are a constraint, or you’re feeling creative, you can easily whip up your own. Here’s how:

1.       Gather your boards, bowls, and platters. A quick trip to the local second hand shop will make this a fun, creative and inexpensive project without having to invest in crockery you may or may not use again. Find boards on the larger size, long if possible. Then chose bowls and small platters, glass wear or stands (fruits and nuts can be placed in these for height and abundance.)

2.       Don’t forget cheese knives, serving spoons, spreading knives and serviettes.

3.       Opt for a selection of Spanish cured meats and cheeses. This will probably be the more pricey part of the board but I’ve recently found Spanish Manchego and Iberico cheese at Aldi (OMG!) that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. You can also purchase Spanish cured meats at European Foods in bulk (if you plan on continuing to graze long after your guests have left…and why not?)

4.       Add other Spanish tapas elements such as marinated anchovies, make your own spiced almonds, marinate your own olives, grill your own red peppers and asparagus.

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5.       If there is a particular dip that is your speciality, place this in a bowl and add this to your board. My favourites include hummus, olive tapenade, or simple olive oil and balsamic.

6.       Include sweet elements to your grazing board such as membrillo (quince paste), raisins, dark chocolate, seasonal fruits (pomegranates, figs, grapes, oranges)

7.       Good quality bread (baguette, sourdough) is a must, as well as crackers and crostini sticks (for height)

8.       Check pinterest for inspiration on how to lay out and decorate your grazing board.

9.       Enjoy the process, and the result!

Que aproveche!

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If you love Spanish tapas, but don’t have neither the time to laboriously prepare your own fiddly ones, nor the money to splurge on professional Spanish tapas catering, here are my now-not-so-secret tips to help you prepare your own super simple tapas that will still leave a taste of Spain in the mouths of your guests.

Grazing boards are all the rage at catered events, we should know, and you can check ours out here. But if you’ve already spent your catering budget on paella, why not create your own? Have fun with it and be creative! The key is to stick to Spanish flavours, Spanish cured meats and cheeses, olives, and almonds. You can also add your favourite dips and crackers. Decorate with seasonal fruits and nuts.

The word ‘tapa’ literally translates to ‘cover’ as tapas were traditionally a slice of bread placed on top of a wine glass to keep flies out. Then overtime, bartenders would add some meat, cheese or fish on top of the slice of bread to make it into a more substantial snack.

 Tortilla, crab, and jamon with manchego tapas

Tortilla, crab, and jamon with manchego tapas

So for your DIY tapas catering, why not stick to the traditional tapa, and prepare an assortment of varieties of toppings to slices of crusty baguette to this such as:

  • anchovies and olive oil
  • rubbed with tomato and olive oil (rub garlic first for extra bite)
  • olive tapenade
  • thinly sliced Jamon serrano, or Manchego cheese 
  • chorizo
  • marinated peppers
 Tapa of tomato rub, jamon and crispy sage leaf

Tapa of tomato rub, jamon and crispy sage leaf

These require no further cooking, other than assembling. Make sure your bread is the best quality baguette you can find.

If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, but still want to keep your cooking time to a minimum, you could try your hand at:

  • Tortilla de patata – the quintessential Spanish tapa, the potato omelette
  • Garlic Mushrooms
  • Spanish meatballs
  • or just fry up some chorizo with lemon
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And finally, no Spanish tapas event would be complete without the traditional Spanish Sangria, which is actually much simpler to make than it sounds. For recipe, click here.

Que aproveche!

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While I love preparing and sharing tapas with family and friends, I really look forward to Winter because it’s the time of year that the body and soul asks for the heartier, heavier comfort dishes of my country.

Whilst they may be rich, they can also be very hearty and nourishing. Think stews of gut healing chicken or beef stocks; low GI legumes such as lentils, chick peas or white beans; leafy green vegetables including leek, spinach, kale and immune boosting herbs such as garlic, thyme, rosemary and parsley. Meats, chicken, chorizo or pork are usually always included, but can be omitted.

And though they may be very filling, in Spanish culture, these dishes are only eaten at lunch time, allowing plenty of time to digest, and not leaving you in bed with a belly full of chick peas!

Here are some of my all time favourite Spanish Winter warmers:

Sopa de Ajo – Garlic Soup

My Grandmother used to make this very simple garlic soup with an egg cracked into it whenever someone was sick. The garlic and broth make it a very nourishing soup to nurse you back to good health if you’re unwell, and keep you warm throughout the cold months.

Caldo Gallego – Galician Broth

Traditionally served in earthen bowls this hearty soup originates from the Galician region in the Northwest of Spain. It includes chicken or beef stock, white beans, cabbage, collard greens, potatoes, as well as pork, chorizo, ham or bacon.

Lentejas - Lentils

Lentejas, o las tomas o las dejas (a rhyme meaning “lentils, take ‘em or leave ‘em”) and as a child, I always took them. This dish was my all time favourite and I think the chorizo had something to do with it. You can also omit the chorizo and have ‘clean’ lentejas. This dish comprises of lentils, chorizo, garlic, carrots, onions, potato and parprika.

Fabada Asturiana

Another hot and heavy dish reserved for the middle of the day, this dish originates from the region of Asturias (next to Galicia). It is made with large white beans, pork shoulder or bacon, morcilla (black pudding), chorizo and saffron.

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Cocido Madrileno

Chickpeas are the star(s) of this dish Madrileno (meaning from Madrid) which though cooked as a one dish stew, is traditionally served separately. Beginning with the stock of the stew, served with noodles, then the chickpeas and vegetables, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and turnips, and finally the meat is served consisting of pork belly, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and chicken. The stock is enriched with ham bone and beef spine bone). Talk about nutrient dense!

Soupy Arroz con Bogavante

For seafood lovers, this dish really hits the spot. Think paella, but soupier, with lobster and peeled prawns with a rice that has absorbed a decadent fish stock with tomato and rice.

 Enjoying arroz con bogavante at the end of the Camino in San Vicente de La Barquera

Enjoying arroz con bogavante at the end of the Camino in San Vicente de La Barquera

Churros con Choclate

Obviously not a soup, unless you can count chocolate milk as soup…which we will here. Churros con chocolate, though not good for the waist line, are most definitely good for the soul, especially on cold winter afternoons.

I hope these recipes have inspired you to try including some rural, hearty, Spanish dishes this winter.

Winter Dinner Parties 101

Winter Dinner Parties 101

Winter seems to be the time of year that many of us go into social hibernation and avoid leaving the house. Especially here in Perth, where we’re so spoilt by the weather, that even a hint of rain or a chill makes it a city of shut-ins.

But Winter brings us the opportunity to engage in different activities and interact with family and friends in different ways. A very inviting social event this time of year is the humble (or not-so-humble) dinner party. Think cozy warm setting, select friends, intimate conversations, warming wines, and rich hearty food.

La Latina's Simple Sangria

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When it’s summer time and the weather is high…who can beat a Sangria? Red wine, citrus, fruits, sugar and a hint of spice…refreshing and yum!

Sangria can be as simple or as complicated as you want. It can be thrown together in minutes, and it can also be an overnight process with summer stone fruits marinated in liqueur overnight.

Personally, I like to keep it simple. I also avoid using expensive wine in my sangria, because I prefer to enjoy my favourite wines as is, and not dilute it with other ingredients. Because sangria is sweetened with sugar, fruit and soft drink, I suggest a dry red.

I like adding Schweppes Agrum to my Sangria, as it is a combination of lemon, lime and orange, but you can use any citrus flavoured soft drink.

I don’t add too much fruit either, sticking to lemon and orange sliced into circles for visual effect. I find apple and other fruits look stained and give more of a ‘punch’ vibe to the sangria, rather than the refreshing wine drink that I’m after.

Here I’ll be sharing with you my super simple and satisfying sangria that you can whip up at your next event.

Ingredients

·         Half part dry red wine (the quantity is up to you - you just have to halve it with your mixer)

·         Half part citrus soft drink (my favourite mixer is Schweppes Agrum)

·         2-4 lemons and oranges washed and sliced to give big citrus circles

·         3 tablespoons of sugar (or to taste, as this can easily be omitted with the inclusion of soft drink)

·         you can also add some spirits to this such as rum or brandy for extra kick

Method

Combine all ingredients and keep refrigerated to serve cool. Add ice to individual serves if needed, but not to the jar as this will dilute the sangria too much. I like to present my sangria in a glass jar as it is such a visual drink.

Gluggy Paella

Speaking of gluggy paella - this happened. On a plane. Not to me. But to my neighbouring passenger. And I didn't stop her. I didn't warn her. I let her order Chicken Paella over Vegetable Penne for my own morbid curiosity. And I photographed it. And she ate her bread roll.

There are so many types of wrong with this. It astounds me that there is an actual chef behind all of this. Paella, by its basic nature of being a loose, pearl-esque type of rice dish, can't possibly maintain its structural integrity post 23 minutes of being cooked, then reheated and thrown around an airplane.

Don't even get me started on the fact that it had chorizo in it.