I love cooking, it relaxes me, it helps me to escape from this busy world. Even cooking under pressure, for a number of guests or against the clock, I enjoy the art of food processing. Cooking is also a way to take control of things, once you get to cook you must decide the ingredients, flavours, recipes, textures… You have to unleash your creativity from the first minute to the last.

I admit that not everyone shares that passion for the kitchen, but that should not be a reason to stay away from it. By choosing some simple recipes you can enjoy your Spanish wines paired with tapas that have come out of your own hands.

Cheese and ham

No doubt the easiest to prepare, but not for that reason is it any less popular. It’s as easy as cutting some cured cheese and ham. The magic of this tapa lies in two elements: the quality of the raw material and the cutting technique.

Ingredients:

  • cheese
  • Iberian ham
  • bread or breadsticks

Cured cheeses should be cut in wedges or triangles. Those with stronger flavors, such as Manchego, Zamorano or Mahon, should be cut into wedges or bars with a thickness of 5 to 10 millimeters. Cut the creamy or soft ones into small slices but always with a minimum thickness of 5 mm. Because they are difficult to cut, it is recommended to introduce the knife blade into a bowl of hot water, so that it easily slides through the cheese. Cheeses like Cabrales can be presented in small blocks so diners can take it directly with the help of a knife. For moldy crust cheeses we cut the slices with the rind intact. And spreadable or cream cheeses, such as the famous Torta del Casar, are served directly to the table with no slicing. As you can see, a good cut can enhance the shape, flavour and presence of cheeses.

I prefer the cured ones. Sometimes I add some honey, quince, some jam or marmalade; depending on your favourite flavour.

On the other hand, it’s not difficult to find jamón ibérico already sliced, but if you want to cut your own ham I advise you to watch a few tutorials on YouTube beforehand. Remember: you must cut the ham into thin slices, almost transparent, covering the width of the piece but not very long, 6 or 7 cm. The cuts should be always parallel and done in opposite direction to the hoof, always leaving a flat surface without grooves.

Which wine can we have?

A Cava or a Sherry is the perfect accompaniment for this simple dish. The acidity with play well against the fattiness of the cheese and meat.

Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp)

Ingredients (for two people)

  • 400 g of frozen or fresh shrimps
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • parsley
  • olive oil
  • Salt
  • chili pepper

I learned how to cook this recipe in a Madrid bar where they have been preparing it since the days after the Civil War: Casa del Abuelo. The preparation is so easy. Preferably in a clay pot, put a little olive oil with chili pepper, then heat and roll the cloves or chopped garlic around in the oil with a little chopped parsley. We toss in the shelled shrimp, up the heat and add salt. Voilà. A minute later we remove it from heat and we bring it to the table, hot as Sun, being careful not hurt any of our guests or burn the table. To avoid such catastrophes, we can underlay the pot with a plate and protect the table where it’s going to be served.

Which wine can we have?

A white Verdejo from Rueda or youthful and fresh white Viura form Rioja will pair nicely with both the heat of the dish and slip in between the salt and garlic.

Chorizo a la sidra (Chorizo with cider)

Ingredients:

  • Fresh chorizos
  • cider
  • boiled potatoes (optional)

We pulled off the string from the sausages and put them on a deep pan. We prick them with the tip of a knife so the chorizos don’t burst and also release their juices during cooking. We cover them with cider and cook them on a high heat.

The cooking time depends on the freshness, size and quality of chorizo, but after about 15 or 20 minutes the alcohol will have evaporated off and the liquid reduced, leaving a sauce in the bottom of the pan. Serve immediately.

Eat them with some slices of artisan bread, or with a baked potato, which fuses perfectly with chorizos.

Which wine can we have?

A red wine with personality, perhaps a bold and spicy Tempranillo red from Toro or Ribera del Duero.

Lacón cocido con patatas (Cooked lacón with potatoes)

Ingredients (for two people)

  • 100 gr of lacón
  • 300g potatoes
  • paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Lacón is a cured front leg of the pork, though less than the more typical jamón-style paletilla. Specifically it’s cured for just 35 days. The process however is the same: the piece is salted, washed to remove excess salt, dried or settled and matured.

This recipe is very easy. Ready? Boil the potatoes, peel them and cut into thick slices about a half centimetre in size. Cover the dish with them and finish with sliced ham. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little spicy paprika and drizzle with a dash of extra virgin olive oil.

Which wine can we have?

An Albariño will go nicely. A full-bodied and aromatic Galician white to match the porky potatoes.

Huevos rotos con jamón (Broken eggs with ham)

Did dare buy a jamón ibérico? Well, here you have another idea of how to use it. This is one of my favourite tapas.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 or 7 slices of jamón ibérico.

Fry the potatoes, previously cut into slices, not sticks. Place them apart. Then fry the eggs, making sure that the yolk is soft. Place them over the chips. Now drape the jamón slices over the eggs. Surprise your friends with this beautiful dish. But wait, that’s not all: before anyone can stick a fork in it, confidently cut up the potatoes, eggs and ham, four or five times, mixing it up. Let the yolk flow over ham and potatoes like lava. And now, eat.

This dish has many versions where you can replace the jamón with sausage, black pudding, chorizo or any other flavour that fits well with the potatoes and eggs.

Which wine can we have?
A young red will pair nicely. Nothing too overbearing. A juicy Mencía from Riberia Sacra or Bierzo perhaps.